svētdiena, 2015. gada 12. jūlijs

Home. The other home.

Tartu is beautiful. Tartu is wonderful. Tartu is amazing. It all doubles if one skips buses and trains and goes to Tartu on foot. We never thought a sign that shows beginning of a town can be so beautiful. This morning it was. But that already was the end of our journey. Before the end, things kept happening.

So far our story here has been told until the moment when we were freezing to the point where fingers were not really cooperating to write the previous blog entry (but we wanted to write it otherwise our most hardcore fans - parents and grandparents get upset that they have to talk to us on phone about how the walking is going instead of reading the blog). Afterall, we were a bit wwet from the rain, the evening did not get warmer and we were sitting down instead of walking. All the prerequisites to be cold. So we decided to get up, get going and go looking for a shop, because if a place as small as Õru had a shop working until 22.00, place as big as Rõngu, certainly had to have it as well. It did. Luckily we arrived around 21.55 - early enough to make use of their coffee machines, get some hot cocoa and feel warm and human again. we actually felt so good we kept walking for some more kilometres, just because we could.

The next morning was a bit fun, as Ilze reported that she woke up with a single thought in her mind. No, it was not "such a good weather", "Tartu is so close", "Lauma is the best co-walker" or anything like that. Her thought was "I don't want to eat canned fish." And it sounded quite desperate. Thanks to Mari-Liisa and her team, we could have way more luxurious breakfast than canned fish - we had pizza! We do apologize them here for devoting so little lines in the previous entry, it is not that we did not appreciate their pizza move, oh, they saw we did (and our only hope is they did not take pictures of us secretly later to be posted with captions like "wild tribe sees food"). It was cold, when e wrote that entry.

We kept walking, until we reached Motell Waide just about at the moment when in the sky a thunderstormy cloud reached us. We asked for a shelter in the motell and they kindly gave it to us, set complete with electricity and internet, telling also that in two hours their cafe would be open if we were in for a hot drink. At the beginning we were sceptical about staying that long. Eventually, activity of thunder around us, the amount of water pouring over the roof of our motell and general thought of finally getting a "real meal" thav we had been wanting since Trikāta, we decided to stay.

The food was absolutely fantastic in its simplicity - Ilze eating fish soup is a sign of it itself, as in general, Ilze does not eat fish (except for some canned ones). We both had pasta - something that tasted almost godlike. Lauma had a cake. If we were not that forgetful regarding taking photos, this entry would be looking like an Instagram profile of a food addict. And the staff who served us was so kind and so smiling all the time, that it just turned this place in another new-found paradise for us. As we wrote in their guest-book, we came here by accident but now we know where to send our friends on purpose.

The rest of the day went away pretty much normally. We walked. We celebrated each blue roadsign with number of kilometres left to Tartu on it. In our trip-jargon we had named them "moments of truth" and each of them came more motivating than the previous.

At some point a car stopped by us and a man got out asking whether we are the girls walking to Tartu. When we approved, he told us he is a journalist from Postimees, he had been in touch with the "guys with wheelbarrow" who walked to Tartu some time ago, that he had seen us day before when going to Valmiera. Eventually we agreed to meet "tomorrow at Kristjan's place" and went our ways. Our way was certainly more joyous after this meeting, because each reminder, even as small as beeping of bypassing cars, lifted our spirits quite a lot. Even it was evening already, it did not feel like we had done more than twenty kilometres that day.

Our target was to leave for the "last day" no more than fifteen. Soon after this meeting our calculations said that well, the target is reached, however, to approve this feeling we decided to go for another "moment of truth", just to be sure, and then to find a place to build our tent for the last time.

At the next blue roadsign our hearts almost fainted. For a good, positive reason. The number was actually eleven. It meant, that after having our good sleep in (finally!) wwll chosen spot, we had to do less than half of our daily norm. So we expected to get to Tartu around noon instead of evening.

The morning of today felt like flying in all senses. Time flew. kilometres flew. We felt like flying, so easy our feet brought us closer to our target. On our way we were called and then caught by Estonian television. The big one. They also thought that our journey is important or at least interesting enough to tell others about it. They caught us at a very significant moment - right after doing the last of our "world's worst selfies".

