Last summer in Kapsede I made a test drive with Maira’s cousin’s beutiful green Žiguli. The car simply beat me. I could not start the engine, I could not keep the engine running, I did not manage to shift gears, I hardly had the power for turning the car around in the courtyard. A sudden setback for my secret dream of having one as our summer car in Latvia! I was confused, as my first car long ago was a Žiguli (in Finland they are named Lada) and I remember it being quite comfortable actually.
Normunds, the cousin, is very cool about vehicles. He is the kind of person who can overhaul a caterpillar in an instant, spread all the parts in the grass, come back next month and reassemble the monster tractor without difficulties—of course without any repair manual. The same goes with any other machine. As I stopped the car, Normunds, with an understanding smile on his face, uttered in a smooth tone: It is a bit different, isn’t it?
Well, I may not return to the same dream again. Ironic enough, I had just found in our bookshelf these old Žiguli manuals, thinking that they might be useful. Until… But the pictures are nice to look at.
The Liepaja–Ventspils narrow gauge railroad had been out of operation already for decades. In 2011 the wooden rail sleepers from Kapsede region were removed. Being hazardous waste, EU support was granted for shipping them to Sweden for safe processing.
Peculiarly around Christmas and New Year the air of Kapsede had a constant odor of creosote fumes. It turned out that mounds of rail sleepers had been driven to the communal heating house: the local school was being heated by burning carsinogens.
The beach in Skede, north of Liepaja on January 1st.
Skede is by the sea about seven kilometres from Kapsede. We drove there on the windy Saturday to see the waves and to fly the kite. After seven consecutive loops the kite plunged behind the drying pine trees on the dune. This made me think of our drive to Skede two years earlier. As we stopped the car its kilometre reading was 77777, as if the car prompted that dunes a bit further south were the scene for the largest massacre in Liepaja during the Nazi occupation of 1941-45. During those years Liepaja’s Jewish population was practically annihilated.
In attempts to deal with this grim chapter of history, no less than three memorials have been erected in Skede. First, in the 1960′s appeared an obelisk which explains how “more than 19000 Liepaja citizens were murdered by Hitlerist attackers”. Contrary to the text, most of the killers apparently were Latvians. The larger text “Forever remembering the Soviet patriots!” is not on par with the site’s connection to the Holocaust.
In 2005 was built another, monumental arrangement in the shape of a seven-branched candelabrum, which is dedicated to the perished Jewish community.
Due to its dimensions this monument is difficult to photograph. Peculiar enough, still at the time of this writing you won’t see it on satellite maps — instead an empty field only.
The following year a third, modestly proportioned memorial stone was placed to balance the other two. It recognizes all the thousands who perished here, including Jews and war prisoners or people who helped them, and the ones who resisted the occupiers.
Oddly the site shares a foul-smelling entry route with Liepaja’s waste-water treatment plant — which you can see on satellite maps. Due to its dimensions this faculty also is difficult to photograph and I won’t even try to.
The roadside shop in Kapsede.
This is the unofficial Kapsede Under Thunder postcard.
Moves proudly presents the Unofficial Saturated Kapsede Postcard. Featuring the beloved Dancing Ash Tree on the left:
We found a small (work)shop in Liepaja and bought this portrait by a Liepaja Art School student. While the painting was nailed directly onto the wall, I wanted some old photos framed.
I went down in the cellar to spray paint a few frames. The cellar was a good escape from the mediterranean style heat which had been on for days. Frogs live there. And it has an adorable interior too.
Kapsede village sort of stretches between two centres. The landowners in the middle wanted to stop village dwellers from using a communally paved and lit route leading through their land—which arrangement has worked for decades if not centuries. There was strong resistance as the only other interconnection is the narrow unlit highway. Many school kids must get through daily. As compromise a narrow passage with a high fence was built through the private land. In there you go, pushing a baby carriage wondering if it will slip past the lamp post on which a red sign warns “Beware of the angry dog.”
Another hindrance on the route appeared yesterday. We got a brief gale and a fairly tall lime tree said krraack. This one will be easily solved though.
Riga. 7 pm local time. An umbrella walked into the gallery carrying a well dressed somewhat drunken man. He (the man) pointed to this picture and said (in a mix of Latvian, German and English) that it is not interesting at all.
He then gave me a long list of all the vintage cars he has collected and restored and he told of the precious medal he has won for one of his cars in Rostock. After that he listed all the important places he has been to – around the world, of course. He did not quite manage to accomplish his proud description of how fine a house he owns on the other side of the river because I had to answer a phone call.
Speaking of cars, this morning I placed my bumpy Citroen in a guarded parking lot. While paying for the service, the watchman bitterly told me how he “can’t understand why Latvia is in such dire straits, so many clever people we have. Here are no chances, no work. Here I sit all day long and all I see is cars. Only cars. This is no life.”
This is the last landscape from the trip. Lilis’s tea tray in Kapsede.
Here is one more landscape from Kapsede. The cost of heating has grown very much during Latvia’s EU membership. I’ve earlier shown you glimpses of the central heating system of the school and its surroundings (here and here). The system is outdated and will have to be replaced by something else. One proposal is a plant that would be producing electricity from (I hope I got this correct) corn waste. As a side product the faculty could offer heating to its neighbourhood – possibly noise and smells too. The plant would be located somewhere within this panorama. In the village the discussion about the plant is heated.
During the nights, if someone is not boosting their out of date techno, we hear the dogs, cranes, owls and tree frogs discussing. A bit later into the summer and it’d mainly be the crickets.
Name of the place, Kapsede (prolong the first ‘e’), means the place where the dunes sat down. Long ago this was where the Baltic Sea was flushing its surfs. Now the sea is about nine kilometres away. The road from the former important harbour Liepaja to the now more important Ventspils follows the protected ridge of the ancient sea shore. Kapsede is within Liepaja’s immediate reach, yet truly countryside. Liepaja Metallurg’s chimneys are still pouring red smoke though the plant only runs at a fraction of its Soviet time powers.
We have been busy refurbishing Ausma’s kitchen, hence the silence. Under three layers of wallpaper we discovered the Russian Blue, variations of which always seem more like green to me.
Here is the salad recipe I earlier promised:
- green spring cabbage sliced thin
- a bit of grated carrots
- citric acid
- salt, sugar
- mix and squeeze well
- let stand for a couple of hours