Skujas, Latvia: An Undiscovered Jewel
Let me save you a trip to the Atlas. Skujas isn’t found on a modern map. Map-makers, after all, can’t go around making dots and filling in names for every speck on the globe, especially when the population totals nine full-time residents. It is about an hour by car from Daugavpils.
These nine, however, have managed to join the Twentieth Century with indoor plumbing, washing machines, contemporary showers, and satellite TV.
We, on the other hand, will go back in time to a 140-year-old log cabin, home to Paul’s mother before the retreating German Army grabbed her and her nursing skills to tend to the troops on the march back to the Heimland, where Paul was born.
The cabin continued to be home to various members of his family until today when Paul is the last of the line.
our special model of washer and dryer,
and let's not forget the extra fancy dishwasher.
Actually, most of these items came from Prelii or Jakopils further north, but I did find dynamite Parmesan in Aglona, ten minutes by car although bus, horse cart, bicycle, and feet are also used by locals.
So it could be said Skujas fits my rule for permanent residency requirements — a place must be within an hour drive from good Parmesan cheese.
Parmesan notwithstanding, last August I barely emerged from all the cleaning with sanity intact. Because of health issues, we hadn’t been to the cabin since 2006,
. Unfortunately, this happened two days before we had to leave. But it was a welcome sight.
All this had to be done during the hottest summer in Latvia’s history where temps hovered around a hundred degrees for all but two days of our month stay. Of course, thinking of the history of other Latvian summers, we had packed a suitcase full of wool. This only goes to show the wisdom of Alice Steinbach in Without Reservations. She said something to the effect the savvy traveler would forget all advice and pack only a rain slicker, a parka, and the flimsiest of dresses.
After all with a plate of spaghetti and a glass of wine, an Italian is up for just about anything.
After this tongue-in-cheek description of life in Skujas, it could be surprising to hear that I’m really looking forward to this trip. I’m not saying it’s a vacation in the Four Seasons but then country life in Latvia has always entailed hard work. Given the problems we face in Mexico and the world in the 21st Century, a journey back in time has its value.
Tradition says that when the storks fly away, winter is around the corner. Sure enough, that’s when the temperatures dipped. We come back this year when, hopefully, they return.
Latvia is a land of poets. During my first trip to the country in 2002, I walked through the park near the Opera House and noticed a plaque flush to the grass. Paul translated the inscription and told me it was dedicated to a Latvian poet. A fresh red rose lay across the stone.
Thanks to Ilze Kļaviņa Mueller, here is an excerpt of a poem written by the Latvian poet Vizma Belševica followed by Ilze‘s translation.