The only thing left was to reach Kristjan. Because Riga-Tartu itself was done already. We kept walking and now those were already streets we had walked before for different reasons while in Tartu. Although they felt and seemed different. For the whole hour we kept repeating to each other how unreal it feels that we are here and we really walked our way here.

And then there it was - the last couple hundred of metres. Before going up the Toomemägi, we paid a glimpse to Tâhtvere 1, where once was house that in its time was also residence of Veidenbaums when he was in Tartu. And then - then up we went.

We were received by Ilze Zagorska, Latvian language and culture teacher and enthusiast at University of Tartu. All the journalists who had contacted us, were there. And there was also Contra, who greeted us by reciting Veidenbaums in both - Estonian and Latvian. How often you get a poet to run away from queuing up fans in the town square event just to come up the hill and recite just for you, for two people? It was so heart warming and so fitting conclusion of our trip and pretty much like the beginning. In Riga we were standing at Kristjan's gravestone with Eduards' poems in mind, and here wew stood again - at the feet of Kristjan's monument with Eduards' poems being recited.

Of course, there were interviews and there were simply friendly conversations with journalists. There was the rain that had saved us dry and civilized-looking all the time this day up to this point. There was a coffee in Raekojaplats just to say proper goodbye's to each other before going our separate ways to our sorority convent apartments and have some rest after these closer-to-300-than-200 kilometres. There will be a (most likely) very reflecting and contemplative journey back to Riga by train tomorrow. We agreed that we will use it to write some summary of this journey and our list of thank-yous, so one more post is coming here.

But other than that, that's all, folks. We are still alive. And we are in Tartu. And even it might not have any significance on a CV or anything, we feel like we have done something for our grandchildren to google up accidentally and then call us for explanations. And when that happens, we will have stories and stories to tell.

And yes. In that ice-breaking game, where everyone has to say his or her name and then one interesting thing about his or herself - for that game we finally have something to say too.

piektdiena, 2015. gada 10. jūlijs

Less than fifty.

even it was hard to say goodbye to beds with awesome pillows as late as around noon, it was even harder to imagine to give up our dream of reaching Tartu on foot for as little as two beds with awesome pillows. So we left, havig put kur room key in the post box as instructed.

Our first stop was Statoil Valga to buy Estonian prepaid mobile phone card, mainly for two purposes - to check the remaining distance and to post some notice online about us still moving. We succeeded in buying. The card did not succeed on connecting. Fortunately, Estonian road signs do the job of distance checking in superb quality, but they are obviously not familiar with using internet, so our two last days have been what we actually expexted all twelve of them to be - an offline journey.

The  again, for most of the time, we could pretty much summarize everything in two words: we walked. It is now mostly about seeing the number of remaining kilometres to decrease and nothing much else is able to attract our attention. Well, allmost.

There were some moments though. First was a lady who runs a shop in a little village Õru. Unlike Valka shops, this was open until 22.00 and gave us what we needed - food and water refill. Lauma was the one going for the water refill and ended up in lady's personal kitchen as lady thought it will be more comfortable for the purpose. She was a Belorussian herself, but when Lauma, hearing her speaking Russian on phone, tried to speak Russian to her, the lady very firmly kept to Estonian. Afterall, this has been her home for forty years.

Another highlight was the truckdriver who wanted to save us from the rain by taking to Tartu. We are proffessionals in saying no to such requests. But this was our first truck who stopped, not just beeped. Regarding beeping, there are moments when we could call the road a Beeping symphony. It might be because as true Latvians we walk with flags. At some point we probably should take photo of the flags. They are cute. Thanks goes to Lauma's friend.

The last (for today) and one of the best overall highlights was made by Ilze's dear friend and academic buddy Mari-Liisa and her team, who. Ot only offered to bring pizza to wherever we are, but actually did it. Real food! Lots of it! And we could keep the leftovers! That is our new definition of friendship at least for today.

They also informed us that our target Rõngu is five kilometres away. That one we reached easily, but wet because for the first time during today we failed at rain-roof management and decided to leave our last roof seven or ten minutes before the worst rain of the day came. Anyway, we are here, catching internet from an open WiFi spot, a bit freezing because of wanting to finish this blog entry, but in all senses very happy.

