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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.