Saturday was a great day! Peter and Baiba planned out a day to show us a bit of Latvia. It was wonderful, but I was too tired to post yesterday!
We’ve discovered that the day in Latvia tends to start later than at home – usually breakfast is around 9:00 a.m. or later, but on Saturday Peter and Baiba picked us up at 8:30 a.m. The weather was Corvallis all the way — drizzle and around 45 degrees. We drove northeast of Riga about 85 kilometers to Cesis. Cesis is a beautiful city of about 20,000 that has been continuously in existence since 1206. We toured the ruins of a castle built at the founding of Cesis. We carried candle lanterns through narrow steep rock-cut stairs up into the turret tower. Peter mentioned Psalm 119 ‘Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet’ and how it often shows us only the next step. These candle lanterns were just that and we were careful to stay close together so we could see. At one point there were ‘stairs’ to the dungeon that turned out to be a ladder down. Both Peter and Baiba climbed down to look, but Steve and I stayed above and took pictures instead!
I have to post one picture we saw in the entry area to the castle museum. The man in this picture just has to be Mike Hartwig’s ancestor! 🙂
The Cesis skyline is dominated by the steeple of the St. Janis church that was built beginning in around 1281. It is the biggest Medieval church in Latvia outside of Riga. We toured the church and then climbed the steeple to the church bell. The church is currently in use – attended by around 400 people. As we walked through the church I kept wishing the walls could talk — oh the stories this place could tell!
Before we left Cesis, we stopped into the local public school to see the delegates at the quarterly meeting of the Baptist Church leaders and lay leaders. We met several of them including Peteris Sprogis, Archbishop of the Baptist Church, and then shared a lunch meal with them. It was good to see this group of people who love the Lord and work together to serve Him in Latvia.
From Cesis we headed out to the area of Ligatne. There is a Rehabilitation Center at Ligatne, which is great, but the truly interesting thing in Ligatne is the secret Soviet Bunkers under the Rehabilitation Center. We toured this underground facility discovered in the 80’s after the fall of the Soviet Union. The bunker was built for the purpose of evacuating Soviet political and power elite in the event of nuclear war. The equipment in the bunker is obviously aged, but much of it still works. Even more amazing to us is the fact that there are 36 such bunkers throughout Latvia.
We drove through more Latvian countryside on our way home. We made one more stop and Steve, Baiba and I rode a tram over a little river valley while Peter drove around the valley to pick us up. Just upriver we could see a bobsled run, a ski area, and a skeleton run. Usually they are covered in natural snow this time of year, but this year there is only artificial snow to cover them.
Steve and Peter spent much of the trip home talking about Sunday, the coming week, and possibilities for our Sister Church relationship. Baiba and I power-napped in the backseat! It was a good time. We got home tired and blessed to have spent a day with good friends enjoying the beauty of their home country. We were in bed just 12 hours after we left home yesterday morning and slept hard and sound. And then comes Sunday!