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Our last day in Lapua was delightful. The sun was shining, no rain in sight. We took the bikes up to Simpsiö and had a very enjoyable hike, except for the inevitable swarm of mosquitoes. One of these days we will remember the repellent before heading into the woods.
The next day we said our goodbyes to Christine and took the train to the airport. Unfortunately we experienced what we had been warned about the trains - they are often late - we arrived at the exchange station 20 minutes late. Unclear whether there would be other commuter trains to the airport or when they would run we ran through the station. While Jo was asking an official looking employee where to go we surprised to see our very dear friend Karri Kokko who was waiting to meet us to spend a little time with us as we transferred trains.
In spite of some panic when Baltic Air enforced their very strict 8 kilogram limit on carry-on baggage, we made our plane in plenty of time. The flight was late, but we both had a strong and surprising rush of emotion when we saw the coast of Latvia and the skyline of Riga as we neared landing. Latvia has taken a special place in our hearts.
After renting a car we managed to find the big Maxima near the airport and purchase food, stop at the Alus ("beer") shop to purchase 1/2 liter plastic bottles of Latvian beer (that was the smallest size we could get), before we started the 2 hour, beautiful drive to Aizpute. Along the drive Jo commented that Latvia reminded her a bit of Iowa, there is a rich, sensuous, fertile feeling of the land.
Around 10 PM we noted that we were getting near to sunset, something that we never saw while in Finland. We were very happy to arrive in Aizpute and find SERDE, an extraordinary facility in very old, beautiful buildings. We took a brief tour of the site and were stunned by the beauty of the multiple rooms of the center which originally was a house of rich people, later turned into multiple small apartments during Soviet times and abandoned until Signe Pucena and Ugis Pucens took on the monumental task of restoring and renovating the building to create a vibrant cultural center.
We are going to really enjoy the next two weeks.