All that is left to do, is getting through Rõngu, find a place for tent, sleep, then sleep some more and then finish as much as we can of remaining less than forty kilometres. Yes, less than 40km and less than two days. And we still talk to each other and we still are alive.

ceturtdiena, 2015. gada 9. jūlijs

Estonia says "Tere tulemast!"

Yesterday was a beatiful day. And not only because instead of raining cats and dogs and refridgerators, that the weather forecast promised us, we got just some refreshing sprinkles that were more refreshing than wetting. We had a lot to celebrate too. First of all, it was quite hard to believe that it is already a week since we packed our bags and left home. And just as hard it is to believe that we, two girls mainly located at a desktop with a computer and not running around very much, are still on the way and actually progressing faster that we had planned. And even without specially forcing ourselves forward.
Having realized this in the very morning, we slowly woke up in our king-size beds, had our breakfast in actual kitchen at an actual table, and packed to go. They let us out, so now we will have something to say to anyone who will try to call us crazy. We mean, we believe specialists in this sense and they obviously thought we are OK.
During the breakfast we realized we have enough energy to actually think so we decided to have a look at our route and it turned out that the railway to Valka goes waaaay more straightly than the road does. An option to cut some five or even more kilometres and end up in Estonia in that very evening was too tempting to even discuss whether the railway itself is fine for long-distance hiking. we decided to give it a go, as there was a chance to turn back on the road after some time.
We asked for the shortest way to the lady who let us out and she showed it - right through the clinic territory. While we were talking, it started to rain a bit and Lauma put on her anti-rain solution. Of course, Murphy law worked this time too, so basically we were walking through the yard of the clinic with her having a plastic bag on her head pretty much with no reason and looking quitr happy about it. Happy enough for two guys doing some maintenance work discussing quite openly, whether we are "ones of theirs".

We reached the railway eventually, through a forest where at one point we suddenly realized we are passing some strange graveyard, but other than that with no extra adventures. We calculated that there might be not many trains going as at least the passenger ones are replaced with a bus in this part of the route. But, as we were passing railway repairmen, who were even so polite to close their car doors to let us pass without having to go through a longer grass, we decided to have a safety consultation. By that meaning asking one of them whether the trains are going along this route at all or we don't have to worry. He was absolutely confident and knowing that no, no trains. None at all. Nothing goes here. It gave us additional boost, because it meant we could simply walk our way without having to look over our shoulder constantly.

We found our rythm quite soon and most of time it felt like there would be just the railway and us on the world. Just at one point we passed some Russian-speaking woodworkers who were interested (and switched to Latvian easily as soon as they understood we are not that good with Russian) whether we are picking berries or mushrooms. "We are just walking," we replied and they of cours asked, where. "From Riga to Tartu." And there was this moment of absolute silence from their side that sounded like them trying to understand if they had heard it right. After a while they seemed to have digested this information and hearthily wished us good luck on our way. We thanked, we went and kilometres kept literarly flying by. After resting a bit at Saule railway statin we had reached the point where we were supposed to turn back on the road and so we did.

Just fifteen minutes later we realized that apart from weather forecast there is another thing we will never believe again - railway men. Reason for that - quite loud, quite long, quite fast train on the railway where supposedly no train goes ever at all. But we were on the road, so everything happened again for the good.

Having celebrated "less than 100km left" somewhere at the end of our railway route, we felt quite boosted and time and kilometres kept flying away. We realized that our ultimate target that was "reach Estonia today" was actually very real and attainable. We also decidd to have a proper meal somewhere in Valka when we reach it, because we felt having deserved it.

And this is where Valka kicked in heavily and painfully. Namely, yes, there is one caffee. No, it does not work after six'o'clock. It was probably the first disappointment in our trip as a whole, so we were so desperate and sad and angry and [put whatever word along these lines you can think off] that we just went for food to Valga. Yes, we crossed the border. It was quite an emotional moment. But we were going for the food.
Having got everything we wanted we thought of Valga train station as a good place to eat it. Well, we were an hour too late for that, as it closes at 20.00. Somehow and for some reason some random googling happened with keywords like "place to stay", "Valga", etc. We were lucky again (or things just happen as they shoud again and founf a hostel, that was not far, tha had places and that was again ridiculously friendly in its pricings. Having booked two beds we just went there and obviously arrived at the hostel before the booking information had arrived to the hostel lady. Anyway. We got our kingsize room with normal size beds for our use and quite interesting neighbours who at some point had managed to break a bed in their room and cacme to make a deal to exchange it to one of the extra beds in our room. That we, though quite amused, allowed them. Later one of them probably was training to set a new world record in making snoring noises that could be heard more than well in the hallway but luckily not in our room. So, another night of a good sleep and another morning of cosy waking up.

