Latvia & Estonia
9 – 14 July 2014
A bit out of the blue, while in Turkey or maybe France, we decided to go to a tantra festival in Estonia. It was affiliated with the school we had attended on Koh Phangan, and we would have a chance to hear the school’s founders speak and find out what an Estonian tantra community was like (just like we’d always wondered, right?!). We weren’t sure how we would get there, or if we might suddenly need to manifest camping gear, but at this point in our travels, we knew enough to figure it would all somehow work out.
And, oh, did it ever work out! Our little long weekend in the far north came together with unexpected ease and beauty, like a crystal of sweetness dropped into our weary traveler laps. When we discovered that plane flights to Tallinn were scarce and expensive, we decided to fly into nearby Riga, Latvia, instead, a decision that transformed our trip into a serendipitous Baltic adventure, with a crash course in Baltic culture that we will not soon forget.
Back in March, in Bali, we happened to make friends with the woman in the room next door, the lovely Anna, who was originally from Latvia. So, when we knew we were going Riga, I wrote to her asking for recommendations on places to stay and things to see.
Beautiful, vivacious Anna, not one to do things halfway…not only did she connect us with three of her smart, charming friends in Riga (Elina, Dita, and Darta), who offered us a place to stay and a ride to the festival, Anna herself showed up in town! Anna’s mom is a well-known Estonian writer, and she showed us her apartment, which was in one of the cool old wooden buildings typical of the area, filled with beautifully-crafted mosaics and eclectic design.
Riga is the major city in the Baltics, and although our first impression was of a city made of old, stiff Soviet buildings covered in graffiti, the old town is beautiful and well-preserved, and many of those stiff block buildings outside of the center house modern cafes, cute (and expensive!) shops, and art. Riga is one of the European cultural capitals of 2014, and the international choir competition was taking place while we were there, so the streets were filled with music and posters about more music. We were delighted to find we didn’t stick out: locals would talk to us in Latvian, and one person even asked me for directions.
After a couple nights hanging with the girls at their favorite haunts in Riga, five of us (Darta couldn’t come) piled in Elina’s Audi for the 4-hour drive to the middle of nowhere, Estonia. On the way, just outside of Riga, we stopped at a spring by the side of the road and filled up big bottles with water for the weekend. “It’s blessed water, and sweet,” the girls said. I was skeptical. After stopping at spring after spring after spring coming out of the Caucasus mountains, could water from a mossy stream near the ocean possibly compare? But actually, the spring waters in Georgia often tasted sour or salty, whereas this Latvian water…I will always dream about that water. It was the best water I’ve ever tasted. Sweet, indeed, and soft and lovely.
The festival felt low-key after our time at Koh Phangan, and we couldn’t help but miss our community of contact improv misfits from Georgia. At the same time, we were happy to re-connect with friends and teachers from the island. The festival was held around a lake, with grassy fields and forests surrounding. It was close to midsummer and the sun didn’t really set. We got to spend evenings watching it trace its way sideways across the horizon for six hours before dipping under for a brief spell around midnight.
Jacob took this photo around 11:30pm: