Day 5 - 34 miles
After waking up at the mountain day spa in Ligatne, Latvia, we were treated to a delicious breakfast buffet and we got the see for Cycling for Libraries videos of the trip on the big screen. Hopefully, you have been following along with the videos. It was truly amazing for have an entire film crew following our every move. This just wasn't any film crew. These guys are from the Finnish Library television station, Kirjastokaista. Their job is to film library events and promote libraries full-time. How cool is that?!
One of the many forest trails we rode (or maybe walked :) in Latvia
We set off for Cesis on a cool overcast morning. We had no idea what a treat we were in for. We cycled down the mountain and then did some real mountain biking over the river and through the woods. We biked to a castle in Cesis where we were greeted by the local librarians and the mayor. To top it all off our fearless leader Mace Ojala was knighted during the reenactment ceremony. Although it rained on us, that didn't stop the party atmosphere. While waiting for lunch, we danced in the drizzle to disco and the Beach Boys.
The knighting ceremony
That afternoon we arrived in Valmeira and were treated to a feast of traditional Latvian food and local beer at a museum. After dinner there was a ceremony of folk traditions and peals of laughter rang out as we attempted to dance some traditional Latvian dances. One of the highlights of our trip was the focus on the singing culture of the Baltics. All three countries, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, have strong folk song traditions, and many of our Cycling for Libraries cultural events involved singing. We loved it!
Our delicious meal in Valmeira
Day 6 - 50 miles
This was another long day of riding that took us to the half way point of the trip. We saw two very different types of libraries as finally made our way to Estonia. Our first stop was the Valmeira Library. It is a combined academic and public library with the Vidzeme University College in one half of the building and the public library in the other. The library just opened in 2007 and it was a beautiful space. Questions raised during the presentation and tour were about shared spaces and resources and how it was possible. Valmeira is making it work and it brings to light a different approach to allocating limited resources.
Our next stop was what we called the prairie library. The Jaunklida Public Library is located in a rural community of 250 inhabitants. Because it is so remote, the library also serves as a community center. Once a month the library hosts the local doctor, social worker, and even the hairdresser, making the library the epicenter of the town. It is such a cool space that patrons also have their weddings there.
The Jaunklida Public Library
The sister cities of Valka, Latvia and Volga, Estonia share a border where you cross seamlessly between countries, but they don't share the same language or currency. We were greeted with music and fruit in Valka.
Valka Town Hall and Mayor (in the distance)
The delicious berries and water that were presented to us at nearly every Latvian library we visited
Then, we rode our bikes across the border to Estonia. We were hours late by the time we got to the town of Volga, but our greeting party was still there waiting. We toured the local library. Then, we met the mayor and saw an entire show put on by the dance/singing troupe in Volga. We were blown away by the talent and generosity of the people there.
Dinner that night was a traditional Estonian meal and it was worth staying up late and cycling in the dark to get there.
Stay turned for more Cycling for Libraries adventures!
By April Kessler and Karen Holt of Librarian Lifestyle. April & Karen are librarians at the University of Texas at Austin.