So, altogether, we have been out there for a week and still talk to each other, we have made it to the point where the final countdown happens in two-digit numbers, and we are in Estonia. So if you see two girls walking along the Valga-Tartu road with Latvian flags, those might be happy us (even if we do not look very happy on the outside at all times - tiredness sometimes takes its toll). We still will not accept any lifts, but we will be happy to smile and say - yes, we are still alive, we are still going and hey, Tartu is pretty much around the corner now.

otrdiena, 2015. gada 7. jūlijs

They said we are crazy...

Before leaving our beloved library we were smart enough to figure out that even our minds would be able to continue the way further than Strenči, our bodies might silently but firmly disagree. We have seen that happening before and it is quite embarassing to think of what jokes we seem to be funny when that state of mind-body has been reached. So we decided to make Strenči our ultimate, not next target for this day. We also figured out that as we seemed to be arriving there around time that also other people think it is normal to be awake and walking, we might try to find a bed to use instead if our usual mobile two people residence.

We did some smart searching in and the only option it could offer us was full already. We switched to the webpage of the local government, found "Tourism" among other links, clicked it, clicked some more... And there it was, our perfect place. We called the number, asked if we can stay and they said yes. Happy and inspired we set off to Strenči that on our way has become something like sub-target on its own, as every person we have met so far has called us something alon the lines of "crazy" or "not having full common sense". For non-Latvians we probably should explain here that for many Latvians the only thing that they associate Strenči town with is its paychiatric clinic.

We joked about this quite a lot on our way, we must admit. We also admit that people might be a bit right about that craziness thing. So, we thought, Strenči is an excellent place to give ourselves more relaxed rest than usually. In a bed after a shower. (the initial idea for the content of this post was actually "This is bed. That's all, folks. Goodnight.")

We reached our destination quite soon. Way sooner than we thought. So, here we are - somewhere in the middle of the territory of psychiatric clinic, having got there through reception of the clinic. The lady who took us here and gave the keys actually had to explain the doctor that no, these girls come to the hostel not to seek the treatment. But as soon as she opened door for us to our rooms, this got a position among our best decisions. We practically have got a flat for our use for a ridiculously friendly price.
And they even said that they will let us out tomorrow morning as soon as we pay.

In general, we have reached the point where we really look forward and not back. Instead of counting how much we have walked that we did so enthusiastically for the first days, we now count with the same enthusiasm how little is left to do. Believe it or not, 115 kilometres does not seem extremely much, rather very doable. With our effort of today it actually allows us to let our minimum target of day as low as 19. But we are still determined to do more, as much as weather and feet allows. If lucky, it might be Valka tomorrow and perhaps another of world's worst selfies (we are excellin in making these), this time with the border sign.

We still love every step we make, we get more and more inspired by people we meet and people who, as we get to know day by day, support us, and we really, really want to see our dear Kristjan at the top of Toomemägi as soon as we can.

We guess, all that means that also at the end of this day we are still alive. And even Tartu-Riga buses pass our place directly (and Ilze even knows the approximate times when they do) we are not coming back yet.

Between the bookshelves.

We keep moving. We almost thought the only thing we could say about today would be "we went". We thought we might add some whining about how bad the walking along a non-asphalted road is to make this entry two sentences long. The night was warm, dry and well slept and for the first time in our (and perhaps also stage's) life we ate our breakfast in the middle of a stage.
Eventually we left Mārsnēni, really happy about the indecisive sun who kinda wanted to heat us up but was quite shy and hid behind the clouds a lot.Wind helped a lot and kilometre after kilometre went by. Sooner or later.

