I’ve written before on this blog about the way that the seasons are anticipated so much here in Latvia. It might be true to say that this anticipation reaches its height when waiting for Spring to come. Someone in the office where I work actually says that he can smell when it is on its way, and he is said to be able to predict well in advance when this lovely season will begin. Being from the UK, one thing I notice is that Spring starts a whole lot later here in Latvia. Now, at the beginning of April, we are only just beginning to see the buds on the trees reach the kind of bursting point that indicates that they will soon be green, and there are just occasional hints of blossom and Spring flowers, whereas in Britain the season will now be in full flower.
On my walk last Saturday I began to understand the Latvian season ‘thing’. I can’t quite describe what the experience was like, it took me completely by surprise! As I started out on my walk, I turned into Terbetas street, which leads to the centre of the city, and it felt as if I were being attacked by the sun, which shone directly on me in that blinding way that it does sometimes. More than that, for the first time this year I felt the warmth of the sun on my face – what a wonderful feeling that was! This sensation followed me until I got to Vermanes Park, where I saw the signs of greenery shown in the picture. People were sitting on benches, their faces to the sun, or were strolling in leisurely fashion around the park savouring this earnest of warmer days ahead.
When I got to the canal that heralds the entry into the Old City of Riga, the water had lost the slightly opaque look which indicates the presence of ice, and instead, was crystal clear, acting as a mirror for the trees and houses on its banks. The ducks were enjoying ‘dive-bombing’ onto the surface of the canal, as if they too were joining in the celebratory mood that prevailed. It was here, along the banks of the canal that I saw the willow tree with that tantalising green glow around it which shows that it will soon be in full-leaf.
Moving on into the heart of the Old City a temporary wooden platform was being constructed outside a restaurant that will soon provide an over-spill for its customers where they will be able to sit outside and watch the world go by as they drink their ‘kafija’ or ‘tēja’. Then I found myself in Dome Square where, oh joy, there were already tables and chairs covered with brightly-coloured tablecloths and giving out the invitation to sit and enjoy the sunshine.
On arriving at my destination the river Daugava looked beautiful in the sunshine. There I found I was not the only one taking in the glories of this lovely day. Sitting on a step, looking out at the river, sun on their faces, was a row of young people savouring the moment.
I learnt this week that there is no specific word in Latvian for ‘excited’. Whilst it might be true that Latvians don’t ‘do’ the exuberant, extravagant expression of excitement that may be typical of some other nationalities, I think what I felt last Saturday, was a suitably subdued, understated sense of anticipation which could only be described as the Latvian version of excitement!
* adapted from the first line of Robert Browning’s poem, appropriately called, ‘Home Thoughts from Abroad’