The next morning we were delighted to be woken early by shafts of razor sharp sunlight piercing the paper-thin bedroom curtains and blazing radiantly into the room. I really don’t object to being woken like this.
We had another full day planned but for some the pace was beginning to tell. Mark had decided in advance to skip the morning session to recover from his late night out and May choose to stay in the city for some solo retail therapy. This was absence through choice; Nick on the other hand had planned to be there but he had rejected my sensible advice and had given himself a monster hangover and was quite unable to leave his hotel room because of his ferocious headache and constant vomiting.
With depleted numbers our first destination was Ethografiskais Brivdabas Muzejs, the Latvian Ethnic Open Air Museum located in a forest next to Lake Jugla just to the east of the city. We arrived and were introduced to our guide who was an elderly lady dressed in traditional costume who accompanied us into the museum and provided us with a continuous and informative narrative. We strolled leisurely in the sunshine amongst the trees where there are about one hundred and twenty wooden buildings that have been dismantled and then rebuilt here as examples of the heritage of Latvia.
There are five regions to Latvia (Latgale, Zemgale, Kurzeme, the Liv land and Selija) and each had its own traditions and buildings styles, examples of which are all represented here. There were houses, farm buildings, windmills, barns, and churches and over the last fifty years or so genuine structures have been discovered all across Latvia and removed to Brivdabas for display. Some of these buildings are as much as two hundred years old and were still in use until about fifty years ago before being taken apart and moved to this Museum.
I liked the guide’s story about the wedding tradition of the bride knitting a pair of highly coloured gloves as a gift for all the guests and in case we didn’t believe her she opened a chest full of them to show us just to prove it. If I had to knit a chest full of gloves that would certainly keep the guest list numbers down.
At the end of the tour we looked for somewhere to eat and found a likely looking place amongst the pine trees with a delicious aroma of cooking food. We went in to order but were told that this was being prepared for tomorrow, that didn’t seem to make a lot of sense and I wondered why, if that was the case, they hadn’t prepared some yesterday for today but concluded that it wasn’t worth asking the question; they had some drinks but seemed equally reluctant to sell those as well so we wandered back to the entrance and found an alternative little restaurant serving a limited choice of traditional Latvian food. Mickey and David had black peas and bacon; there were an awful lot of black peas and not a lot of bacon and they both confessed later that it was not terribly appetising.
Now everyone should have known what to do next because we all had our personal itineraries but sadly they didn’t seem to help a great deal when we arrived back in Riga at the appointed pick-up point.
We quickly found Mark who boarded the bus but we failed to locate May and the driver was anxious about being parked illegally. I don’t know what the penalty was but he was very nervous about it. May appeared but disappeared into McDonalds so Alona went in after her and May came out of a different door. Between us we managed to turn this into a Keystone Cops routine as I went to McDonalds to find Alona and she came out of the other door and vanished down the street, as I couldn’t find her I went back to the bus to be told she was heading away from us which required a hundred metre sprint to advise her that we had finally assembled everyone and to bring her back.
There was still no sign of Nick and he wasn’t answering his mobile phone so we assumed that he was still recovering and we left without him.