And then we ended up in Trikāta. This was our minimal plan for today with a note that after Trikāta we would make another three or four kilometres to make it our official "daily twenty that we can afford to do because we were so overachieving with "daily twenty-five" previous days".
The first impression almost disappointed us. We have serious opinion now about where Latvian towns place their "town starts here" signs. We mean, one cannot induce fake happiness in people who have just walked 17 kilometres to reach the town, seen the sign and then have to deal with the fact that before the actual town starts, there would be another grain field, a bit of forest and a river. It upsets people. Like, REALLY upsets. Later we found out there is even a reason for that.

Our plan in Trikāta was to find a place for a civilized meal that would not be canned fish with whatever else we have (since yesterday evening we have quite a lot, when it was in the shopping basket, it certainly did not feel like weighing as much as at least two tents, now it does).That failed. All two people we asked explained, that there is no eating place and only food you can get is what's in the shop. That one we already had.
We decided to go for our other need from a civilized place - some phone charging option. Our first choice was to go to the post office, even Lauma thinks that post-office-ladies do not like her in general. These one should not have seen her before anyway.
However, before taking the last turn to the postal office, we noticed a sign that said the same building has also the local library in it. We switched our choice immediately and here we are.

Soooooo, what do you get in a local library if you arrive as a person who has walked here from Riga?
1. You get served tea and chocolates. Both really tasty and both really from the bottom of the heart.
2. You get to talk to someone who is not the other person making the same trip you are. And you get to tell a lot about what you have experienced and you get to hear how unique and fantastic it sounds to someone hearing the stories about it. This is probably the first time we started realizing that other people take this as more outstanding and significant than we do ourselves.
3. You get a cold water bath for your feet and even a towel to dry them afterwards. we did not doubt about having found another paradise before that, but this made it completely sure. Look at our happy faces! Do you even doubt that going to library is cool (in all senses of this word)?

4. And of course, you get the internet (with a proper keyboard) and electricity for the phone charging and opportunity to rest out of the sun's reach as long as you need instead of as long as the library is open".
In general we wanted say that Trikāta's library feels like home for us, and for that we really thank to the absolutely wonderful librarian. But, to reach our goal, sooner or later we would have to go anyway, so we are planning to do it so that we could at least to try to make it to Strenči tonight. It is, aferall, "ten kilometres" only, as we were told.
And we are still in our happy mood and still sure that everything will keep falling in right places for us until the very Tartu. Walking feels easier (at least at some points) and we feel stronger, at least mentally, with each day.

Afterall, we are still alive.

pirmdiena, 2015. gada 6. jūlijs

If you love Latvia, Latvia loves you.

So, few hours ago we were in paradise. We are again. But between them there was The Rain. Well, technically it is still there. Practically we don't care. And do not get it wrong. We are still dry, our tent is dry and we are actually discussing whether there is really a need to put the warmer clothes on for the night.
So, the story goes like this. Having watched the rain for a while at Kalāči, we felt brave enough to show it he true crazyness within us and having found a number of quite interesting anti-rain solutions (that we will not describe in detail because we know our parents are passionate readers of this blog) we finally started to move towards our minimum target of today - Mārsnēni.
The walk was exactly what you would imagine a walk along a muddy countryside road through strong rain, almost stormlike wind and with quite heavy bags on to be. Hell.
Eventually, somehow still smiling (then again, we smile at each roadsign we see...) we reached Mārsnēni and went to sit under the first roof we saw completely ignoring the fact that we might be ruining the party for three guys already there. They actually spit out phrases like "would be better if noone would be sitting on the other side". We did think about leaving. Instead we started to check our walking progress and celebrating the half way done. They probably heard numbers we mentioned together with the word "kilometres" and it made them curious.
- Where exaclty are you going? - they asked.
- From Riga to Tartu.
- Oh, [word too rude for this blog], I can't even walk to the shop!
As selfish as we are we used this phrase to start a conversation abou where the shop is as we needed some food. As soon as we got to know it is around the corner and still open for another 45 minutes, rain suddenly did not matter.
When salesman got to know the reason why we look like we look, he turned from very confused into very supportive person. We charged our phones, we bought our food, we cikd sit and warm up in the shop and we had to tell other clients too why we look like we look.
When the shop was about to close (although they were not kicking us out, we were the polite ones to leave, they wanted to make sure that we find a nice place to stay the night. A suggestion came.
So, here we are. In the center of Mārsnēni open air stage, under a weeeell done roof where not only we do not get wet bt can even dry our clothes and where the wooden floor of the stage turns out to be way better ground for building a tent than some of our previously in deep darkness found "perfect places" have.
In general we wanted to share one conclusion we spontaneously reached today - if you go the way loving each step of it (and in our case it means finding new love for our land with pretty much each step), it shares your love and gives back. At least we feel it does, looking back at all the good things we never expected but have experienced within these five days. It really and truly feels like our dear, beloved, little, beautiful Latvia is personally taking care that we get out most of this time we spend wit her.

