Saturday, April 25, 2009


It's half past twelve and the Lielvarde train sits idling on platform six. Hawkers stand by the door speaking quickly in Russian then moving down the carriage, selling nothing. The sun beats through the dirty window, passengers step languidly across the glinting metal tracks, over the tannoy the announcer draws her vowels out until each new station begins to sound like a list of complaints.

The guidebook describes Lielvarde as "the first town upstream from Riga worth spending some time in," which doesn't say much for the places I passed on the way. There are only two things to see, one at either end of Lāčplēsa iela, named after the mythical Latvian bear-slayer and adopted son of the Lord of Lielvarde. Nearest the station is Udevena pils, a replica 12th century fort that looks like somewhere you might drop the kids off for an hour while you have a Sunday afternoon pint. Three kilometres in the opposite direction, the Andrejs Pumpurs museum overlooks a quiet stretch of the River Daugava and the ruins of a stone castle built by crusading German knights.

Neither was really worth the trip.

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