Blog #0012 May 12 2022 – The day I smelled heaven: on the coast towards Kolka

What a day! Cycling through Riga in direction to Jurmala with a former colleague, I was being held captive by the mesmerizing smell of hundreds of bird cherry trees along the cycle paths. Passing the seaside resort of Jurmala, I then cycled along the coast, through beautiful pine tree forests to Ragaciems until a kind fishmonger babushka misunderstood me and offered me a camp spot in her backyard on the beach.

My former colleague Astra, like me a battle-hardened veteran from the trenches of international negotiations in the EU and FAO, had decided to accompany me for some for the morning cycling. Together we started at 9 o’clock and right in time after a rain shower had showered the dusty city for us. In no time we went through the city and the suburbs of Riga, and it was a magical ride. The magic was experienced through the smells of hundreds, if not thousands of bird cherry trees (Prunus padus; Padus avium) and it completely changed a normal grey laden rainy day into an emotional climax. I don’t know about you, but I cannot remember smells. I can remember sounds (hence music), I can remember sights and I can “remember” tastes but smells I cannot remember. If somebody would ask me “How does violets smell?” I would be totally at loss to answer such a question. Similarly, the smell of the bird cherries in full flower is almost impossible for me to describe, but it made me happy. We were cycling and every time we passed a bird cherry tree it seemed that we passed an invisible fog of molecules surrounding these trees. The scent was strong, but not overpowering, and my colleague and I cycled through these invisible fogs and we were completely taken by the combination of rolling through flower laden areas and the heavenly fragrance surrounding us. I believe that the fact that it had rained shortly before intensified the smelling sensations. The fragrance loaded clean air, the well-maintained cycle paths and the exquisite company made this one of the most beautiful cycle trips I have ever made.

In Ragaciems my friend left me and went back to her duties, and I continued through the stunningly beautiful pine forests of the coastal region in direction to Cape Kolka. At one point I remembered that the 12th of May is also the International Day of Plant Health (celebrated for the first time) and I decided to record a greeting on my GoPro while I would be cycling. It took two takes and I had my two minute video ready and sent out over twitter to the international plant health community.

But the day was passing fast when having so much fun. I needed to find a spot, where I could set up my tent. Unfortunately, I had entered the Latvian national park Kemeri, which covers a substantial coastal area. Beautiful shoal areas in the Baltic Sea were covered with water birds of all sorts. Swans, egrets, ducks and geese were enjoying this beautiful and protected area. Camping in national parks, however, is not allowed and consequently, I had to find an official campground to set up my tent. All campgrounds I passed were still closed and I started to become desperate.  At about 19:00 h I asked an old fishmonger if she would know an area in the village of Berzciems where I could set up my tent. Unfortunately, the language barrier was high enough to prevent effective communication, but the showing of my hands in a tent form triggered a response. She waved at me and made the universal sign for “come with me” and guided me into her backyard and showed me a spot, right on the beach, where I could set up my tent. Wherever you are and whatever your name is, young lady, thank you for your hospitality that evening!

I ate some marvellously tasting smoked fish that night.

I am being watched by an egret
The coast line north-west of Jurmala
An old wooden house in Jurmala

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