Latvia and the latest Welsh bobsled team.
We were up and ready for breakfast just past 7 before finding out it didn’t start till half past on a Saturday! We sat, waited then rushed in and quickly ate/grabbed a load of breakfast items. The train left at 7:54, luckily for us the station was only 5 minutes walk away and we soon had our tickets and had found the platform. The train was waiting for us in the dark morning gloom so we got on and the it was soon trundling off through soviet high rises and deep into birch and pine woods.
The journey to Sigulda takes just over an hour and it was fun going through the baltic forest trying to spot deer and other animals. Unfortunately we didn’t see any wildlife on our way. Sigulda is a small town with lots of hiking, biking and winter sport activities. It cost just 7E return for both of us. We arrived just after 9am and took the main st following the signs towards our first destination. We had read about a cable car taking you across the valley towards old castle ruins and a relatively new manorhouse. The cable car building seemed deserted till a man came out to let us know it opened at ten. With some time to kill we looked out over the valley towards a castle poking out of the trees high up on the opposite side. Eating our little breakfast qe wandered over to look at the new sigulda castle through the trees and back in time to be the first and only to cross in the cable car.
It was actually a smooth journey over the huge river and trees lining it’s banks. There was even a bear waiting high up in one tree that we passed over.
Arriving on the other side we had a look at the ruins, crossing a lovely wooden bridge to get to it before descending down the steep hillside on wooden stairs that seemed never ending.
From here we followed a trail towards a cave we had read about where a healer once lived, using the fresh spring water to heal ailments once upon a time. The walk was lovely past ponds and little streams with bridges criss-crossing over them. The cave was more of an indent in the cliff face, only going around 18metres back but it was interesting as hundreds of years of carving were in the rock. It was funny to think that people basically wrote ‘I was here 1652’!
Our walk now took us down to the river where we kept our eyes out for beavers and more wildlife without really seeimg anything but signs that they could have crossed paths with us at some point.
The trail on our map took us back towards the other side of the river, past some currently unused ski slopes and a tarzan park which looked quite fun. I realised our destination was unavailable from this side of the hill so we had to walk through the woods and round the side of the valley, back up around 400 steps to the summit and the edge of Sigulda town.
Our destination was an old olympic bobsled track that you could use for the princely sum of 10E. We were given a couple of helmets, sat in a padded bob sled with a Latvian family, and pushed down without a driver, a 30 second instruction course shouted at us, and it was so much fun! We zoomed down on the ice, banking high up on the walls of the track, hurtling downhill. Mum always says she hates theme park rides but really enjoyed this as we reached the bottom in record time. Look out for us at the next Winter Olympics!
We were driven back up the hill and took an opportunity to take some pictures of us in a real bobsled before continuing on our little journey back into Sigulda town.
Luckily the road we were on took us right back to the station, and with an hour to kill we munched on pancakes filled with spinach and feta, mozzarella and tomato and served with a spoonful of sour cream. Just what we needed to refuel after our hike, I also had a slightly large slice of cake….
On our journey back we watched the Arsenal – Man Utd game on the train wifi and back in Riga we made it to a pub to watch the second half. As the game finished and Mum went to get another round in she realised she’d lost her purse. Probably in a little shop by the station in Sigulda, so we nipped back to the hotel to sort it out, unfortunately getting nowhere trying to ring the shop.
Although annoying for Mum we didn’t allow it to dampen our spirits and carried on our plans, so we dressed up and walked into the new part of town and the skyline bar on the 26th floor of the radisson blu hotel.
Although the 5E entry is pricey the views were amazing and the cocktails were great. Mum had a raspberry gin sour and I had one made around black balsam, the liqueur of choice in Latvia. The waitress even got us a table next to the window where we could see the festival lights around Riga.
Although the rain had started to fall there were loads of people about of all ages as we walked back down to the old town to find somewhere to eat. It was almost 9pm yet all the restaurants were full, after finding a table in one, we looked through the menu and although I could sample local delicacies such as beaver and elk, I couldn’t bring myself to pay 36E for the privilege!
We sneaked out of there and ended up in a little Japanese place where we had tempura, ramen and a coconut fish dish. It was cheap and tasty and nice to get out of the rain. At this point it was cold wet and the streets were quieter so we wandered back through to the hotel.After a full day of walking (13 miles according to my phone) and an early rise it was nice to get in bed and drift off.