Eastern Latvia – a very Russian experience

Thursday 29 to Friday 30 July

Latvia started with road works. OK we have had roadworks on many occasions but these were different. There were many traffic light systems – the kind where traffic in one direction is stopped so the other direction can pass through a narrow stretch of road, usually because it is under repair. 

There were many such traffic light stops, interspersed with a reasonable road that had been repaired or hadn’t been touched yet. 

It has taken me a long time to explain this and it took a long time to travel through. Two lots of roadworks, with six or seven traffic light stops in each, lost us about an hour on the road. 

But we are constantly amazed at the amount of work being done on building and/or repairing roads. Have they been long forgotten and there is now a massive catch-up?

This part of our journey was just passing through. We will spend more time on the western side of Latvia when we return from Finland. From Vilnius in Poland, to our next destination of Tartu in Estonia was approximately 570km – too much for one day. So we divided the distance in half and chose a small town called Ludza in Latvia. The better hotel was booked out so we selected the other hotel. At the princely sum of €30 bed and breakfast we certainly had no great expectations. 

The hotel was old Russian style with very high ceilings (we had to lug our cases up two long flights of stairs). The room was large enough to accommodate a king size bed and a single bed and a coffee table and a chair. The bathroom was probably cleaned last year. Unfortunately there were scattered tiles that were mirrors, which made it look worse. 

The town was small and quaint. Set on the Lielajā Lake and located on the main Riga – Moscow road, it boasted the Virgin Mary’s Assumption Cathedral and the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. 

There was also an ancient castle dating back to the time of the Livonian Order (German Crusaders). There was an area roped off within it for an archaeological dig, but we have no idea what they were finding. 

Ludza is about 30 km west of the Russian border. And we could certainly see the influence. There was a war memorial to the Soviet Military and many quaint wooden houses, similar to what we had seen in Russia. 

For all the difficulties on the road, we have driven through a beautiful part of the world. Wild flowers, wheat and corn fields, lakes and forests. A true treat for the eyes. 

We passed so many small lakes where families were enjoying the water and the sun. Quite frankly I figure that water was too cold for my comfort. 

We anticipated a slow journey out of Ludza to our next stop in Tartu, Estonia. To our surprise the TomTom took us through back roads, some not even sealed. It was a delightful journey without the trucks and the roadworks. At one stage we were about 200m from the Russian border. An enormous watchtower was between the road and the border.

Even crossing into Estonia was marked by a sign beside the road and a couple of security cameras to greet us.