Sunday, June 8, 2014

Seashore, Salmon, & Hockey: Kurzeme's Gulf Side and Kolka

Having tended to the injury as much as possible, we continued by driving toward the shore, which on that side of Kurzeme is the Gulf of Riga. Thanks to the map of Latvia I had purchased at a gas station (otherwise we had a GPS that Bryan had procured and that was generally very useful) and to the helpful "landmark" signs dotting the roadside, we were able to stop at several places typically overlooked in an English language guide of the Baltics. The first of these was"Kaltenes akmenaina jurmala", or Kaltene's rocky seashore.
Three swans enjoying the rocky seashore

More rocks!
Look, I discovered a waterfall at the seashore!
In search of lunch we headed to Roja. The first cafe we encountered was closed according to some locals who spotted us walking around in our search, but they directed us to a wonderful restaurant called "Otra Puse," (literally translated: the other side; it is next door to the Hotel Roja). Here Bryan savored his potato pancakes with cheese sauce, while I enjoyed the lox (which I ordered without bread - confusing the waitress, but I had my own stash of gluten-free bread along!) and cream of mushroom soup. The mushrooms were a tiny but tasty variety that I had never eaten before. For dessert we wisely chose to share the the house specialty: homemade black currant ice cream with vanilla sauce. What a fantastic ending to our meal! The creaminess and slight sweetness of the sauce worked perfectly with the somewhat tart ice cream.

With our final destination for the evening being Kolka, we ventured on, stopping in the "Baltā kāpa" or white dune beach. From there we drove to "Kolkas rags," which is the horn or point of northern Kurzeme where the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Riga meet. Located within Slīteres National Park, it is an unusual phenomenon - to see waves from the sea meet the waves of the gulf. Well, that is what I had promised Bryan, but when we arrived, the point was covered in a thick cold fog, and we could not see much at all!
A small stream at the White Dune Beach
View of White Dune Beach
Fallen trees on Kolkas rags
One surprise in our visit were the many swans hanging out in the surf. The next day a wildlife expert would explain that some swans stop in Latvia on their migration routes to spots even further north - such as Finland or parts of Russia. This is the reason there are so many lovely white swans in this area of Latvia in the middle of May.
Difficult to spot in the fog - but those are all swans out there!
This sleepy cat resides in the souvenir shop at Kolkas rags.
We proceeded back to the town of Kolka in search of our hotel. The GPS directed us to the wrong location, so I called - and even then there was some confusion, as it turns out the tiny village has two grocery stores with the same name, both located on the main street! Having finally found the hotel Zītari, we took some time to rest, then took a short drive to check out our surroundings, and returned to the hotel for dinner. My second portion of salmon for the day - a fantastically well prepared fillet - was delicious.

After dinner it was time to cheer on the Latvian national hockey team as they played Kazakhstan in the world hockey championship. We watched in the restaurant in the company of the innkeeper, a bus driver, and two local men. The game was close, but Latvia won. The tournament continued for at least a week after that, and Latvia played several other games, but this was the only one I had the chance to watch, and also the lone one the Latvian team managed to win. However, on this day the team's win was, in my humble Latvian opinion, a fitting way to cap off the first full day in Latvia.


  1. I hope to return to Kolkas rags someday - my first and only visit was almost 20 years ago! But in regards to the IIHF world championship, Latvia actually won a total of three games in the prelim tournament, beating Finland and the US in addition to Kazakhstan.

    1. Thank you for the correction regarding hockey! I found the IIHF website to be less than user-friendly; even as I was writing that, it didn't seem quite correct.

      Were you on one of the first Sveika, Latvija tours by chance??

  2. The GPS was quite helpful, with the exception of one off roading experience, it was very helpful. What wasn't helpful was the fact that there were TWO Zītari's in the same town, both right near a Top store.

    The fog was rather annoying, though I am glad it burned off the next day. The one thing I did miss seeing was the waves from both the Baltic Sea and Bay of Riga coming together.

    The swans were huge, much bigger then any I had ever seen before. Though not as big as the waterfall you found. ;)


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