Tuesday, June 02, 2009


Liepaja exists! And there is tango there! Been there, done that!
It was difficult to imagine this little beach town on the Baltic sea, an important navy base in soviet times, when Ivars and Inese told us in Buenos Aires ' we want you to dance & teach tango in Liepaja'. We first met Ivars and Inese 3 years ago in Riga- after the workshops they approached us and invited us to Liepaja. Not to have a rest on the sandy beaches there, but to dance tango! That was the first time we heard that there is a tango group in Liepaja....
140 km as a crow flies to the Swedish Island Gotland, some 60 km from the Lithuanian beach town Palanga..... There we are,gain in Latvia, after a detour to Lviv, Ukraine. It was nice to be in EECC again...Back to civilisation, whatever it means.

Liepaja seemed a remote place, at the end of the world, because it took us a day and a night to travel there, changing means of transport 5 or 6 times ( or is it Lviv which was at the end of the world, or rather, beyond the ' world' ?) The reason is, there are no cheap flights in this part of Europe, definitely not ones connecting non european Ukraine with Latvia.

We were so relieaved when we arrived to Palanga, Lithuania and we met Janis, all elegant in his suit and Pauls ( welcome comittee?) waiting for us with a splendid black car looking like a limousine to take us 60 km more,to Liepaja,Latvia. Even though we were tired we bombared Janis with our hundreds of questions about our new reality. He was the man who REALLY KNEW IT ALL! Even the trickies historical questions which are Victor' s speciality! Labi!

We were brought to a very confortable house, which could easily win the first price for modern design- Victor the arquitect loved its estetics and functionality. I LOVED THE BATH. WE BOTH LOVED our hosts- immediately. They are sort of people who apart from confortable economical situation make you feel at home the moment you arrive, serving their great company and best of cullinary skills ( combining smoked salmon with mango, porridge for breakfast and wine, thanks God) - without excessive eastern european hospitality, which on many occasions we had to ' suffer'. We felt at ease in our new home.

Janis & Inga could be described as a perfect couple, perfect family. Perfect tango partners and students. WE wish we had more of Janises and Ingas among our tango students and friends. Their perfect house was complemented by a perfect cat: Michael Gordan. And most perfect of their sons-barns Pauls.

After a shower ( promising myself many relaxing baths in this bathtub the size of half the bathroom with candles and relaxation music handy) we run to the Rock Cafe, in the heart of Lepaja, to give the tango show. I loved the idea to have a show in Rock Cafe ( which, by the enormous guitar in front alluded to Hard Rock, though Liepaja has its long rock tradition from communist times)We were lucky enough that the rain and wind ( ' normal weather in Lepaja' laughs Ivars) stopped for over an hour- which was enough to fullfil our organizer's dream: have a show on an outdoor platform. Another luck was evident too: no accident performing on a wet, slippery wooden floor. Even dancing violent Libertango. TV crew and fotographers were scanning each movement. The fall would had been spectacular- thanks God it never happened!
I adore dancing in the middle of market squares, in open areas! But... how have the people endured standing in the cold,motionless, looking at us getting warm while dancing??!!

After our show a milonga started and we could see that we are not the only dancers in the town. On the picture- Victor trying Inga's tango skills. Soon after their tanda together, the rain forced us into a cosy interior of Rock Kafejnica. We had the whole evening to meet our students, have a couple of shots of pepper vodka, to which we were inmediately invited by Wiktor ( ' to warm up' as they say) and we recognized Andrei and Lena, who also were among our students at each of our annual visits to Riga! There was also a group of coaches of Spanish basketball players who came here for the European Championship in basket for women. Drinking but not dancing tango.

As I mentioned, Liepaja is a resort. Its inhabitants are very proud of their beaches- wider than in Lithuania and not as commercialized as their famous Jurmala. The only factor preventing us from the full enjoynment was weather- the wave of cold was passing through Eastern Europe thus we had a couple of very capricious days. Indeed we discovered quiet, solitary beaches...

... with only gloomy black shapes moving in the distance. Old ortodox women!

Victor is always finding something funny. ' No morality on the Baltic beaches' he said poiting at ' active prostitute zone' sign:
When we were asked what kind of food we had in Latvia, we respond quickely: strawberries and smoked salmon! Yes, we had tones of strawberies every day, probably the best strawberries in the world- is it because the day is so long at that latitute and the night is only 2-3 hours long? Or is it Baltic sea vecinity giving the straberries this extraordinary taste? Whatever it was, we could not stop eating them. We probably eat smoked salmon every day and only kefir could compete with the frequency we could have it. Ripe mangos in Liepaja? Yes!
What we admired in Liepaja was its arquitecture. Contrasts: old and new. Soviet and modern. Beautiful and ugly- side by side. Like in Buenos Aires.

The wooden houses so characteristic to Jurmala, we could find everywhere in Liepaja too. Some renovated and modernized, like on this pedestrian street,

or gorgious residences by the beach,

some abandoned and waiting for the better times.

But many of them mysteriously and romantically beautiful!

Contrasting with them was a soviet arquitecture. And in its extreme- an abandonded quarter of soviet blocks of flats after the 30 000 militars and their families left. I have not fotographed this sight and even if I had, it would not have given its justice. Most depresing cementary- with the squeletons of buildings decaying in front of our eyes...THAT also, is a part of Liepaja reality, even though it is a history now.

Our farewell milonga was held in a beach restaurant- big cosy wooden cottage!

Of course it was raining again that evening, but who cared! We had a nice milonga with a fashion show, lots of wine and fun.
And promises to come back!

How do we know they like us (with reciprocity)? It's easy- on the bus station, the morning of our departure, our students came, to our surprise, to wave us good bye. And to give us presents. We could not leave Latvia without a bottle of Riga balzam, Laima chocolates, Kefir, special latvian bread ( with nuts and dried fruits) cake, massage set from Wiktor, souvenir CDs. But in reality - a baggage of enriching experiences of those 4 days together....

... and again Liepaja- Warsaw, Warsaw-Podlasie( the train direction Moscow)-then Wroclaw and Brzeg, a charming town by the German -Czech border. Our next destination.

-Prieka ( slash above ´a´)
-Ludzu ( slash above the first ´u´)
-labu apetiti
-Tu man patic- I like you

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