Coming home

by Ana Beatriz Apse Paes (Brazil)

Making a local connection Latvia


I have dual citizenship, Brazilian and Latvian. In February 2017, I went to Latvia for the first time to make my documents, but also to get to know the land and get in touch with my roots, a side of me that remained unexplored until then. From the excitement of listening to directions on the airplane in latvian for the first time, to the one of strolling around on the fluffy, fresh snow that fell upon Riga, the capital, on the last days of my trip, each little discovery in this country turned it from a distant and foggy dream into a place near to my heart. Every day, before sleeping, I would ask a friend where I should go next and, in the next morning, I would look on when was the first bus leaving. One town, though, the last one I visited, left a long lasting impression on my heart. I left for Kuldiga a tad late, because I woke up late and missed the first bus. The buses always have wifi, which is great, and I just listened to music while I investigated the Latvian countryside. It was a rare day of sun, and the blue sky framed the fields beautifully. Arriving there, at the so-called Latvian Venezia, the charming town, with its streets and canals, was still so, even if it was empty because of wintertime. I found my way through the maze until the town centre, where there is a square, a chapel, house museums and the Ventas Rumba, the largest (I said, largest, not tallest) waterfall in Europe, at 294km of extension, but only 2m tall. It's a beautiful view, charmingly ice-glazed, but there were already signs of winter giving way to spring. I ventured through the frozen ground to take nicer pictures, and it was worth it. The beauty of travelling alone is always being able to take your time. The museum right by the rumba tells the story of Kuldiga and in general Latvian aristocracy, and shows how life was there in the 1800s and other times. It holds paitings and sculptures made by modern Latvians as well. The good thing about Latvia is that most museums have reading materials in at least latvian, english, russian and german. It is surrounded by a beautiful park, and as the sunbeams fell golden, it was a delight to just stroll by the little bridges and paths. In the summer, it's even more magical, when Latvia fills itself with flowers, and people have picnics by that park and across the main brick bridge. Then I visited the Saint Kathrin's Church, which is nearby. I love the sense of respect and timelessness that churches give. I was short on time, and I couldn't see all that Kuldiga has to offer. I went to the town square and had one of the best cappuccinos (sorry, Italy) and cookies I've had, and set sail. I grabbed the last bus to Riga, by the end of the day, and I as I walked back to the place I was staying, I was taken by a sense of belonging. I was going to leave in two days, so I decided to roam around the old town for a bit, as it was in my route. In a month, I was already able to locate myself there, though one of the most delightful things to do is just to allow yourself to get lost in those tiny streets. I found a nice café about to close, and ordered a piece of medus kuka, a favorite of mine, and savored not only it, but the moment itself. Latvia is a beautiful nation, that has a rich history, wating to be told. When I got home, and listened to the electric ringbell reindition of Put, Vejini (a simple but powerful ballad that served as an anthem to the nation when the official one was forbbiden by the soviets), I felt indeed at home. As a daughter of the Latvian diaspora, I am glad to say that I came home, and that I can carry it in me in these simple, but ever so precious moments of contemplation I had travelling through it.