I took the bus to from Riga to Liepaja, and from the instant we arrived within the bounds of Liepaja city, the rain poured down. Not friendly, light and dainty rain but a torrential downpour that would cause even the toughest of ducks to flee to someone dry. I was naively glad that I’d bought a $3 umbrella in Riga. Getting off the bus, grabbing my pack quickly and bolting under cover, I did what I always try to avoid: I unzipped the back of my pack to free the actual back-pack part of it. Unless I’m walking a fair distance, or need to use the shiny inbuilt raincover, I tend to make use of the side strap and sling my pack over my shoulder. Bad backpacker I am. I strapped myself in and pulled out my umbrella – which promptly turned itself inside-out as a gust of wind decided to ferociously attack my poor innocent paisley umbrella. Pulling it back into shape and holding it to the side of my head like a shield, I made my way to the tram stop. I wasn’t walking about four kilometres in the pouring rain when I could take a tram for a dollar…and enjoy the adventure of trying to figure out where on earth I should get off.
I struggled onto the tram, my pack getting stuck in the door [the driver only opened half the door] and my umbrella dripping all over the floor, and managed to find the right change. There was a ‘Liepaja’ section in the Riga InYourPocket guide I’d scored, so I had a basic map of the city and miraculously managed to get off the tram at the right stop [although the building I thought was the post office turned out to be a cafe]. From there it was about a ten minute trek through the wet streets in the rain trying to locate the hostel. My gratitude goes out to the truck driver who swerved to the other side of the road to avoid a giant puddle which would have drowned me had he gone straight through. Typically, about ten minutes after I arrived at the hostel, the rain stopped, and then about ten minutes before I was going to head out for a wander, it started again. I didn’t do a lot that first day – had a wander around in the rain, where it was quite cold, located some cool pedestrian crossing lights, and had an overpriced dinner.
I was quite excited to find mashed potatoes on the menu at the restaurant I ended up at. Grilled chicken fillet with mashed potatoes…that was too appealing to ignore. However, what arrived in no way resembled what I’d anticipated.
After that disappointment I figured I deserved dessert. And there was absolutely nothing disappointing about that. I ordered the honey pie with caramel sauce, having little idea what it would be. It turned out to be a multi-layered cake that tasted like honey gingerbread with vanilla cream. It was AMAZING.
Liepaja is quite well set up for tourism. While it’s not full of amazing sights or fascinating museums, it’s a nice small town with some interesting history. They also have an easy self-guided tour, where you basically follow little silver quavers [musical notes] that are embedded in the footpaths around the town. They use quavers as apparently Liepaja has a great musical history, with many well-known Latvian musicians coming from the town. While I must admit that I hadn’t heard of any, it was fun looking for shiny silver notes on the footpath.
The notes took me firstly through one of the main central streets, where Liepaja has its own musical Walk of Fame, complete with handprints.
It also has a giant guitar, and a giant drum kit.
I wandered through some little streets before coming across St Anne’s Lutheran Cathedral. Built in the sixteenth century, it was quite imposing from the outside, but inside was quite simple. Photography was not allowed.
Opposite St. Anne’s cathedral was Petertirgus, the central market. It was primarily food goods, but also had a number of stalls around the outside selling flowers, clothes, underwear and shoes
Walking through the fresh produce section was great – there was a mixture of people with expansive stalls selling a bit of everything to tiny tables where a woman would be selling the wild mushrooms she had collected that morning in big glass jars.
There was also no shortage of fresh berries, and I bought myself a medium-sized punnet of raspberries to snack on as I wandered.
After the market I visited St Joseph’s Catholic church, built in the mid-eighteenth century. The Catholic church was a little more ornate than the Lutheran church, which was elegant in its simplicity.
St Joseph’s had a number of small chapels off each side of the main part of the church, elaborately carved confessionals and long white ribbons hanging from the ceiling – it appeared that they were preparing for a wedding. An old woman who was tying white bows on the ends of each row of pews showed me the chapels, and gave me a little pewter charm of St Anthony.
The quavers led me back into the centre of town, and then up through some small streets to the Liepaja Museum. It was free, and had some interesting information and cultural exhibits.
The trail from here led to the river, where I sat down and enjoyed the view of the fishing boats while also enjoying the biggest serve of nachos you can imagine.
Just as I sat down under a big market umbrella, it once more started to rain and I was glad that I had basically finished ‘the sights’ of Liepaja. It was about three o’clock in the afternoon, and I was heading back slowly into the centre of town when I realised something: it was July 15, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II comes out in Latvia on July 15. Now all I had to do was find a cinema, and it turned out to be right next to the tourist office. I bought my ticket, not knowing whether it would be in English or have English subtitles, but I didn’t really care. I was, however, quite thankful that it WAS in English, with Latvian and Russian subtitles rather than having been dubbed into Latvian. I guess there isn’t enough people speaking Latvian to make dubbing worthwhile. It was definitely a good way to spend a cold and rainy afternoon.