Ungru

Here is a love story: A count visits a lord in a castle. While visiting, the count proposes to the lord’s daughter. The daughter says, “But I love the architecture of my father’s castle SO MUCH that I cannot possibly leave.” The count says, “Well, I love you so much that I will replicate brick-for-brick the architecture of your father’s castle.” The daughter promises to marry him as soon as the castle is complete, and so he hurries home to Estonia, and does exactly this. Having nearly completed the castle, each brick of which is a haiku of perfection, the count sends for his bride-to-be. HOWEVER… she has died. The count, heartbroken, falls ill and also dies. And his friends/ family bring his body to the nearly-completed castle, that he might spend even just one night sleeping beneath its roof.

Flash-forward to 2015, and a car containing a designer, director, actor, and playwright is speeding down the Estonian highway (all two lanes of it) and catches a glimpse of perfection, a flash of wonder. The car pulls a hasty u-turn and theatre people spill out into the late afternoon remains of what is either a castle, a tragedy, or a love story. IMG_6428 FullSizeRender-16 FullSizeRender-17

Viivikonna

Former mining town near the Russian border, now a ghost town. The silence is eerie as you walk down tree-lined streets. A few people still live here, and startlingly new bicycles and children’s toys are occasionally scattered among the wreckage of homes. IMG_6326 IMG_6284 IMG_6312 IMG_6274 IMG_6261IMG_6864-2

Haunted or not, here we come.

Haunted or not, here we come.

Lithuania

The border between Latvia and Lithuania is marked only by a tiny shack where you can exchange currency, and a sign marked LATVIJA receding into the distance. Top-pop stations play Billy Joel and Taylor Swift in both countries, you’ll be amazed / horrified / comforted to know. And if you were wondering what you’ll find at The Hill of Crosses, the answer is…crosses, basically. FullSizeRender-15 FullSizeRender-15 copy FullSizeRender-17

Latvia

…is ready to fulfill all your snacking needs. IMG_5940 Also, Riga is a perfectly reasonable city where you can live in a loft with a hammock and a roof deck, and pass the former KGB House on your afternoon promenade. Meanwhile, beautiful young Latvians in skinny-jeans stand outside wine bars on their way to (probably) poetry readings. New York is done, Detroit is…Detroit. Let’s all move to Riga. IMG_5893 IMG_5919