| || |
Fittingly it was overcast with drizzling rain all day Saturday as the coastal towns of Latvia celebrated Sea Festival. After mulling it over for some time we decided to head south to the third largest city of Latvia, Liepāja, rather than to the north to Ventspils as it was a shorter drive. We walked to two neighborhood "creative centers" indicated on the map and found a wonderful weaving studio with gorgeous wool and linen creations as well as beaded wristbands. Fortunately they only took cash as the very inexpensive prices were extremely tempting. Nearby was an amber studio (Liepāja is known for the harvest of amber stones that wash up on the beach). We enjoyed an outdoor exhibit of paintings at the entry to the Festival and a hearty lunch of pork kebabs, boiled potatoes and a scrumptious cooked cabbage dish.
It started raining so we headed to Pāvilosta for the much smaller town's Festival. We followed the map's directions to find a working bread museum for tastings of traditional-style bread. We also couldn't leave without purchasing some incredible farmhouse smoked bacon. Pāvilosta was wet too but we found a vendor of smoked fish before making it to the beach to watch the procession of boats to the Sea and the entrance of the sea gods who mounted the stage where Neptune made a boisterous speech.
Sunday in Aizpute is wonderfully quiet. There is no truck traffic on the main road in front of SERDE and, at 9:00 AM there were very few
people out. As we neared the river we saw four people fishing. We walked through the cemetery with its individual zen-garden type plots that are lovingly maintained. As they are miniature gardens even the old and forgotten plots still maintain a natural beauty as the fauna continues to grow. We walked to the edge of town through several small farm plots before heading back to the river, past the resident swan family to fill our water bottle at the spring.
We walked a bit, toured the 14th century Livonian order castle that lacked the sterotypical moats, drawbridges, turrets. We were thoroughly disappointed that we missed the larba daiks (operating hours) of the souvenir shop as we were hoping to hoping to find a CD of the unique singing of the Suiti women or some traditional crafts.
We continued to the stone bridge and viewed some ruins of 19th century buildings that had been converted to apartments by the Soviets. It appears that attempts are being made to stop the decay but there are so many of these old buildings and restoration is costly so not much can be done. On the way out of town we drove through the town's forest park. Jo tried to take selfies by a particularly cute frog sculpture.
We also found the fish market that is renowned for smoked fish, unfortunately they were having mechanical difficulties and were closed for the day.
In the morning we enjoyed a walk along the beautiful river and old town of Aizpute, deciding that our first artistic venture would be a stop motion video on the "Jewish steps" behind the historic synagogue - sacrificing our clean pants - before coming back to observe master brewer Ugis making some gruit for an upcoming festival. Ugis has researched the traditional Latvian brewing and distilling techniques and brought them back to life. He is truly a master at his craft. We were honored that he shared with us two of his cellared beers.
We are going to really enjoy the next two weeks.
bikes to Simpsiö - neither bike feels stable on turns or downhills and Paul's rear wheel's hub/gear needs to be replaced as it wobbles constantly and skips chain links any time there is any torque applied - we hiked the "mountain" up to a 9 story observation tower that moved a bit in the wind but provided a nice view of the area.
We took the train to Tampere where we were greeted by Karri Kokko and Katja Matakainen. After a lovely buffet lunch at Heiska ry in Hämeenkyrö we headed to Arteles Creative Center to see Birch Loops, the environmental installation we created while in residence at Arteles in May 2012. We had high hopes that there would be quite a bit of the work still remaining after receiving two photos from an artist who had been at the Center in April. We were stunned to find that most of the work was intact. Even the dead wood that we used to build three rings on the ground wasn't totally decayed and the braids of living saplings still held strong. We had forgotten just how immense the installation actually is. It is impossible to capture the entire installation in one photo. As you enter Birch Loops there are braided arcs over a ring on the ground to the left, then you turn to the right and note that the work keeps going and surrounds you on all sides. If it weren't for the mosquitoes we would have been quite content to stay inside it for quite some time. We are humbled and honored that over the years artists in residence at Arteles have interacted with Birch Loops as a site for their creative work.
We returned to Tampere where we enjoyed coffee, long discussions and a wonderful dinner prepared by Karri featuring a typical Midsummer cold course of pickled herring, pickled salmon, roe, boiled potatoes and dark bread followed by a warm course of fish, carrots and salad. After a walk along one of the two large lakes of Tampere we enjoyed delicious pine flavored ice cream with strawberries.
In the morning Karri and Katja served as our guides for a walking tour of the very aesthetic city with the Tampere Cathedral as the highlight of the day. The grounds of the Cathedral were ringed with a hedge of manicured oak trees. We ended the day with a stop at a real coffee shop, appropriately named Runo ("poetry") with funky furnishings and artful decorations.
The events in the courtyard commenced while we worked in the studio and we were "serenaded" by some throbbing, annoying house music apparently designed for exercise routines to provide a driving, incessant beat and little melodic interest. We tried not to be distracted by the very poor and dangerous weight lifting technique the participants were being led in. A bit later a singer/guitarist did a set of pleasant songs. We finished our weaving piece and got some headway on the industrial paper towel panels with altered with twigs, leaves, paper and flour/water "glue".
We enjoyed the very warm evening with a bike ride around town.
We finished up the day with weaving and adding the final coat of paint to the papier-mâché heads. For dinner we made our version of Latvian cold beet soup (though we used yogurt because kefir isn't available in the supermarket). And...we had a licorice tasting before bedtime.
We did stop in a Video/Candy store on the way there and found several different varieties of licorice (taste videos to follow). Fortunately Christine had recommended that we drive further through a string of islands to where the road ends, the world heritage site at Svedjehamn.
