Antipole cruises


We had a good fast passage to Liepāja and explored the city – our first taste of Latvia.  It has been something of an eye opener.  It seems notably different from our experiences to date.  In part this may be because it was a Soviet city until 1991.

Latvia has vast forestry resources and we were struck by the number of wooden buildings.  The oldest are of squared log construction.  More recent ones are more ornate, but many are in a poor state of repair.  The city has some lovey Art Nouveau buildings from when it flourished as a resort, but many of these are yet to be renovated. We visited the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, which shows the neglect of Soviet times but has a baroque interior and houses the largest pipe organ in the world with more than 7,000 pipes.  It was being played while we were there.

In the evening we cycled 7km to the district of Karosta, which was another eye-opener.  This port was originally built for the Russian Czar Alexander III and included mansions for the elite, a palace for himself (although reputedly only used once) and a Russian Orthodox Naval Cathedral.  During the Cold War it became the port for Soviet nuclear submarine naval operations and Liepāja was a closed city with even local farmers requiring a permit to enter.Karosta  Many works units were built and Soviet-style apartment blocks built to house the workforce. After Latvia reclaimed its independence in 1991 the last Russian forces left in 1994 and Karosta largely emptied, although some of the apartments are again occupied.  Sandwiched in between the apartment blocks stands the cathedral, with restoration work just beginning.  Inside we found a service in progress – a congregation of just three or four but the icons all glittering in candle light and the wonderful orthodox chanting filling the building.  It was very moving to witness the ancient office celebrated again, but we wonder for how much longer.

Latvia suffered under Stalin with mass deportations to the gulags in Siberia. Today the population is just 2 million and falling. (By comparison, England has twice the land area and a population of 53 million).  Latvia is doing well, having joined the EU and the Eurozone.  We were struck by how many, especially the younger well educated people, are flourishing in this new order.  Many are smartly dressed and have a buzz about them.  Private enterprises are doing well.  Yet we see also older people who have not faired so well.  At independence, citizenship was limited to those who had been living in Latvia prior to the Soviet take-over in 1940 and their descendants and to those borne after independence.  Today 14% of the population, mainly Russians, have no citizenship of any country and no voting rights.  34% of the population speaks Russian at home.  Some are nervous given events in Crimea.

Lotte & Antipole in Pāvilosta

Lotte & Antipole in Pāvilosta

On 6th August we sailed, together with Lotte, 26nm north to Pāvilosta, which is a small fishing port and holiday resort on the River Saka.  It is a very relaxed place with holiday cottages, a yacht club, canoe hire, a restaurant and shop.  We were wind-bound there for four days.  The Latvian coast comprises hundreds of miles of unspoilt sandy beaches backed by forest and we enjoyed a lovely walk several miles along the beach.

On the Tuesday evening we enjoyed a last meal with the crew of Lotte who intended to head back west via Gotland while we head further north – so we bid farewell and had a blustery sail 36nm north to Ventsplis, only to find Lotte there as the westerly winds had forestalled her planned passage.

Ventspils is a major port and oil terminal and the city has done well on the back of this.  The streets are all smartly paved with bricks and there are many facilities for sport and the young.  We cycled around town before finding supper.  We would have liked to explore it further, but tomorrow is the last of the winds suitable for our 61nm passage to our next destination – the Estonian island of Saaremaa.  So we leave Latvia for now, although we plan to visit Riga next week.

love to all

Ynskje & Tony

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