The goal was clear, reach Riga, contact some former colleagues, and go out for dinner with them. Theoretically easy, considering that it would be only about 50 k to cycle. The reality was sweat, distraught and a developing hate for my navigation app.
The day before I had booked an apartment in Riga where I was planning to stay for three nights. I needed some rest to recharge my depleted batteries (literally and metaphorically) and to visit some old and not so old former colleagues of mine. Leaving my campsite in Saulkrasti was not so easy. I left a bit late, because I had heard about a bicycle museum in Saulkrasti which would open at 10:00 am. I had decided to have a look at that museum. I was there at 9:55 am and some minutes later the manager arrived asking immediately “are you the Finnish cyclist”? My friend had called ahead and made sure that the museum opens on time. A truly magnificent service. Although the museum is small it is a true gem and a must see item for the true aficionado of bicycles. Apparently, Latvia was once a main producer of bicycles, and consequently there were bicycles from all over Latvia. There were some more than a hundred years old and quite a few, which had carbide bicycle lights. I had never seen carbide lamps before, and I was most impressed by the system which includes a separate unit in which water is stored over another container containing calcium carbide. The water valve is opened, and water drips on the carbide and reacts to produce acetylene gas which is used to burn in the lamp. The same system was used in the old times in miners lamps and in lighthouses. I was even more surprised when I learned that these bicycle lamps were still produced in the late 60’s in the Soviet Union. You find other interesting things here, like bikes with a direct drive shaft and bikes which won medals at Olympic games. I can only recommend anybody who cycles the EV 10/13 to have a look at this gem of a museum.
While being in Saulkrasti I also visited the white dune there. But this proved to be the last genuinely happy moment on this day’s cycling adventure. Suddenly everything started to go terribly wrong. My navigation app started to send on all kinds of wild goose chases. In order to get me off the main highway I had to cross an unsecured high speed railway line, having to lift my heavy bike over the raised rails. It sent me into forests which were literally criss-crossed with footpaths so that it was impossible to determine which was the right one, in particular considering that in a forest the GPS reception is very bad and consequently your own location on the GPS unit is unprecise. Finally, it guided me onto a track which led through endless sand pits where it was impossible to cycle. Those of you who have pushed a +50kg bicycle through a sand pit will know the strength needed and the hard labour necessary to do it. I started to hate my navigation app. I hated the condescending voice of the “navigatrice” and I hated the developers, which have developed this piece of s**t. Most of all I hated myself for having trusted this programme and not stayed on the main road, which was smooth and in retrospect inviting.
I made it to Riga and I had cooled down a degree or two. I found my apartment easily with my navigation app, which must have been developed by urban developers for urban use. I took a long and king-sized bath, which finally normalized my temper to the normal amicable levels I usually show. My former colleague walked with me through the city with and eventually we arrived at the restaurant where we had an excellent dinner. I was mollified.
One observation at the end. When walking through the city of Riga we passed the Victory Place, which commemorates 9th of May VE day. It was the 9th of May and a lot of people, mostly of Russian ethnicity, were laying down flowers, while many protesters watched and carried Ukrainian flags. Passing the Russian embassy in Riga one could not overlook the huge poster of Putin’s skull, which was placed outside, opposite the ambassador’s work office. Additionally, the city of Riga has changed the name of the street where the Russian embassy is located to “Independent Ukraine Street”. Very creative these Latvians, very creative indeed.