Cycle Tour Iron Curtain Tour, part 1: Klaipeda-Grense Jakobselv
Dag 7, etape 7: Karosta-Ventspils
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Added on 30 Jun 2017
on 08 Aug 2017
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by Ottocolor on 03 Jul 2017
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Liepāja, Courland, LV (9 m NHN)
Ventspils, Courland, LV (9 m NHN)
07 May 2017
First sunny, later cloudy. Reasonably warm weather, 15 to 18°C with a light to moderate northerly wind, thus headwind. After sunset it grew cold.
Hotel of Olympic Centre Ventspils
Lielais prospekts 33
Third day of the second part of the Iron Curtain Tour, the five days from Klaipeda to Riga. Due to the short stage yesterday the planned goal in Mikeltornis wasn't to be reached. In stead I took a hotel in Ventspils, about 43 km short. The longest stage in terms of cycling hours overall: 8 hours, 37 minutes and 51 seconds!
Slope Gradient Distribution
Departure at 10.45, arrival at 23.00, i.e. 11.45 hours with stops. Average speed with stops: 9.7 km/h. Max. speed: 25,5 km/h. Odometer after stage: 607 km. Remaining distance: 3,278 km.
Text message, May, 7, at 8.32: Dear followers here. Yesterday turned out a somewhat different day on sandy trails, where I couldn't bike, but had to wheel through an endless seeming coastal forest here in southwestern Latvia. Tried to escape from the coast, but was stopped by a swamp. Off went the luggage and back I went. Escaped with almost dry feet. After four hours I could cycle again. In light headwind, as I know it. In the city of Liepaja I shared splendid and new bike paths with many pedestrians. Put on a lot of clothes, as the northern wind is icy. The harbour looked totally worn down and a bit Soviet style. Around me I heard a lot of Russian and only little Lettish. After shopping at a hypermarket I decided to try the hostel in the former prison, I've mentioned. On my way I had my front mud gear destroyed. I must have touched it with my foot when I mounted my bike. Well, the mud gear went off. I can do without it. Hostel at Karosta was closed and looked deserted. Instead I bought two bottles of water and pitched my tent in the coastal forest. Karosta's a strange town. Totally Soviet style with Russians, who still live in derelict blocks of flats among battered streets. A lot of garbage floats around. The Iron Curtain Tour as it is. I made only 50 of the planned 94 km, so I won't make my goal today in the headwind. My new stage goal is a hostel in Ventspils, about 110 km up the coastline. They say, it's a beautiful city. I hope, I'll write from there tomorrow morning. A nice Sunday to all. Hugs from Helmuth.
After a good night's sleep I felt well rested in the morning. The sun was out and the wind had settled so it promised a somewhat easier stage than yesterday. But the distance was frightening. In order just to keep yesterday's kilometre deficit at 45 km, I had to cycle 112 km. Any shorter distance implemented that I had to shorten my route if I still wanted to make Riga in three stages. I was quite reluctant of changing my route, as I really liked my planned route up to Cape Kolka. I yearned for doing this mini North Cape, so I made an arrangement with myself. If I could make it to the city of Ventspils today, I could sleep in a hotel and enjoy the comfort there. If I just could make it before dusk, everything still looked posible, because on the last stages from Cape Kolka on the northern tip of Latvia to Riga I would have a tailwind, if it stayed the way it was now. Then I could manage longer stages, i reckoned. The morning swim I was about to skip, but then I took it after my breakfast. The reason was that I naturally didn't have a toilet in the woods and had do use it as one. I call this 'defecation under service conditions', as I learned to do so during my years in the army as many men possibliy have done. I just requies som loneliness in the woods, a tree to lean against and a number of torn paper towels, and then it's just to get the matter done. And have a swim afterwards. But that meant that I wasn't early on the roads today either. In addition I had only gone