Last Latvian Summer

img_4098As the sun rises later and sets earlier with each passing day, Mother Nature announces that fall has arrived, with her crisp breezes and turning leaves. Even though autumn is my favorite season, its arrival this year is a cruel reminder that our remaining days in beautiful Latvia are quickly slipping away. With only about nine months left in our tour here in Riga, our last Baltic summer has officially come to an end. We spent a good chunk of it with family and friends who came to visit us, and proudly showed them the city and country that have become our home over the last eighteen months. We snapped countless photos along the way so that we could forever cherish the true wonder that is summer in Latvia. Here are 50 of my favorites.  Continue reading →

Moved by Mountains: Adventures in Georgia

img_4965What is it that makes a snow-capped mountain jutting up into a clear blue sky from a sea of rolling green hills empirically beautiful? Or the sound of soft waves as the tide comes into shore intrinsically peaceful? A landfill covered with rotting garbage inherently unattractive and an abandoned (or active, if you ask me) strip mall decidedly depressing? After all, no one looks at a river polluted with discarded plastic and says, Wow, that’s really beautiful. Or do they? Who determines what is naturally beautiful and what is not?  Continue reading →

Swedish Getaway

IMG_4414Last weekend, M. and I had the chance to visit Stockholm with our dear friend, L., who lives in another part of Sweden. Just an hour’s flight from Riga, Stockholm was the perfect place for a quick summer getaway. Spending two days in a place barely qualifies as visiting, but with a tight work schedule and limited time, we made the most of this opportunity to get a small taste of Sweden.  Continue reading →

Baskets, Wool, and Wood: Latvia’s Biggest Folk Art Fair

IMG_3648Every year on the first weekend of June, Riga’s Ethnographic Open Air Museum hosts its applied arts fair, the largest of its kind in the country. Visitors can stroll through a forest dense with tall trees in search of just about any type of handmade craft. From paintings and hand-knit woolen socks to wrought iron hooks and amber jewelry, there is something for just about everyone. Goods made of wood, ranging from children’s toys to furniture, abound, as do hand-woven baskets of all shapes and sizes.  Continue reading →

Four Days in the Norwegian Arctic

IMG_6797I stood on the rocky beach, shivering in spite of the sumo-like snowsuit that enveloped me and gazing in awe as the green glow of an aurora began to dance like a ghost through the star-filled sky. It appeared slowly at first, a faint green mist hovering among the stars, and then gradually gained strength until it swirled between the two snow-covered mountains framing the fjord in front of us. The aurora danced for several minutes before fading just as gracefully as it had appeared. This is a moment that I will always remember when I think about our recent visit to Norway.  Continue reading →

A Weekend in Minsk

IMG_1632When you think of popular or desirable travel destinations, Belarus may not be the first place that comes to mind. Indeed, nestled among Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Russia, and Poland, the former Soviet republic of Belarus is about the size of Kansas and is outranked only by Moldova and Liechtenstein as Europe’s least visited country. Owing in large part to its self-imposed isolation from the rest of the world, little is known about Belarus to the average person outside the former Soviet sphere. But, to dismiss this often forgotten land as a mysterious place you only ever hear about when the Olympics roll around would be a grave mistake, as I learned for myself recently when I had the very rare, and perhaps even once-in-a-lifetime, opportunity to spend a weekend in Minsk. Continue reading →