It’s snowing like crazy today here in Latvia, but I hear that in Toronto it was recently 15 degrees C. Thankfully we had a warm spell last week also with sunshine and highs of 7C, enough to melt most of the ice on the roads, and allow me to get out on my bicycle. Those recent bike rides reminded me of one of my favourite places to cycle, and some photos from the fall that I hadn’t shared yet.
Kundziņsala is an island in the river Daugava, about 5km in a straight line north (downriver) from the centre of Riga. There’s a Google Earth link here. Most of the island is taken up with industrial scale shipping facilities. There are huge cranes, stacks of containers, enormous piles of logs and other raw materials. I think it is the main shipping port for Riga. Two sturdy bridges suitable for large trucks connect the island with the mainland, in addition to a railway line and bridge. There is a really interesting boat ride you can take between Mežaparks on lake Ķīšezers and Vecrīga, which takes you past all of these industrial and shipping docks. I highly recommend it if you want to see another face of Rīga on your next trip.
Tucked away on the East side of the island, however, is a small, fascinating residential community. Clearly this was a thriving place before the shipping industry took over most of the island, and it is now largely frozen in time. Not quite, as there are some houses that are obviously fairly new.
Along with it’s countryside atmosphere, the place has an air of pleasant and charming gentle decay. Mind you, this is coming from someone who can find decay quite romantic and charming at times. (Good thing too, since I’m getting older myself!) Most of the roads are not paved, there are ramshackle houses, sheds, fences, gardens and orchards.
Most have been somewhat maintained, some quite lovingly, but generally not updated.
When I’m exploring there, I feel transported, not only back in time, but far away from the city as well. I find it hard to believe that I’m only 5km from the centre of a thriving modern city. I’m sure that sometimes there is noise from the shipping on the other side of the island, but every time I have been there it has been so quiet, that you wouldn’t know there was anything going on there.
I’m definitely looking forward to spring, and more bicycle exploring. This place needs a professional photographer to capture it before it disappears, although that doesn’t seem likely to happen soon. That’s one benefit of a falling population and a sluggish economy: there isn’t the constant movement towards modernity and expansion that we find in a place like Toronto. Communities like Kundiņsala are allowed to sleepily continue their existence.