June 30, 2000
Today is my day to leave the city and see a bit of Latvian country and people out of the city. The bus doesn't stop and I think we've past Sigulda, so I ask the driver to let me out in the middle of nowhere and I start walking back a few miles. It's raining, but I'm keeping warm and collecting my thoughts.
When I get to Sigulda, there's nothing here on the main road. I ask for directions and find the train tracks and follow them to the station. Here we are! What's this? God bless America!? There's a bunch of amusement rides set up for kids and half of them have American themes… red white and blue lights, a Statue of Liberty ride and there's even a I Love NY bumper stickers on one of the cars. While Estonia has Finland to dig into at close range, Latvia is looking to what it sees on television: America.
The television shows are all dubbed here (while not the movies in the theaters), but it's one person doing all the voices! It's great fun hearing this deep voice do the dialog for both the evil gangster and then helpless little girl with no change in inflection what-so-ever.
Past the little circus, I went out towards the forest. There's a ferris wheel out in a field just by itself… reminds me of the Field's of Dreams movie. It was a bit tame, and all the interesting things aren't special finds… everyone knows where they are. I expected the caves to be something exciting (they were on my map), so I brought my head lamp, but they were just gigantic openings in the sandstone with no passages (I'm not sure I'd want to go explore a sandstone cave anyway), but the graffiti on the way there, carved into the stone, is said to date back to 1667!
There was a guy with a flute in the large cave keeping out of the rain. He seemed annoyed that I was exploring the place and I went off up the steep hill to the top, then wandered about until I found the castle. Only the facade remains.
I found a rehabilitation center on the way back that had some good walking trails for visitors, but the interesting thing is the wildlife that the rain has brought out. Giant brown and white snails slug up the path and easy to catch reddish brown frogs of all sizes hop along side. The people don't come so close.