We now celebrate more than halfway done, 142km (Googlemaps calculations) left and weather forecast that says "clouds only".

And, of course, we are still alive.

It's raining (man)...

Nii... We start thinking this trip is actually about finding paradises. We started off from one yesterday morning and we are in another again. But as wonderful as the destinations are, the road has been too.
Yesterday started off with excellent breakfast made by Ilze's grandparents. Having left some stuff that at least at that point seemed unnecesary for this trip, we said our goodbyes and left for Āraiši.
It did not take long to get out on the big road, and taking the first rest in a bus stop where we were joined by an elderly couple. When they heard our plan, the man just said "trokas buobas" - for Estonians to understand this we suggest choosing a very local wording for "crazy ladies" and then read it in the most Southern-Estonian dialect you can produce. Anyway, they wished us luck.

We took the luck and brought it to Āraiši where we had a plan for early lunch at its lake-castle. And so we did. As we are not history reconstructors then we consider any bread with water to be a very ancient menu for lunch, so, having one of the houses of the lake castle taken over and our rye bread taken out, we were havin our 9-10th century meal in our 9-10th century dining room. As there was no sun, it was fantastic.
Afterwards Ilze had a wish to pay a visit to her roots, as a strong branch of her family tree is related to Āraiši parish.  The church was right on our way, so we decided to go there and suddenly, as Lauma put it, it felt like time travel two centuries back. It was Sunday, we had walked to a church for two hours and when we arrived, there was this pastor wearing a white ruffled collar like Tudor people did and holding a service in German.
Later, talking to the absolutely awesome pastor of Āraiši church, we discovered that it was a part of annual tour for Baltic-German descendant organization. We kept talking with him about the church itself (being built in 1225 it is among oldest churches in Latvia), its history and eventually received permission to go up the tower. Which we did (and almost ran wih our heads into the largest of the church bells - he forgot to tell us it will be there).
Our next goal was to pass Cēsis, as everything we might need from there Lauma's friend promised to bring us when visiting later in the evening. Which he did. And he understood well the direction that he should wait for us in the next shadow and that no, we will not get into the car.
Then we had this heroic thought to try to reach Liepa, that we worked hard to succeed with. Did not happen. Although we celebrated our first hundred on our way, at some point when it was already quite dark, we understood from our reactions to each others songs (not normal, believe us) that even if we did not feel it, we were overly tired. That discovery reduced our target to "that big railway bridge between Jāņmuiža and Liepa" at first and it went down to "this meadow here, right now" a bit later. It turned out though that it was one roadturn before he bridge anyway.
Today we settled off with one clear goal - E.Veidenbaums' memorial museum "Kalāči". For obvious reasons. We were hosted here in this amazing place by an amazing hostess Ilma - Ilze's academic daughter in sorority Dzintra. We got a good glimpse at Eduards' home and life full wih wonderful stories and anecdotes Ilma told with such a sparkle in her eyes that we liste ed and felt that our mission at least in our minds gets to another level.
If you have a day with nothing to do that is not Monday, come here. The peace and harmony here is undescribable.
We discovered that both of our dear guys have one more thing in common - they both look waaaaaaay better in their monuments than in pictures.
And yes, to all who predicted rain - we are watching it. Under a roof of one of Kalāči buildings. At some point we will start going. So those who predicted it will be thunder - you better get your predictions right, as thundery rains usually end faster than the one we watch.

Anyway. Still alive and at the end of this day hopefully with less than 150 kilometres remaining on our way.