Date: June 7th to June 12th 2006
Distance : 54 miles
Weather : Lovely
After a few days in Visby, we stored the special Danish lamp under the front bunk (of which, more later) and we trucked north to a small harbour of Farö island called Lauterhorn. Our Swedish friends recommended the place, but the German harbour book did its best to dissuade us. The place is small and, when we arrived, almost full. At first glance you can see why the Germans thought little of the place, particularly as it started raining. When the sun comes out however, the place transforms, and what was at first rather bleak becomes lovely and blissfully quiet. (The second night we were almost alone).
A couple of kilometers from the harbour lie the famous Limestone 'stacks'. Chunks of rock standing high and proud against the worst the Baltic can chuck at it.
The differences in pace of life were also in evidence at Lauterhorn. A fisherman and his two friends (actually, by the look of it, professional members of the local SAR team), took over two hours to pull a small fishing boat out on a trolley, with much discussion, deliberation, and retrying in evidence. He then spent the rest of the day (partly) painting the thing. He spent a long day there, but most of it seemed to be taken up with discussion and drinking with his mates, rather than actually doing the work. Very Swedish, we thought. One of his mates told us he was indigenous of the island - 'a Swedish aborigine'. He asked where we came from. The UK, we said. 'Ah', he said, 'the largest island in the Gotebörg archipelago...'
After a couple of relaxing days, a quick trip round to Farosund as the jump off point for our trip across the Baltic to Latvia. Its about 90 miles from there to Ventspils. We left for the trip at 2AM, in broad daylight!
Ventspils is a ferry port on the Baltic coast of Latvia. The old fish dock has been (partly) converted into a 'yacht port', and for the privilege of around a tenner a night, you can be assailed by the acrid smoke form the nearby fish processing factory. (Avoid Ventspils in a south-easterly...)
I thought that Ventspils was a classic case of European tax dollars in action. All the roads (and I mean ALL the roads) are blocked paved instead of tarmac-ed (like pedestrian precincts in the UK). Even the side roads are lovingly laid in set granite. Much of the block paving has intricate patterns lovingly laid within it. It must have cost a fortune. Its in huge contrast to the rotting buildings surrounding the roads. However, I've since discovered that the town has funded all this road development itself.
In fairness, its a leafy green town with a glorious beach, and spotlessly clean. The nearby Oil terminal and coal handling plant provide a pretty backdrop.
Apparently, some time way back in history, there were problems with the fine sand on the beach making its way into the town, so they simply made all the peasants live on the beach as a form of 'windbreak'
Its interesting observing the people. Latvians seem to have some very colourful clothes, however they seem to be wearing them all at once, unless they are wearing them for a bet. In addition,I reckon you could make a killing introducing western hair care products....
Of course you have to remember that Latvia only became independent from the Russians around ten years ago, and have only been in the EU for a couple of years. There are some stark reminders of what it was like under the communists in the museums. It will be interesting to see what its like in Riga, if that is, they let us back in after this...
Now, off to Estonia...