Ventspils: Gliding Over the Baltic Sea

Villa Leonardo



August 29, 2014

Dear Friends,

Leonardo serves me a breakfast that could feed a small army.

A pitcher of both orange juice and tomato juice, eggs, chicken, smoked fish, assorted cheeses, salad, fresh fruit, bread, butter, jam, pastry and Bodum French Press coffee.

My “apartment” is twice the size and much more elegant than my flat in Bangkok.  The kitchen and bathroom have every gadget needed for a lengthy stay.

The grounds of the Villa are seductive.

Why leave?

Kuldiga: Unique Sites



August 30, 2014

In this quiet, charming town in western Latvia, the sounds of children’s laughter emanate from the bright yellow building that serves as a library and community center here 

But in the recent past, on a fall day that is fast approaching, a date on the Jewish lunar calendar, the First Day of the month of Tishrei, the sounds of the shofar would have been heard in this building, echoing through the streets and into the homes and into the hearts of the residents of the neighborhood. 

The Rabbi or Cantor of the synagogue blasts the traditional, mesmerizing cadences from the shofar, the ram’s horn.  The cry of the horn heralds the start Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.  The congregation stands quietly and listens attentively to the familiar and plaintive tones.  The men and women pray for peace and for good health for themselves and for their children in the coming year.

Now, here in Kuldiga, (pop 13,500), the call of the shofar is heard no more. 

Riga: Smiling Faces



September 5, 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

In response to my letters and photographs from Latvia, my old friend and classmate Paul G. wrote the following:

“Thanks, Jan, for the virtual tour.  My wife and I will never visit many of the locations that you experienced.”

Paul’s sentiments are certainly understandable.  For most Americans who travel to Europe, Latvia is not a favored destination.  England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain top the list.    Who can gainsay the decisions to visit Buckingham Palace, the Eiffel Tower, Checkpoint Charlie, the Coliseum, or the Plaza de Toros? 

And yet, the decisions of many Americans are now changing.