Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cape Kolka

Day 60 - 10.11.2010

I woke up to a morning that painted Ūši in a totally different light (literally). Ūši is a campsite and a trailer park, and provided only a few cabins but still, I am its only occupant. It's location though, is excellent. Situated at the northern end of the village, it is just a 20 minutes walk to Cape Kolka.

I started on the trail pointed out by the wizened old owner of Ūši (whom I really can't quite get his name) and before long, the sandy beaches came into view. Scattered onto the beaches were many broken seashells, embedded among tiny perculiarly shaped sand moulds, like jagged thorns on the beach. Was it whipped into shape by the wind or the sea, I have no idea, but as I wandered along the coast, I came upon the end of the cape itself.

Cape Kolka, or Kolkasrags, holds a dramatic position on the northwestern edge of Latvia. The tip of the cape, like the tip of an arrow, points to the dividing line between the Gulf of Riga and the Baltic Sea. And as I stand watching, the waves from the gulf and the sea came crashing onto each other from different direction, criss-crossing over each other. Perhaps it was not the right time as the impact was not as dramatic as I thought, but nevertheless, it was an interesting sight!

As I stood watching, a man came wandering by and I nodded and smiled at him.

"Japan? Cina?"

"Singapore!" I replied proudly. ;)

"Singapore!" The man repeated, nodding knowingly.

Although with limited English, it was enough for simple communication. His son was in the shipping industry, and had visited Singapore once, so he knew about Singapore's port status.

I gestured with my hands, moving my hands together to simulate the waves crashing onto one another.

"Nice!" I said lamely.

He started to try to tell me something about Kolka, afterwhich failing, brought me to a section of the beach. With a stick, he started digging furiously and soon, uncovered the face of a granite rock. Inscribed on it
were an outline map of Latvia and the surrounding region. Below the map were the words "Kolka - Cross-point in Europe"!

I did not quite understand what this cross-point referred to, nor the explanations given by my friendly Latvian "guide". As I examined the rock, the man joined his friends and son combing the debris on the beach.

Curious, I wandered nonchalantly by, and again, my impromptu guide offered an explanation.

"Sea gold!"

"Sea gold?" My eyes furrowed, uncomprehending.

He fished into his pocket and produced several orange stones and repeated,

"Sea gold!"

It was another interesting discovery for me, as I have not known of semi-precious stones (presumably) washed ashore from the sea before. As my eyes scanned the tangle of seaweed, twigs and rocks on the beach, he took a piece of the orange stone and handed it to me! What a generous gesture, and I had only just met him! He then called his son over, who offered the English name - Amber. I then realised this is Baltic Amber, which must have certain renown as I saw many shops in Tallin and Riga selling such jewelry and ornaments. I thanked them, and after a while, bade them farewell and continued my walk around the area.

At the edge of the Slitere National Park, Cape Kolka hosts many migratory birds, sometimes as many as 60000, the information guide provided. These birds would feed off small fishes, clams and such. This could explain the many broken shells on the beach. Further away, along the northwestern coast of Latvia, are a number of villages which are easier to access by car. It was a pity I couldn't visit them as these villages are supposedly untouched by time and in fact, are home to a diminishing group of Latvia's ethnic minority known as the Livs. Sadly, it is said that their language and culture is on the brink of extinction and what would eventually remain are just documentation of their existence. Just like the status of Cape Kolka, where at one point in time in ever-evolving Europe, it could have been the middle of Europe (which I guess is what cross-point meant) but is now but a buried piece of information.

It had certainly been quite an interesting visit. While the visitor information centre in the village seems closed, I got myself a "guide". And while the souvenir shops are also closed, I got myself a souvenir too!


  1. Haha... "Japun? Çin?"... "Koria?"... Oh.. that sounds really familiar. :D


    "Oh..." usually followed by a puzzled look. So I go around gesturing where Japan is, where China is... and then where Singapore is (i.e. "South, more more south". Not that I think they'll remember anyway. :D

    Nice amber souvenir! Attach it to your camera, gives +1 to charisma. :D

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  3. With the gold prices sky high, you sure got an expensive gift. Though I think it's rather priceless :D

    nice to read of your escapades at the cross point of Europe.

    Looking forward to more stories asI travel from the comfort of my couch. Ha ha ha.

  4. grandrake, in Morocco, I was konichiwa'ed until I didn't bother to reply anymore!

    Srini, prob not expensive, but may be priceless :)

  5. haha, following the ´big three´, thailand and philippines would be next most popular on the list. i just keep shaking my head till they give up :P

  6. oh, thailand yes but I haven't encountered being mistaken as philippines yet... but looks like the common result for all of us is to finally give up! hehe!

  7. Hi! I am very happy to read such a nice note on the place very precious to me - I spent my childhood summers there and got some of the greatest memories :) Just wanted to explain about the stone you mention here: Latvia, cape Kolka in particular, was measured to be the geographical center of Europe where the meridianes met in the beginning of 20th century. And the stone was a fundament for a monument called "The Blue Sun", which was washed into the sea by a great storm in 2002 or 2003, can't remember. Now the stone is all that remains... But the place is amazing, huh?

  8. Hi!
    Thanks for reading my blog, and another huge thanks for providing that info about the geographical center of Europe. Wow, I had tried to google more info before posting this entry but to no avail, and you have now provided this rare info! Yeah, it was amazing, and I'm glad it had brought back good memories for you! :)