Travel

Close travels

Last weekend I got together with my family and we had decided that we’ll go for a trip. Just for couple of days, so we didn’t have to go far and spend too much money. So we decided that in a long weekend (Friday – Sunday) we could go for 2 places – Kuldīga (Latvia) and Japanese gardens near Palanga (Lithuania), which are close to Latvian boarder.

I planned out the trip, which wasn’t hard, considering there was only 2 places to see, but I had to find the places where we can stay and I wanted to make sure we didn’t miss anything along the way.

We drove from Rīga to Kuldīga on a Friday evening, and it took us about 2 and a half hours. We stopped only once to get the coffee, because there are not many gas stations along the way there. Since we got to Kuldīga at around 8 PM, we decided to walk around, enjoy the wonderful evening and then go to a restaurant for a dinner.

This always makes me think – we try so hard to go to places. Far away places, to see what’s there, to see the history and the nature, but it turns out, there are so many things we don’t know about our own country and history. And nature… One of my favorite places to be in summer is Latvia – especially when summer is the way it is this year (super sunny and hot).

We started with going to The Venta waterfall – widest waterfall in Europe (100 – 110 m wide and about 2 m high). In autumn and in spring, you can catch a glimpse of flying fishes that are going against the stream and try to jump up the waterfall.

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The other “must see” place in Kuldīga is the longest brick bridge that goes over Venta river and you can catch a beautiful view of the waterfall from there as well. The bridge is  164 m long and was built in the 19th century. You can get the access from it to both banks of the river and waterfall.IMG_2030

I don’t know if I can say that there are many places that you have got to see in Kuldīga – but you absolutely have to wander around aimlessly, because the city is just stunning.

But it is not particularly “lively”. It was Friday evening and at 10 PM, most restaurants and kitchens were closed, so we were happy to find a place called “Pagrabiņš”. And we consider ourselves lucky, that everything else was closed. It was such an amazing service – the staff was incredibly well trained and pleasant and the food. Oh my, the food! I love food. I think that eating is one of the coolest things to do. And this place lets you enjoy it. And if you go – no matter what you choose – don’t skip the dessert! Lavender cheesecake, no kidding, tasted like countryside in France on a sunny summer day. It was one of the best experiences I’ve had with food. Period!

After our dinner it was quite late, so we decided just to head for our hotel. We were staying in “2 baloži”. It was a small little hotel (just across the street of “Pagrabiņš”) and right in the heart of Kuldīga. The interior was beautiful – old country style room. It wasn;t big, but it was enough for 4 people to spend the night. The thing that disturbed us to have a pleasant night there were squeaky beds. All 3 beds (one double and 2 singles) were so loud, that I woke up several times per night because I was turning or somebody else was turning in their bed. It was bad… So we woke up early, none of us had a good sleep (by the way – did you know that we sleep poorly in unfamiliar surroundings? Science shows that half of our brain stays awake, to keep us alive, if there’s a predator somewhere near).

Anyways – I was so hungry in the morning, that I was ready to forgive them if they gave me good breakfast, and boy, did they deliver. We had our breakfast at “Goldingen room” (fun fact – Kuldīga used to was called Goldingen), which is located across the hotel as well. And it was amazing. Loved the vibe of the place, loved the food selection. It was super easy and basic, but everything was there and coffee was delicious. Also, you always get an extra ‘yay’ from me for bacon. They had that.

After our amazing breakfast we jumped in the car and headed to Japanese gardens. On our way we made a super short stop at Aizpute, where we climbed an old water tower to see the town from above. It was a good workout, because you have to climb up about 27 m.

But after that, our next stop was Japanese gardens. They are the biggest Japanese style gardens in Europe, with more than 100 bonsai and Sakura trees there, as well as the stone garden. It was beautifully designed and it was so peaceful, even though there were quite many people there. You can walk around or you can sit and watch the water. In spring, when Sakura is blooming, it must be breathtakingly beautiful. I hope to go back for that.

But the most favorite place for me was the tea house with tea ritual. You could choose to have a sakura or matcha tea or you could get a cold matcha latte. Whatever you choose, you get to watch the way the tea is being prepared and it really is a ritual. It’s important to take the cup in both hands, you have to turn it clockwise and little things like that. And I don’t know if it’s the tea or the ritual, but matcha latte was delicious.

You can also buy their bonsai, which most of them are imported from Japan. I got my hands on a Ginkgo tree. Rumor has it that after a Fukushima explosion, when all the trees around there died, the only ones that survived were Ginkgo trees. Well, they have survived over 200 million years, I suppose – Fukushima was not the worst that they had seen over the years.

Relaxed by the Japanese garden sounds, feeling full after a cup of that matcha latte, having left the little note on the wishing wall, we headed further into Lithuania, towards Šauliai, where we had our next hotel. Since we knew that we’re going away fro just couple of days, we wanted one of the hotels to have a SPA or a pool or a sauna, or everything. And we found this place just outside of Šauliai.

Once we approached it – I though we had made a HUGE mistake, because it looked a little run down from the outside, but the staff was very welcoming (even though we came about 3 minutes before they were closing their restaurant/reception). And when we got to our rooms – oh boy. We had a family room that was 2 joined rooms. And both of them were enormous. The beds were super wide and there was so much extra space in rooms and in bathrooms. Interior was not Scandinavian minimalist style that I enjoy, but who cares if you’ve got a big, bright (window walls) room with quiet beds. Since we were there late, we just went for a stroll outside and then we enjoyed our evening with conversations at a glass of beer and non-alcoholic sparkling wine (IT WAS SO DELICIOUS).

Since the surroundings were beautiful, before we went for our morning at the pool and sauna, I decided to go for a run. I did just 5K, since I’m really not enjoying running at the moment, but it gave such a boost to my day. There are days when I do exercise just because I know that I have t do it for the benefit of feeling good afterwards, not during.

After the run, the pool and getting pretty, we went for breakfast outside. It was a beautiful, sunny morning. We had to choose breakfast from the menue and it was decent. I would’ve liked something more than an option from 3 different eggs and pancakes, but you could order as much as you want and they were good, so I wasn’t complaining.

After that we headed home. It was about 2 hour drive back from Šauliai to Rīga. On our way we stopped at the Hill of Crosses. Every time I go there, it seems different, since people still bring their crosses here and just pile them up on the hill. It’s weird, but there’s a charm in it.

It was a great little getaway with my family. Us four – my mum, my aunt and my cousin used to go to these little excursions a lot. Also, when they visited us in Luxembourg, we’d go places. But we hadn’t gone anywhere in a while. It was a great way to reconnect and just spend some quality time together.

Always find the time for your family, because they’re the people who matter the most.

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