A Trip to the East Side
Kemeri – Latvia – One Reason to go East – I am here with my Latvian father for a few days.
The Kemeri National Park was established in 19917 to protect nature and various historical sites. I had found it on the Internet and was under the misapprehension it would be an easy place to find. Thank goodness I had local guides as I don’t think I would have found it under my own steam.
Latvia is very flat with many lakes. Kemeri is mainly underwater. Even glancing to the side of the main road revealed dark peaty water. This dark soup is rich in sulphur and there are 20 sulphur springs in the area. In 1924 a resort and Spa was build so that restorative mud baths could be taken and you could bathe in or drink the spring water. Believe me it is not pleasant to drink! The spa area is dilapidated and run down now. The ornate ironwork surrounding the springs sporting more rust than paint. Though there is restoration in hand. The Spa Resort is being worked on and though not yet open is starting to resume its former glory.
I had hoped to cross an extensive bog land on a boardwalk again traced on the internet. After driving miles down potholed tracks through thickly forested marshlands we came to a clearing with a small brick house and a large sign telling us in Latvia, Russian and English that the Bog land Boardwalk was closed and a danger to the public! We were to go no further. The ‘keeper’ of the area was still in residence and I think she was just a little lonely. A lively half hour of chat followed as she explained in great detail how there was little money coming into preserve the park. That a considerable amount had been left by a Latvian lady who had moved to and died in Australia, but that the money had been used to line the pockets of unscrupulous officials. Some habits of the soviet era were not quite erased.
Not deterred we set off in another direction down equally narrow, deeply rutted tracks through somewhat malodorous dark soup to a more imposing information centre. Unfortunately it was closed. By this time it was after 5pm. Still there were trails marked and it being summer in the Baltic, darkness would not fall for some time. The trees were teaming with life. Most of it was high up and out of sight. The birds were calling and singing incessantly. Cuckoos and woodpeckers were the most easy to distinguish. The forest is mixed deciduous woodland and there were some ancient oaks with thick deep bark. Aspens and which hazel and jasmine. The jasmine scent masked the sulphur a little.
The soft glow of late afternoon sun highlighted the young green leaves with the cloudless blue sky the perfect backdrop. Much more light filters through the deciduous leaves than in a pine forest so there was plenty of ground cover. Irises were beginning to appear in the wetter areas and where there was slightly more soil then blueberry thickets spread under their protectors. The downside was the midges. Think Scotland in August. Though I had been warned and was prepared in a long sleeved shirt, they still managed to eat my head through my hair.
Our last foray in the park was to see Sloka Lake. Yes, you guessed, down yet another unmarked, narrow rutted track. This time we hit a somewhat odd historical landmark. Well at least odd to me. My friends say they litter the countryside. An old soviet factory and residential block. Really in the middle of nowhere. As we drove close to it I wondered why there were suddenly street lamps, all be it gutted and garrotted, lining the unmaintained road and as we rounded the corner there was the concrete monstrosity, complete with generating plant and chimney. All left for nature to reclaim. . It must have been so ridiculously difficult to build in the peat bog.
The Lake is vast and reflected the blue sky. No motorboats or tourists. Totally as nature intended. The acid soil means acidic water so there are not so many fish. Hence not too many water birds. There was a loan Hooper swan and a few grey heron leaping in and out of the reed beds, an irate swallow chastised us for disturbing his peace building a nest on the viewing platform.
More pictures to follow, all good reasons to go east – not your usual holiday place but I hope when I have finished posting my ‘blogs’ on Latvia, you will consider a visit.