We left Rīga on May Day morning, checking out of the PK Riga Hotel (below) at around 9:30, with a long drive back to Vilnius ahead of us...:
...but not before doing some sightseeing first. And because there wouldn't be time to visit the Latvian countryside (other than just driving through it on the way home), we decided to bring the countryside to us, in the form of a visit to the Latvian Ethnographic Open-Air Museum (Latvijas etnogrāfiskais brīvdabas muzejs). Located in a forest along the shores of Lake Jugla on the northeast outskirts of Rīga, the museum is home to more than a hundred wooden buildings (everything from churches and farmhouses to windmills and storage sheds) taken from each of the country's four cultural regions. A great way to end our brief visit to Latvia:
Shintō shrine 神社, with the front gate evoking images of a torii 鳥居 and the storehouse in the back bearing a passing resemblance to a honden 本殿. An undiscovered link between two cultures? Or am I just missing Asia after this past year in northeastern Europe?
Driving from Rīga, the roadside scenery was oddly reminiscent of the American upper midwest. Before crossing the border back into Lithuania, we took a long break at the Rožmalas leisure complex, where we had lunch (a "traditional Latvian egg-crusted pork chop with tomato salad and potatoes" in my case), while kicking back with a local Bauskas beer and checking out the windmill (constructed in 1867):
So we've now visited the capital cities of both of Lithuania's neighbors to the north, scratching off two more items from the Baltic Bucket List. Two nights in Tallinn and three in Rīga don't even begin to scratch the surface of what Estonia and Latvia have to offer, however. With this weekend marking our one-year anniversary of living in Vilnius, and with only twelve months remaining in our tour here, it'll be a challenge to see more of those two worthwhile destinations. We'll see what happens over the course of the next year...