a few kilometres when a sign to a "Holocaust memorial" caught my sight. I could not possibly just go past it, because I had read at home that the Nazis had murdered several thousand people of Liepaja's fairly big Jewish community in the dunes out here just south of the village of Skede. The SS had gathered the Jews in the city and then made them march out here, where they had to dig their own graves and afterwards were shot one after the other, men, women and children. Today its a tranquil spot near a flawless beach. Low stone walls shaped as a giant menorah, a Jewish sevenarmed candlestick, mark the place. An "alley of the righteous" as it was called marked the commemoration of the Latvians, who had helped the Jews aigainst the Nazis. It was good to see that they were honoured, but I do know that other Latvians helped the Nazis in killing the Jews of their country and even participated in the execution squads. It's a historical fact, which doesn't diminish the deeds of "the rightteous Latvians". There was also a memorial for the Russian prisoners of war killed here. On my way back to my bike I tried to imagine the horror of the killings and had almost tears in my eyes thinking about the cruelty the mammal species "homo sapiens" is also capable of. Standing in front of my bike I was suddenly torn back to the present by realising that I had lost my bikelock key. A serious mishap. But fortunately, I had not locked my bike. Very lucky. Well, I was all alone out here, so why should I. Now I couldn't lock the bike and had to buy a wire lock as soon as possible. In this way a trivial inconvenience could overshadow a phenomenal tragedy for several thousand people. Back on the road I found a garbage container and disposed of my garbage, I had produced on the tent site at Karosta. I follow the principle that only by the mark of my tent in the grass one can see that I've been there. Not even a rubber I leave in nature. But today I left a bicycle key, but that was totally involuntarily. The tarmac deteriorated all the time and the potholes grew in number and depth and after a big garden colony it turned into a gravel road. Those can be all right, especially when the alternative is tarmac as bad as this one, but I have never ridden my bicycle on as coarse and at the same timy sandy gravel like here in Latvia. At Saraiki there was a small "veikals", which I had learned meant "shop", so now I could buy myself a bottle of kvas for lunch. It's a non alcoholic malt beer, which I know from travels to Moscow in my youth, where kvas was a popular and cheap drink, sold from vans in the parks. It is cheap, nutritious and tasty. Nutritious was especially good, as I needed the fuel on the bad roads and with the headwind that wasn't very hard, but slowed me down all the while. My packed lunch I ate in the shelter of a huge bundle of branches at the roadside, where I was out of the reach from the dust that rose every time a car went past. And the Latvians go at higt speed on their poor roads. I guess, that means a lot of battering of the cars' surface and glass. But trafic was now quite sparse out here. Soon I reached the village of Ziemupe. It looked nice with two relatively well groomed manor houses. I noticed several stork's nests. Every village had at least one nest, often there were several of them. I did not se any baby storks. I guess the storks were still making them as I often encountered them on top of one another. I left the stork porn and went steadily ahead. But I should have rethought my route plans about sticking to bigger roads, because soon I again wheeled my bike through a very sandy stretch for several kilometres. My explanation to myself was that I was quite far away from the sea so I could not have expected it to be this sandy. But I realised it now. Latvia is apparently one huge box of sand. So once again I spent much too much time wheeling my bike in stead of sitting on the saddle. It was five o'clock before I finally found the main road. I celebrated it with a coffee break on a stub in the woods. I had to balance across a fallen trunk with the front panniers and a bottle of water, but it was okay.
