Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Last Train to Sigulda!

Does that sound like a movie title? Today is Preparation Day and we did take the last train to Sigulda this morning, and the last train to Riga this afternoon. We went with Elder and Sister Gubler and it was such an enjoyable day.

Sigulda is an hour's train ride (we're not talking Bullet train here) from Riga. It is a tourist town with a large castle from the 13th Century (The Livonian's). There is also another castle where, while we were there, one wedding party was leaving and another one coming. Behind the castle is the ruins of a very old castle and church.

The train is from the 1960s Elder Gubler thought and it meanders down the tracks, stopping at every little bump in the road to pick up passengers (or let passengers off). The tracks go through forests with a few country homes and gardens along the way. When I read about Riga before coming here, I read that the people go to their country homes in the summers to take care of the gardens. I thought they must be wealthy to have country homes. What I've found is that families live in domes (apartment buildings) and own little shantys/homes in poor condition, with a bit of property on which they have fruit trees and grow gardens. Their gardens look very well-cared for.

The train reminded me of World War II trains--two seats facing two seats. The Gublers sat down facing us, but Sister Gubler couldn't handle the heat (sun coming in the window) so found a seat across the aisle and back a row. That left her empty seat and the first stop along the way, a young man (35-40?) got on with his wife, 12 year old son and 4 year old daughter. The wife and daughter sat behind me, the son sat across from me, and the man sat next to Elder Gubler. As he took his seat, we were all pleased to hear him speaking English. He is from Florida! His wife is Russian, from Latvia. They met in 2000 in Finland and have just bought a home in Riga. We had a nice visit with him until they got off one or two stops before Sigulda.

He works on cruise ships in electronic technology. He was pleasant and interesting to visit with.
They were on their way to a Latvian Equestrian Show.

We arrived in Sigulda just in time for lunch, and found a little bakery/cafe. For dessert, we sisters each bought what looked like a sweet roll with berries or currants on top. It was very good, but tart. Turns out it was cranberries on top. They just don't add much sugar to their desserts.

We then headed up the road towards the first castle. Sigulda is a quiet little town, very green and pretty. We could hear singing as we approached the castle and found, behind the castle and the ruins was an amphitheater where some high school-age youth were practicing dances to be performed this evening. They were very good and it was so enjoyable to watch them. If we hadn't had to come back this evening, I would have enjoyed seeing the performance. They would be in native costume for the performance.

We hopped onto a golf cart/tourist vehicle and rode to the other castle. Before arriving there, we stopped at the largest cave in the Baltics. As Sister Gubler said, if this is the largest one in the Baltics, they would be blown away by the Timpanogos. It's not very deep and people have carefully carved names and dates all over the walls--not like graffiti, but like sweethearts used to carve their names on tree trunks.

This 2nd castle has a tower that is approximately 10-11 stories high (speaking of American buildings) and we climbed to the top! It has winding staircases, quite narrow, brick stairs and walls. At each level we could look out through narrow places where Livonians warriors would have watched for the enemy and defended their home. When we got to the top the view was amazing. Green forests as far as you could see.

There were people dressed in costume, including a knight in shining armor. I discovered on the train to Sigulda that my camera battery was dead. Sister Humphrey and Sister Gubler took pictures which I will post later.

The weather was perfect. Hard to believe it's August. It was a lovely day.

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