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Latvian Midsummer festival (Līgo, Jāņi) trip from Rīga to Sārnati

The celebration of Latvian Midsummer festival is a long-standing tradition for Latvians. In every corner of Latvia, bonfires are lit, Līgo songs are sung and dances are danced. This year, I spent Līgo evening in Kurzeme. But this time not so much about celebrating as about what I saw and experienced.

The destination is in Sārnati, about 30 minutes from Ventspils, but departure is from Riga. It is a long distance when compare to Latvia geographical size. As one from our company said (she is from Italy), it does not seem like a long distance to her, and it is not surprising when you compare the sizes of the countries.

The first stop is Tukums, the place where the first ice creams are eaten. I got a very big ice-cream – 1200 ml pack. After the ice creams, we go on to see the thickest oak tree in Latvia, which is not far from Tukums. Just 15 minutes and we are at the thickest oak (Kaives Senču Oak). There is a sign next to the oak saying that it is the fattest in Eastern Europe, but according to resources on the internet, it is the fattest only in the Baltics, and only 11th in Eastern Europe. However, it is still growing, or expanding, in thickness.

– Kaives Senču Oak
– Poppies

The weather outside is magical and there is a festive atmosphere in the air that is hard to put into words. Before we head on to Kuldīga, we stop at a field on the way to pick some poppies to wrap in wreaths. Kuldīga is not only our point of interest, but also our stop for the evening meal. In Kuldīga itself we see only a few places, because the trip is not like a sightseeing tour, but points on a map, which is certainly not the straightest way to Sārnati, but interesting enough. There is a suggestion among the fellow travellers that Kuldīga is too beautiful for such a quick visit, and we should definitely return here for a longer stay.

– Kuldīga brick bridge over the river Venta
– View to the river Venta
– Venta rapid (Latvian: Ventas rumba) is the widest waterfall in Europe

– Kuldīga museum exhibits ready for Midsummer celebrations
– Rainbow in the city garden
– Elegant view in the city garden
– The legendary Walter (Ēvalds Valters)
– Last view of Kuldīga before moving on

If you look at a map, we take detours wherever possible, because the next stop is Alsunga, where we are looking for local Sklandrausis (a traditional Latvian dish of Livonian origin), one of the traditional dishes of the region. The classic Sklandrausis is carrot orange, but the roadside shop offers two additional types of Sklandrausis, the Wives and the Husbands Sklandrausis. The Husbands version is out of stock, while the Wives version is filled with apples and cottage cheese. The vast majority stick to the classics. My first memories of Sklandrausis are almost 10 years old, and I wasn’t thrilled then. Back then, Sklandrausis was cold and I wasn’t thrilled with the taste, but this time the sklandrausis was fresh and still warm. A completely different taste – a good taste – the bad experience in my memory was erased and replaced by a new, much more positive experience.

– My festive Sklandrausis
– A group photo of Sklandrausis
– Next to the Sklandrausis shop

Like true detourers, we are in no hurry to reach our final destination, so we go to the steep banks of Jūrkalne and finally we are ready to go to the designated Līgo celebration spot.

I looked at this trip as a relaxing escape from the rush of the city, and seeing what greeted us at the destination made me feel that way – away from the city, in a place where nature is in the majority. We could enjoy the place, the time and each other’s presence. The seashore is within sight and we go there more than once.

– Seashore near Līgo place
– Day and night, this friend joined us on the seashore

As Līgo evening progresses, the morning light comes without a notice, the weather is great. As I said, this time it’s not about celebrating. Time always moves faster when it is good.

– The clouds behaved artistically

A new day starts slowly. The way we want it. A trip through the region is on the agenda. The first stop is Pāvilosta, where we all go for lunch together. After a decent meal, we climb on the lookout tower with a very steep staircase. Definitely not for everyone.

– Pāvilosta as from a photo card, or the view from the tower

There is a breeze in the air, calling us to Liepāja. We arrive at the Liepaja northern forts. After a thorough look at the evidence of the past, we drive on to the other side of Liepāja, where evening is already knocking at the sky’s edge. Small city sightseeing and we go back to Sārnati to spend another night there. I got a bit hot in the sun during the day, which is probably why this night seemed colder, but maybe it was. I went to bed “on time”.

– Fort ruins
– Not all photo angles are bad
– Wind turbines and trees in the region as witnesses to high winds
– Smash Room Liepāja (a place to relieve your tension in a controlled way or just have fun by smashing something)
– The house of the knowledge (Liepaja University)

On the last morning, we took a leisurely walk along the sea, a fabulous sight with signs of thunderstorms on one side of the sky and the sun and clouds playing games on the other.

– The banks of Sārnate

So, after enjoying the last views of nature, we are in the car and on our way home.


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