Latvia

Castles in Segulda and Cēsis

Segulda 

Latvia

August 26, 2014

Cool.  Rain.

“Latvia” is printed on a sign of deep blue with a circle of gold stars.  It is the only indication that I driven across the boundary of the sovereign nation of Estonia and into the sovereign nation of Latvia, both members of the European Union.  

No barriers.   No uniforms.  No questions.  No paperwork.

How civil.  How civilized.  No anger.  No fear.  No fences between good neighbors. 

Salaspils Memorial: Saying Kaddish

Salaspils

Latvia

August 25, 2014

Dear Rabbi Kantor, **

cc: Family and Friends

Rabbi, I have a question:  “Is it a mitzvah to recite the Kaddish?”

Here’s why I ask: 

Twenty kilometers southeast of Riga, off the main highway, at the end of a narrow road, I park my car in an empty lot.

A dense forest of tall silent trees lines both sides of a broad gravel walkway.  Except for an elderly couple off in the woods gathering mushrooms, I am alone as I make my way down the long path to the distant monument. 

Ventspils: Gliding Over the Baltic Sea

Villa Leonardo

Ventspils

Latvia

August 29, 2014

Dear Friends,

Leonardo serves me a breakfast that could feed a small army.

A pitcher of both orange juice and tomato juice, eggs, chicken, smoked fish, assorted cheeses, salad, fresh fruit, bread, butter, jam, pastry and Bodum French Press coffee.

My “apartment” is twice the size and much more elegant than my flat in Bangkok.  The kitchen and bathroom have every gadget needed for a lengthy stay.

The grounds of the Villa are seductive.

Why leave?

Kuldiga: Unique Sites

Kuldiga

Latvia

August 30, 2014

The sounds of children’s laughter emanate from the bright yellow building that serves as a library and community center here in this quiet and charming town in western Latvia.

But in the recent past, on a fall day that is fast approaching, a date on the Jewish lunar calendar, the First Day of the month of Tishrei, the sounds of the shofar would have been heard in this building, echoing through the streets and into the homes and into the hearts of the residents of the neighborhood.  (This year, September 25-26, 2014.)

Riga: Old Town

Riga

Latvia

August 31, 2013

Dear Friends,

“What is your favorite city?” 

I am frequently asked this question and like other travelers, I am tempted to answer, “My favorite city is the city where I am now!”

Of course that is an unsatisfactory answer, even when it might be true.

At the moment I am in Riga, the capital of Latvia.  And if I were to give an honest answer, it would be this: “If I make a list of my ten favorite cities, Riga would be on the list, perhaps even in the top five.”

Riga: Vermanes Park Stroll

Riga:  A Stroll Today?  Chess Anyone?

Riga

Republic of Latvia

Sunday

August 31, 2014

On this sunny weekend afternoon, family and friends, and friends and neighbors get out of the house and promenade, and play and perform, and pose in the public park.  What could be more civilized? 

Not counting the pointillist masterpiece by the French painter Georges Seurat, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884), I first encountered this civil and civilizing world-wide phenomenon in Greece just fifteen years ago.   

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