Our tour group drove out of the city to a small town and we visited with a multi- generational family to get a flavor of real life. It is one of my favorite days on any trip.
First, we stopped at grandma’s and saw her Soviet- era apartment. It is spartan, but all that she needs when you get down to it. She is a cool lady who worked in the local paper mill for her entire life. After the Soviets left, the workers took back the plant and kept it going.
One thing that amused me was that she had found her new boyfriend on the Internet recently to keep her company. “ I’m better than my grandkids think with the computer,” she said in Russian translated to our group.
Grandma is my age, and we lived in the same time period as young women. How different our lives were, though.
Next we went to her son’s where he had a successful cutting board factory up to a few years ago selling to Costco and Walmart until the Chinese undercut them.
Fortunately the family was able to hold onto their land during the Soviet years, and they came out of it better than many.
Financially, the family had a tough time when cutting boards were not selling. He reinvented himself and got into the wine business, and for the past two years has won the gold medal for Latvian wine. It is berry wine made from local fruits.
I was pleased with the raspberry wine and found it less sweet and more fruit- forward. The apple vodka wasn’t bad either.
Chris, the son, makes wooden spoons as a craft, and he sells all over the country. We watched as he made a spoon for us. He believes in a simple life, and doesn’t long for the years that his parents were affluent and he wasn’t lacking in anything.
Latvian families are most appreciative of each other, and are less materialistic from what I could gather. Food is the center of their gatherings, and you don’t pass up second helpings as a polite guest. Mom made pumpkin soup, samplings of chicken and pork, potatoes, baked apples, along with homemade relishes and jams.