28 June 2019

Midsummer in Latvia

Riga.... A Modern FairyTale....





Kendrick Lamar, he say.....


Got me breathing with dragons
I'll crack the egg in your basket, you bastard
I'm Marilyn Manson with madness, now just imagine the magic
I light to asses, don't ask for your favorite rapper

Chuuch
(He dead) I killed him (Amen) Bitch

And this is rigamortis and it's gorgeous when you die
Ali recorded and I'm Morpheus, the Matrix of my mind
I'm out the orbit, you an orphan and a hairdresser combined....






Which is not why I am in Riga.

But then.....






Life isn't that simple.  (He going to Cairo...)

A daughter flies from Belize to Georgia (as you do) and wishes to meet up with her mother (as you do) and so here we are, in a flat in Lime Street (Kaļķu iela) in the midst of Old Riga, with a temperature to fry by and over a hundred per cent humidity, with a seriously deranged cover band sucking the national grid dry in the bar below.....




Lovely people.  Long long suffering.

Ruled by Poland, Sweden, Russia, Germany, and again Russia; bombed to bits by the Russians in 1941, and then illegally annexed by the USSR in 1944, and since independence in 1991 a country unsure about its relationships with its powerful neighbours....






And now a place of communal beer bikes for rancid stag parties, and with a restaurant every other building, offering service until four a.m. 

It's sad to see the serious tourists wandering lost in the hungover mornings.....







But it's not a bad place, especially at Midsummer, when the world stops to worship the sun, and the whole of Latvia (c 1.9 million persons) and neighbouring Baltic States convene in Riga to jump the bonfires and sing and drink and laugh and defy the world to turn and darken again.....


Ladies of leisure....






Gentlemen of class.....









And couples of bygone times, preserved in parasol-infected parks by shining canals, drifting softly close to the mighty River Daugava, source of historic wealth and power....








We pay our respects to Mother Latvia (Milda) atop the Freedom Monument, 





For Fatherland and Freedom 




And then skip aboard the No 1 bus to 
IEPAZĪSTI LATVIJAS ETNOGRĀFISKO BRĪVDABAS MUZEJU (which, less-terrifyingly, is the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum of Latvia).

This is a 100 hectare pine forest by a lake where rural buildings from all over Latvia have gathered to shelter together from the ravages of modern times.  A cold coming they had of it.....

But it is wonderful.  A lady in a flowery blouse with a fulsome skirt elbows me out of the way to open the church with a huge, Grimm's fairy-tale key...










And two very modern young dryads with infectious smiles ply me with beer and borscht in a beautiful clearing where sausages and beans seem to grow on the trees.....









For just a moment, I think I could live here, my hair in a bun, my nose in a book, and my feet in elk-fur slippers.....







But then I remember some of the things that happened in Bergman films in the discontented winters of northern lands, and think perhaps not.....  There's more, perhaps, to life than a steam radio, an aspidistra and hand-painted wallpaper?








And so we take the train to Jūrmala, where decaying dachas whisper stories of Russian heydays and cherry orchards.....








Though the 20+kms of white sand beach still draw the crowds and foster a certain contentment, especially among those heading for Sweden.....







Flying back to Riga in our Zeppelin we gaze down on the tiled and corrugated roofs of the old city, jostling with the new, 'architect-designed' erections that fill the time and space between then and now....





And then we park our dirigible in one of the custom built market halls, 







Under the watchful (?) eyes of men who may  perhaps, have lived,








And behind the backs of women who, perhaps, haven't.... (the best is yet to come?)










I like the place.  Whether it's the co-ordinated head-dresses of these women by their tuk-tuk,









Or the flamboyant oak-leaved wreath of this venerable flower-seller in the market,








There are strong traditions here, and Midsummer is the time to shout about them.  Music is important to the Latvian soul, and I can only say I am sorry that this was the best I encountered....










It is a matter of eternal regret that I wasn't in Tallinn, in Estonia in 2002. for the final of the 47th edition of the annual Eurovision Song Contest

For the first time, a slogan was introduced. This year's theme was A Modern Fairytale, which was evident in the postcards shown between the songs, which showed classic fairytales ending in modern Estonian situations.

The contest was won by Latvia, represented by Marie N with the song I Wanna, which scored 176 points, beating the runner-up Malta by a nerve-tingling 12 points.










There could never have been any doubt.  The song, I Wanna, was not only sung by Maria Naumova, in a layered costume that held all the surprises of a clown car continuing to empty itself of shapes such as that of Putin, Trump and Johnson, with pancake cheeks and vermilion smiles, 

but it was part written by her as well.  

Classic. 

Latvian.  

A Baltic herring of a song.

It makes me yearn to return.....



I’d like to go away, but it’s easier to say
That you know all the tricks that make, that make me stay
I’m ready to support this artful game you always play
‘Cause you don’t know the fee that you will later, later pay










Oh yes.....


I wanna be the sunshine in your arms
I wanna be the light from shooting stars
I wanna be the queen in your sweet lies
I wanna be the love-spark in your eyes







Stairway to heaven 



Who needs Kendrick Lamar?










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