A Centenary - March 2001A Latvian Whirlwind for Erna's 100th Birthday

Erna's birthday candles

Balti Zied

Balti zied abelīte
The apple tree blossoms white
Jūras kāpas māliņā
In sea dune loam
Pūš vējiņš, birst ziediņi
The breeze lifts, petals shower
Zēģelnieka laiviņā
Into the seaman's sailboat

Posters with Latvian verses filled the rooms and hallways in observation of Peters' aunt Erna's 100th birthday celebration. Such was one — our frail and delicate influence, showered on strangers, may yet travel to lands unseen or undreamt.

"We'll definitely be there!" ...Those were our parting words the prior summer, promising to be back for "Ernas tantes" birthday. In the complexities of daily life, we sometimes say what we want to do — but don't always manage to carry through. Peters' cousin Gaida admitted later that she was just a wee bit skeptical we'd make it — but she softened it, after all, we had been quite emphatic and convincing!

It was an event not to be missed. While Peters' mom and aunt Laura are nearing, or past, 90, there's no guarantee that anyone will make it to 100. (However, there was plenty of speculation at the celebration figuring out who was next in line!) Sadly, no one knew better than Erna that nothing in life is certain — of her 3 children: Janis, Vija, and Gaida, only Gaida was there to celebrate her mother's centenary. We toasted Janis and Vija in their absence and celebrated for them as well.

But we're jumping ahead of ourselves!

Getting There

Is it England, or is it Latvia?

We spent several days in London prior to hopping over to Latvia. We both loved London, but had to admit the beer was better in Riga — and cheaper! About five of the finest Uzavas alus in Riga for the price of one London brew. We also developed a fondness for the locals, and we're definitely planning to return to the same haunts next time around. But it wasn't long before Latvia started calling to us — soon we were itching to hit the road, Silvija especially. Small things would pop up and remind us of Latvia: food, old houses, the way the clouds looked. Even as we rode the train to the airport at Gatwick, we were sudden acutely aware that the little garden plots whizzing by looked awfully familiar — they were just like the ones in Pardaugava... in Zolitude or further out along the road out to Bolderaja.

Rīga is ON THE MAP!

Despite the soon-to-come consternation and gnashing of teeth over a British Airway's tourist publication regurgitating dated Soviet propaganda about Latvia's Freedom Monument being built to honor Mother Russia (holding her three stars, the Baltic states, above her head...) we can still relish that curiously satisfying feeling at Gatwick, seeing British Airways list "Riga" with all their other international destinations. This sign was over the doors in the shuttle between Gatwick's South and North Terminals. (We're sure there's a method to the British madness in the order the cities are listed, but, personally, we're stumped!)

We don't have any pictures of our first major destination in Latvia because that was bed! By the time we flew in, got into Riga, dragged our stuff up, and got settled in and ready for bed, it was already 2:00 am. A mattress never looked so inviting! Especially as we hadn't seen anything confortable to lie on in days! (Our bed in London was an instrument of torture!)

Our stay was brief, and our marsruts ("MAHRSH-roots", meaning itinerary) was planned like clockwork: a day to ourselves to unwind; dinner the next day with Silvija's relatives; Erna's birthday party the next afternoon; sleep in and host our farewell soiré on our last full day; and, all too soon, off to the airport at some ungodly hour of the morning!

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