Latvia is one of the Baltic states and is becoming increasingly popular as a holiday destination. The capital Riga is rich in architecture and culture, but also the nature and idyllic coastal towns make this country well worth a visit. The country is attracting more and more tourism, but it is still a relatively cheap holiday destination by European standards. But what is it like to discover Latvia on horseback?
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Latvia on horseback
Even for Latvians themselves, their country is a real treasure. German-born Tina (50) has been living in Latvia for years and together with her Latvian friend Līga (45) she decided to make a tour. Literally along the country borders. Not by car, bicycle, walking or public transport, but on horseback. Tina tells about her journey of more than 1900 kilometers, the beauty of Latvian nature and the time they were chased by hundreds of cows.
How did you come up with the idea to do this tour of Latvia on horseback?
‘My good friend Līga and I often go on horseback rides together. One day Līga said jokingly: I’ve had the idea of driving around Latvia for years. I said, let’s do that! I immediately looked up the route at home and thought: that should be doable. We sometimes ride trips of 30 kilometers and neither we nor the horses are tired. So 50 kilometers a day had to be perfectly feasible.
Since we also deal with the Baltic Sea, we decided to do it in two parts. Although we were both already quite fit, we made sure that we and our horses were in top condition. We thought it was a fantastic idea. People have done it on foot, in an old Lada, but never on horseback.’
How did the trip go?
‘We completed the first stage of 600 kilometers in August 2019. It took us sixteen days. We did the second stage in the summer of 2020, when we covered about 1300 kilometers in five weeks. I am a real German by origin and quite a planner so I have prepared every start and finish spot down to the last detail. A third friend drove a car with things such as feed and deposition material, so that we could deposit a piece of pasture for the horses in the evening.
‘We let people know what our route was via social media and we were often invited to people’s homes for free. So many people were dying to be a part of our project. Sometimes we slept in people’s homes, sometimes in a holiday apartment – also free of charge – and sometimes outside in a tent in someone’s garden. The hospitality of people was heartwarming. Sometimes we came to people who were so poor, but still wanted to share their last meal with us. The love of the people is what has touched us the most. They not only opened their houses, but especially their hearts to us.’
What did your days look like?
‘We got up very early, around 7 am. Then we packed our things and climbed on the horse’s back. Sometimes we had breakfast in the saddle. We rode from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm, then we had a break, ate lunch, and rested. From 16.00 to 20.00 we drove the second part. On average we drove about 20 kilometers per stage and therefore about 40 kilometers per day. We did thirty percent on foot. So an hour’s drive, half an hour’s walk. You can’t strain a horse’s back non-stop. The horses loved it. Every week we had a rest day, but then the horses looked at us with a look like: ‘No ladies, no action today?’ This trip was also fantastic for them. In our own area they know every path, every tree, every leaf. Now they saw so much news every day and they really enjoyed it.’
‘We drove past a meadow with a hundred cows. They looked curiously at us and approached us. They found it so interesting that they broke through the fence with more than a hundred! Our horses went crazy and bolted. With hundreds of cows breathing down our necks. It was like a very bad movie, we were terrified. Once peace had returned, our friend immediately drove to the nearest farmer. Everything worked out in the end, but the image is still on our retina. Our horses have never run so fast.’
Is Latvia also interesting without a horse?
‘Oh, sure! The most interesting thing was not discovering Latvia on horseback, but all the people we met. The enormous hospitality. The warm welcome. All the people and media that followed us. The beautiful, untouched nature. The wonderful weather, white beaches, clear blue water, the fresh breeze from the coast. Not a single mosquito on the beach. The rich history, the Hanseatic cities, the culturally rich city of Riga with its Jugendstil, the medieval castles, but certainly also all the idyllic villages. Wash in the river, sleep under the stars, be one with nature. Latvia is a wonderful dream come true.’
Have you been inspired by Tina’s story and do you also want to discover Latvia? Here’s a list of her tips!