After lunch of a lovely salmon chowder at the cafe at the end of the road we took a short hike on the nature trail, stopping at the brilliantly designed observation tower to enjoy the views and read about the site. The land was compressed by the weight of the glaciers during the Ice Age and has been rising since. In 2,000 years the land raised the height of the tower and in another 2,000 years will do the same. Without the rising seas of global warming Sweden and Finland would become connected by land. Efforts have been made to reconstruct the old buildings historically utilized for salting herring.
We originally set off on a longer loop but the very large mosquitoes made the hike in boggy areas a constant effort at swatting so we decided on the shorter loop.
envisioned paper walls for our installation and also took us to visit the community public cottage outside of town. Inspired by the photos of the deceased factory workers in the Center's chapel we have started building 40 papier-mâché "heads" for the installation.
Two bicycles have been loaned to us. Not the most stable vehicles on the road but we are definitely enjoying them.
Saturday we explored the austere chapel honoring the 40 who died in the 1976 Lapua Ammunition Cartridge Factory explosion then we went to check out the studio spaces available to us at Vanha Paukku. There is a beautiful side storage room upstairs that doesn't meet fire code standards so we can't officially use it. We finished the day with a lovely, very Baltic meal of beet soup, local cheese, pickled herring, and black rye bread.
On Sunday we took advantage of the lovely weather to walk to the Simpsiö Ski Resort and enjoy a lovely hike. As Karri Kokko told us, this area of Finland is known for being flat (and windy) so it is a wonderful surprise to find some decent sized hills. Finland has luscious dandelion flowers, the blossoms are at least 2 inches in diameter. Just as was true when we were in Hämeenkyrö, Paul regrets not being able to harvest them to brew Dandelion/Ginger Trippel Ale. It was great to hike in the trees, rocks and lakes - made us miss backpacking - and we only got a few mosquito bites.
We appreciate the Scandinavian sense of efficiency of design elements - especially in the kitchen - the cupboards above sink have metal grids rather than wood bottoms to allow for draining the dishes. The entire layout of the kitchen workspace is very ergonomically intelligent; Frank and Lillian Gilbreth would be amazed.
At the supermarket we were very happy to find plentiful and cheap root vegetables like beets and potatoes; lovely dark rye breads, local cheeses, and the very rich and creamy Salakis Turkisk Naturell Youghurt that we discovered a few years ago while staying in Hämeenkyrö. Knowing that Finns, while drinking more coffee per capita than any other nationality like their coffee very lightly roasted, we asked Karri for his recommendation and have found a passable brand of French dark roast.
We toured the Cultural Centre Vanha Paukku, on the former site of a cartridge factory that exploded when the gunpowder for the bullets stored on the top floor was accidentally ignited, killing 41 mostly female workers that devastated this small town in 1976. The Centre includes a very lovely and austere chapel to honor the dead, museum, gallery, music and art studios, a theater, restaurant, and a beautiful library.
The initial attempts to locate potential collaborators have begun. Unfortunately the local theatre company is taking a summer break after next week so we may have many potential collaborators off for holiday.
Karri is in the stop motion video Si, I See, in Assisi and his voice is heard on A Simple Thing. We were fortunate to work with him again in 2012 to create and perform Cagevent: Sometimes it Works, Sometimes it Doesn't. We enjoyed dinner with Karri where he helped Jo install a sim card in her IPhone and coffee the next morning We are hoping to meet up in Tampere later this month and visit our environmental installation Birch Loops to see how much is left/how it has changed in five years.
are happy to have it in a state that we can submit it and be rid of it....unless it is accepted and the editors ask for revisions.
On Wednesday we drove up to Licola and the Alpine National Park. Lovely country with low mountains and valleys. We were frustrated in our attempts to get to the gorge hike as the General Store in Licola was closed so we couldn't refuel (turns out that Licola's population is 9 so the store is only open during the tourist season) and the sign on the gravel road telling us to activate 4-wheel drive now disuaded us from driving the additional 60 km to the trailhead.
We did get a hike in, on a trail that was advertised as being not maintained or well marked. An hour and a half up we realized that we weren't going to reach the clearing we thought we could see so we turned around and back to the car, thinking we could stop for lunch in Glenmaggie. But Glenmaggie is only slightly more populous than Licola so there were no services. In Heyfield for gas and a stop at the bakery for pies: tomato and onion and veggie.
On Tuesday we drove back to Sale for shopping and to revisit the wetlands. Unfortunately we underestimated how much time shopping would take so, again, our hike was cut short.
volunteered their time and creativity to engage in a dialogic devising based upon Clive's Wish installation, writing haikus, creating and performing movement. We will need to videotape again for close-ups but there was some wonderful material. That afternoon we shared the bottle of Reserve Shiraz that had been given to us for that purpose. We really like these people.
Sunday Jo & I created and performed a work for video in the small playhouse in the garden that Carolyn's daughters once enjoyed. This morning we wrote an exquisite corpse poem based upon the free associated words I gathered from looking at the tiny house. At the same time we were making final edits to an article we are about to submit.
Several bicyclists came to the Space to enjoy Clive's open studio, lecture-demonstration about how he sculpts in marble. We were able to catch the end of it after shooting our playhouse video.
Meanwhile, Jo continues on her weaving with found objects project and I am collecting sound for my project(s).
miles of uninterrupted sand beach) and trod for 2.5 km. We decided that, while sandy beaches are nice, we much prefer the dramatic coastlines of Oregon and Northern California.
The Entrance is a natural opening that has been fortified by stone and concrete piers into a narrow entrance where the waves crash and churl before being diminished by the current flowing out of the lakes into the ocean. The path back to the pedestrian beach was through vines/shrubs that oftentimes became a tunnel.