A Baltic Midsummer 2: Krastmala

Latvians usually spend midsummer in the countryside with their family and friends, but Sandra, with whom I was staying in Riga, couldn’t afford to leave the capital due to her exams. However, the 11 Novembra Krastmala had celebrations that we could join. A few hours away from the books couldn’t possibly hurt.

The midsummer celebrations began in earnest on the 21st, and I wrote about what went down that day in Salaspils in Part 1

midsummer carnival Krastmala
The celebrations were right next to the castle, which caught fire only a few days earlier.

11 Nov. Krastmala Celebrations

The entire stretch of the Krastmala (embankment) closest to the old town was closed to traffic on the 23rd. Stalls, picnic tables and stages appeared overnight for the festivities, just as they did in the Dome Square on Friday. This was where we chose to begin our evening. Did I mention that there were TWO of these bonfire pyres?

Bonfire pyre on the Krastmala
Waiting to be lit.

Flowers and birch twigs were woven into wreaths by the ladyfolk, and the raw materials and twine were provided for free. This sort of wreath is generally worn by women, although I spotted a couple of guys wearing them too.

Women weaving garlands.
Women weaving garlands from the flowers provided.
More weaving
More weaving in progress

The other men wore wreaths made from oak leaves, but you couldn’t make your own there. They were sold for 5 lats each, 5 lats which I didn’t have, although I suspect that they cost less on other days. Perhaps oak wreaths require more work, or it’s more expensive to obtain the leaves, but I can’t get my head around the difference in prices without a definite answer.

Ligo oak wreath
A fine work of art, if you ask me.

After posing with a wreath for a picture (because I’m a shameless cheapskate – but really, what was I going to do with it after this, when I had another 6 weeks of backpacking to do?) and getting over the prices of the food, I had to try my hand at a few games and activities.

The needle in the haystack.
The young fellar’s found the needle in the haystack.
Cast a wreath.
Cast a wreath and see what the near future holds in store for you. It’s all in the name of fun.

Lawn bowling, finding a (giant) needle in a haystack, lifting boulders and beer kegs, casting wreaths on a tree… I was embarrassingly bad at all of them, even without any alcohol in my system.

Choral performance on the Krastmala
We shared the bus with that choir just an hour ago.

All the while, people kept streaming onto the Krastmala, and we figured that it was time to move on. Were we going to skip performances by a choir we boarded the bus with, famous musicians like Raimonds Pauls, and DJs in the evening? And the lighting of the bonfire? Absolutely. Another public celebration on the other side of the river promised a more intimate and traditional experience, and we wanted to catch that too. Part 3 is where I’ve covered it!

A pleasant diffused glow on Vecriga