Tuesday, 28 July 2009

The night before I start walking

It is 8:30 and I am sitting down to dinner in the hotel restaurant. It is on the 10th floor and I am looking down Riga Street towards the station where I arrived an hour or so ago. The train was remarkably efficient – it was an express and took 3 hours rather than the 4 hours by car that Ziedonis estimated.

I have just finished my meal; chicken goulash with potato mash, broccoli and grapes! Beautifully presented! I have ordered apple pie, I think. I had a sudden loss of confidence in my Latvian as the waiter did with her English. I know that the next three nights will be bushwalking meals – hot water poured over dried meat and vegetables to produce a gourmet meal; well perhaps at best a sustaining one.
Coming down in the train took my thoughts back to last year – seeing the flattish landscape of pasture broken by regular forests and the typical rural buildings. I am very much looking forward to getting some kilometres behind me.
I have received so many good wishes over the last few days. It is particularly encouraging to read the blog comments after a day of walking, so do try to overcome the technical difficulties involved. Thanks particularly to Sandra and Imants; and Sandra seemed to manage to make her comment whilst driving in Sweden. Would love to see you again – last time was in Dinsberg before Christmas 1991 or 92!, though Matīss was with us for a couple of months earlier this year. He left us a book, ‘Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed’ by Jared Diamond [I just googled it to get the full title]. How can Matīss be a fan of Top Gear after reading a book like that? It is a fantastic though very worrying book.
Imants and I were neighbours, and shared a bathroom, at the Latvian Family Camp (3x3) near Mittagong last summer. His high level IT skills obviously made blog commenting an easy matter. However, I could not exist without my paper maps. I had hours of pleasure planning the walk – trying to find a reasonably direct route but by the most minor tracks or roads possible. Sort of the opposite of where GPS might take you. Actually my mobile office has a GPS function but I have deliberately not activated it.

The apple pie, though exquisitely presented etc., was a mistake tho’ the kilojoules will help tomorrow. I must get to Rimi next door before it closes at 11. I need some packet soups and porridge for the days ahead.
Daugavpils is Latvia's second largest city – over 100,000 people, with a very large proportion of Russian speakers. My first impressions have been positive. The city centre is clean, quiet and attractive, particularly the parkland.
I must send this off to Juris. Anita is dining with Selga and Juris tonight. I will have an early start – I have an interview at 07:30 with a local newspaper; from the ones on offer in the supermarket, I assume it is Latgales Laiks as all the rest seem to be Russian language.
I will try to post a copy of my 'business' card that Anita arranged to have printed today. The first card I have had for at least 20 years. It describes my current occupation very well.
Ar labu nakti!


  1. All systems (and Graham's legs) go!
    A comment re. GPS: Graham's phone (I have the same model) features a TomTom system. I attempted to purchase the relevant maps for this region, but TomTom refused to deal with me as I had a Latvian IP address - too high a risk of fraud, apparently. Same happened when I tried to buy an external antenna. No wonder Latvia seems to be losing its way:-(

  2. How very exciting! I feel a bit behind on all the preparations and blog entries, however I've got the blog address in my 'bookmarks toolbar' and am ready to join your adventure from home. By my calculations, you should be almost done for the today so I look forward to reading about your first walking day in the morning before uni...alternatively, during my International Crime and Justice lecture.
    Much love,

  3. Hi Graeme!

    Have enjoyed reading your daily reports. Interesting that you are reading Steven Carrol's books - Mara and I read all 3 last year. Also his recent one 'The Lost Life' Set in England of the 1930s this year.
    All the best for your long walk to Cēsis and give our regards to Selga and Juris!
    Arnis & Māra