Riga Travel Blog› entry 1 of 2 › view all entries
conveniently we met Janiš aunt, Lelda, and cousin, Zaiga who live in canberra at the Riga airport on june 22. Lelda speaks Latvian so sheš been very handy to have around. from there we went to the apartment of Peter and Ilsa, relatives of Janiš who own a beautiful apartment right near the centre of toen, walking distance to everything, its perfect. janis day, the summer solstice festival is actually the biggest holiday of the Latvian calendar and so as part of that there are certain traditions which must take place
1. go to the countryside - this we did by all going to Ilsaš family property about 45 mins out of riga near a town called Jelgava. the house is a very pretty old farmhouse but they've completely renovated it over the last year so its extremely nice inside. apparently when they reclaimed it after the soviets left 8 families were living there and it was absolutely decrepid, one couple still live for free in a room downstairs but the propertyš had so much work done its back in great condition.
2. have a bonfire - peter and ilsa had arranged an enormous bonfire in a field near a stream, very picturesque, but which conveniently had a garden house about 30 metres away since it rained for most of the early evening. it is the job of the men to keep the fire burning all night, this isn't actually very hard, it gets dark at midnight then is light by 4am.
3. stay up until sunrise
4. eat and drink constantly - definately did this, they were outraged that it was midday and jani hadn't had beer yet
5. gather wildflowers from the fields and make flower garlands to wear. janis has to have one all made of oak leaves and girls have ones made of flowers. zaiga and i spent all day picking flowers and making flower garlands
6. sing latvian songs about rye bread and beer and do pagan folk dancing around the fire - this we did which was very funny
7. at dawn the girls throw their flower garlands up into oak trees, however many times it takes for the garlend to becpme stuck is the number of years before you will be married - iļl be getting married in ten years time for anyone whoš wondering
8. have a party - there were about 30 of us all staying at Cepli - the name of the house. there were latvians, french people, british and canadians there... very international
9. jump over the bonfire to cleanse your sins - jani did this but it was pretty small by then i have to point out
10. go looking for the mythical fern flower in the forests - this we didn't do, apparently this is just an excuse for coupls to go off into the woods for a lie down (!)