Upon arriving on the main road I saw the depressing road sign Ventspils 65 km. It was almost six o'clock, so it would be midnight before I arrived there with the speed I had done so far. And my distance deficit from yesterday would be decreased by - two kilometres. Wow! From 45 to 43 in comparison to my planned distance. One good thing was that I felt quite well and pedalled against the headwind in high spirits. The sun shone all my way and the tarmac was fairly good on this not too merciless highway. Apart from the low flying lorries from behind traffic wasn't bad. I could here them approaching from a long distance so I had time enough to prepare for the bullets and get out of their way. Probably my spirits were high because I looked forward to the comfort of a hotel this night. Have a nice long shower, hopefully some beer, a good night's sleep in a proper bed, acces to wi-fi and a hotel breakfast the next morning. I just had to go on cycling. Thinking about the oncoming dusk and darkness made me feel uneasy, but could I keep up a good speed, I might do it in time for dusk and not pitch darkness. A significant difference to me! Too close contact with one of the lorries in the darkness was a frightening thought. But clearly I had to make some breaks on my way. The first one I had at a lovely bridge for bikers over a stream. A board told about Latvia's rich water reserves, and I had seen a lot of rivers already, I recalled. Somewhat bold I used the toilet of a gourmet fish restaurant to fill up my water bottle, as I didn't yet dare to drink directly from the river. I only did that in Lapland where there are no factories. With a restaurant like that, I reckoned that some rich people were living around because I did not see many tourists around. And I must say that the price level in Latvia is attractive to tourists. In fact things were really cheap out here in the Latvian countryside, so the euros in my wallet lasted for a fairly long time. So I had the money but not the time to eat slow food here. I guess that prices are considered somewhat higher by the Latvian people. The transition they had made form their currency lats to the euro had meant a rise in the price level, as was the normal picture in all new euro countries. Even the Germans had called the euro "teuro", from the German word for "expensive" teuer, when they got it in stead of their Deutsch Marks. Another break was a short visit to the cliffs of Jurkalne after a supply of energy drink at a "veikals". The cliff wasn't especially high but beautiful, wild an lonesome. Just the right place to stay and ponder about the big questions of our existence. But I had a mission called Ventspils. So I invented an arm wrestling competition between Liepaja and Ventspils by means of the road signs at the road side. The latter town was to have the former's arm pressed totally down to nothing. At 0-113 Liepaja's arm touched the table, and Ventspils had won. At 30-83 to Ventspils a big papmaché cow appeared at the road side. It surely marked the entrance to a dairy plant, were my thoughts, but it was actually a brewery. Very welcome, especially if they served food along with the beer. And If it had not been closed and totally abandoned. At a late Sunday evening in May it was perhaps not surpising. But nevertheless, I felt that I'm always late for everything in my life. So I had to cook dinner myself as I was not able to go another 30 km in the headwind without power supply. So I turned off the road into the village of Uzava in order to cook a soup on my gas cooker. I crouched in the shelter behind a wall of some public building. Nobody showed up, though, while I slurped in the hot soup. Delicious, as it had grown nastily cold again around and after sunset. So my fingers got cold before I had my blood circulate quickly again on the road to Ventspils. Shortly after I skipped the planned gravel road to the left and remained on the main road, although darkness began to fall. But traffic had fallen to a rare car a quarter or so, and almost no lorries any longer, so I preferred the speed and the comfort to safety. I just wanted to have that arm wrestling competition settled and arrive at my hotel. I guess, that's why one can think about inventing fictious arm wrestling competions with road signs. Have you ever heard anything like it? A good thing was that the wind, at least, settled, as it often does with sunset. The soup gave me some power as did the energy drink, aptly named Dynamit. Another explosion of power up one of the very rare hills in this area and I drove past the huge city sign saying Ventspils. It had finally won and Liepaja's arm was smashed onto the table. Thank you for that. I just had to find a hotel now. Really a piece of cake by way of a board sign at the road side. Mind, I had not planned to sleep in this city so I had not registered any accomodation on my gps device. After my happy arrival my bike was shown a stand under the stairs and I had a room key and a bed, where I could rest my weary body. Splendid! A can or bottle of beer wasn't to be had at the hotel, where everybody seemed to be sleeping already and a stroll to the nearest petrol station didn't seem an option in the cold and dark night outside. Instead I washed a few items of clothes in the sink. After almost a week the dirty clothes were almost alone in my rear panniers, and there were still two days left until my rest and laundry day in Riga. The shower was marvellous. Only when you have felt the cold and know how hard it is to get warm after a dip in cold water, you really enjoy the joy of warm water running down your body. And only after several days without wi-fi you know how wonderful it is to go online and enjoy some colour pictures as a night-cap.