Architecture / History / Latvia / Travel

Jurmala: Leave the Sunscreen at Home

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Jurmala, Latvia, nestled on the white-sand shores of the Baltic Sea, is a short 30-minute train ride from Riga. After reading about Jurmala’s history as a famous tourist town, its collection of turn-of-the-century wooden houses, and the fact that it’s now a playground for Russian celebrities, oil tycoons, and mobsters, we thought a day trip was a great idea. And, as it turned out, it was.

In addition to today’s rich and famous, it attracted some world-famous celebrities in the past. When Latvia was a part of the Soviet Union, it was a destination for high-level Communist Party officials, particularly Leonid Brezhnev and Nikita Khrushchev. It’s only a two hour flight from Moscow, so it makes sense that they’d visit here to blow off steam.

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However, Jurmala turned out to be very different than we expected. Yes, there are fenced, well-guarded mansions on the beach, but there are a good number of large, run-down, derelict homes as well. This “faded glory” aspect was a surprise.

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We were particularly surprised to find this hotel ruin, perched on what would normally be a prime location, overlooking the beach. After a bit of online research, we found that the owner’s son died after a fall down an elevator shaft, and the hotel has transformed into a palate for graffiti artists and a wild party venue for local teenagers.

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But half a block away, this richly detailed, very expensive house sits on Jurmala’s equivalent of Park Avenue.

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And then there was the beach. On a very windy, 40 degree day, we hadn’t planned on fitting a photo of a naked man into the blog, but when he whipped off his Speedo, Terri (ever the opportunist), couldn’t resist. This game lad had just finished, what I have to believe, was a vigorous swim in the 55 degree Baltic Sea.

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To put this into context, this is a photo of me on the same windswept beach. Notice the extremely dark clouds on the horizon, the tall, white-capped waves, and me, wrapped in every scrap of clothing I could lay hands on. The nude dude and I obviously have different types of blood flowing in our veins.

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Jurmala is very unlike Riga, and presents another interesting side of Latvia. However, if I have to choose a beach, I’ll stick with the Georgia coast.

Happy Trails,
James

2 thoughts on “Jurmala: Leave the Sunscreen at Home

  1. Hi James – I am from Latvia and Jurmala is home for my parents so know every corner of this city. It’s very interesting to see your, a travelers point of view. Did you go through Kapu street which goes along the coastline? The mansions there are impressive.
    – Ruta

    • Thanks for the comment Ruta and for dropping by the blog. We really enjoyed our time in Latvia, particularly the Art Nouveau buildings in your hometown of Riga. Jurmala was a very nice daytrip, and yes, we saw all the beautiful mansions – quite impressive. ~James

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