Kakava (Pronounced Checkeva)
Just outside of Riga, Ansis and Monta found an old property with a farmhouse on it. Their dream was to take the old house, fix it up, and create a place for their family of five to live and thrive. They were very successful in their endeavor.
Ansis drove us out of Riga, and we carefully watched how he went because we were going to borrow his van that evening and the next day for our trip to Smiltene. We stopped at Remi which is the Latvian equivalent of a Walmart or Super Target. We loaded up on goodies for supper and then finished the 20 minute drive to his suburban estate.
The house is located on a dirt road, and from the front, you see a garage, out-building and the front of the house which are all in the traditional Latvian farm style with dark, wooden siding. Then, behind the old house, is the new addition which is much more modern. Ansis was very proud of the way the architect married the old and the new. This was a major theme of our visit to Latvia. They are very proud of their past, and they don’t destroy it, but rather they renovate and update. But one rule is that if you build a new house, you don’t make it look like an old house. It’s unfashionable.
Ansis gave us a tour and we met all of his children. Darta was with her friend Katrina, and they had a couple bags of chips and were giggling like preteen girls will do. Laura was very friendly, but when Nora saw us, she ran under the bed to hide. She warmed up to us later.
Monta was, of course, busy in the kitchen preparing food. We sat down at the dining room table and shared stories and photographs as she and Ansis brought us dish after dish after dish of sausages, potato chips, bread, and other treats. He also showed us the architecture magazines which featured his home. The magazine really did justice to what they did to preserve the original charm of the old house.
Ansis then gave us the grand tour of his property which leads to a lake on the Daugava river which has been dammed to provide electricity for Riga.
I walked through the tall grass and flowers collecting different varieties as I went. We found a bottle washed up on the shoreline, and I made a vase. Ansis told us that this was the lake he swam in on Ligo when John Grinberg and his family were visiting. I was tempted to jump in, but I didn’t.
On the way back, he pointed out a grove of young trees. Each tree had been planted as a gift to him on his 40th birthday almost five years ago. The most interesting of the trees was a “Royal Oak” which had grown from an acorn taken from the Royal Grove in London. Apparently, no one is supposed to grow these trees except for the royal family in England. I hope this blog doesn’t cause Ansis trouble with the international community.
We returned to find that the patio table was all set for supper. Vitauts was happily chatting with Monta and enjoying a beer. We all sat down to a lovely meal of fish and potatoes and wonderful vegetables. Remember, that all this food came after we had been munching on appetizers for over an hour. Latvians and their hospitality!
After supper, we brought all the girls together and gave them gifts from America. Ansis said his girls liked the Disney movie, Frozen, and Laura and Nora were all over the figurines and toys from the movie. Darta is probably a little too old for Disney princesses. I also gave them little pink notebooks, and Glen and Susan gave them backpacks. We gave Ansis and Monta Crest toothpaste because apparently it’s hard to find in Latvia.
Finally, I revealed the painting that I had packaged carefully and brought onto the airplane. It was a painting by Margarita Kovaļevska that Liesma had.
I found out from one of the Lincoln Latvian church members that the painting was an original and might have some value. I thought it was better to be back in Latvia, and everyone in our family agreed. I know it will look nice when framed on the wall of the Grasmanis manor.
Ansis and Monta put on the Husker shirts, and we made them promise to wear them when they visit Nebraska. Then the little girls all started throwing balls at us, and we knew it was time to leave. I got a quick set of instructions on driving the minivan, which turned out to be a Dodge, so that was easy. We loaded up and headed back to Riga.
It was a wonderful way to spend the evening.
Side note: We drove Katrina back to her home in the village. On the way, Susan had a wonderful discussion about her favorite American singers. Sue would say, “Do you know Beyonce?” And Katrina would reply, “But of course.” We ended up running into her father and brother on a walk. I can’t imagine what they must have thought to see their daughter with crazy Americans! Sue also learned that Latvian girls love Oreos, so that might be a hint at Christmas time.