YoC6: Liepāja

YoC6: Liepāja

One Night in Liepāja

13 February 2023

On this Valentine’s Day Eve, I must share my 6th cultural activity of the year which was my all-too-short trip to Liepāja, Latvia.

Okay, I started writing it on Monday, but this has been a super busy week!

The Invitation

I was invited to LIepāja by Scott, my American-Latvian friend who is a music professor in Maine. He is on sabbatical and is renting an place in Liepāja, so he wanted me and our Australian-Latvian friend Kristofers to come hang out for the weekend. It was also a chance to meet a Facebook friend, Anita, a New Zealander-Latvian, in person.

He also mentioned something about a Date Auction, but the whole thing was pretty vague.

The Train

The train doesn’t usually run from Riga to Liepāja, which is all the way on the west coast, about 213 kilometers or 132.3 miles (for my brother Paul). The train only goes on the weekends at one specific time, but I thought it sounded fun, so I met Scott at the station on Friday evening and we rode together in the dark through Kurzeme, arriving at our destination at 9:30 p.m.

I took the bus back on Sunday, and I prefer the train, but I wish we could have gone in the day time to see the countryside.

Cultural Experience: Fontaine Palace

I met Anita and we got on well. She has an incredible record collection, and we even went to the local vinyl shop where I found a Pink Floyd record along with a Kinks album. She bought a lot of vinyl as well. On the way home, I had to buy a new pair of shoes at the market because my boots were killing my feet. Then we spent Saturday listening to records and planning our outing to the Date Auction (Randiņu Izsole) which started at 9:00 p.m. What events start so late? We kept talking about how old we all were and joking about it.

I also got acquainted with Anita’s two cats, Lily and Miku. Lily even let me pet her and take a photo. I also met Anita’s friend Lindsay who is a Canadian who plays Contra Bassoon for the Liepāja orchestra! So all at one time we had representatives from the USA, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. That was a pretty cool time.

Scott decided to stay back at his flat to work on his musical masterpiece, while Anita, Kristofers and I Bolted to the event which was at a bar called Fontaine Palace.

Fontaine Palace is a very cool bar, and I wish Riga had something like it. It is on the canal and has two floors with all-wood construction. The date event was upstairs, so we climbed a spiral staircase, paid our 5 euro entry fee and sat down at an open table, which, as it turned out, was the best table in the place. There was an excellent photographer who let me use her photos for this blog and she can be found at White Lizard Photo .

Photo credit: @white.lizard.photo

None of us really knew what to expect from this date auction. At first, I was afraid that they would want me to be one of the contestants, but I don’t think my ego could take a low bid, so it is good it didn’t go that way.

Instead, we watched at 4 women and 4 men got on stage to share some things about themselves along with one of their talents.

The Contestants

From the get go, Anita liked to point out that we were the oldest people in the place, and the dates were considerably younger than we were, but it was fun to watch.

I don’t remember the first woman’s talent, but the second woman described herself as an Alpha-Female. She had a picture of the Latvian poet Blaumanis, and then recited one of his most famous poems, “Tālavas taurētājs” (Trumpeter of Tālava (thanks Karu!)) from memory. I was struck because I have a thing for poetry, and just seeing that performed here with the audience clearly engaged and joining in on a few lines was really special.

Reciting “Tālavas Taurētājs” by Rudolfs Blaumanis

Anita knew one of the guys named Oskars, and his talent was singing. He actually did a nice job. Another guy played the guitar, and then another lady got on stage with a bunch of balloons.

Oskars sings


She asked for volunteers, so I jumped at the chance to be on stage. I mean, why not? So me and a few other people went up to help her out.

So her talent was balloon dancing, and we played a game where she showed us a dance step, and then we had to keep the balloon between us while we danced. I got to dance with her, and the audience enjoyed the spectacle.

Anita taking a photo of me on stage @white.lizard.photo

After a few more people shared their talents, and a few more beers, it was time for the auction.

The Auction

I wasn’t planning on bidding on anyone, nor was Kristofers. However, this was Anita’s town and she wanted to support the local charity, so she bid on Oskars, the young man who sang. The other dates were auctioned off for 20 euros or so apiece. It was so strange to watch, and because of the language gap, it was hard to tell exactly what was going on.

I didn’t realize that the date was going to happen right there and then, but they took Anita away leaving Kristofers and I just sitting there while a band was setting up.

I went downstairs to the bathroom and to check on Anita. There I ran into Edīte, one of the people who was running the auction. She was a lovely woman in a poofy red dress who was happy to tell me more about the event. At one point, I said it was a shame that the poetry girl only went for 24 euros. Then I went back up to listen to the band and to dance.

The Band

It turned out that the band was actually really cool! It was Gregory Boyd who told me later that he really was from New Orleans, and he was all about the FUNK.

I was dancing and having a great time when Edīte and her friend came up to me and asked if I wanted to go on a date. There is something you should know about Latvian women… if they want you to do something, you do it.

So they led me downstairs and at one of the tables, the poetry girl was sitting all alone. Her date left her with 20 minutes left on the clock. What a shame!

I sat down and introduced myself. Her name was Signija and she was a teacher. The conversation was a bit awkward at first, but I told her I enjoyed the poem and that I had no romantic inclination, but was happy to just chat.

Then, a quiz game began. One of the workers translated questions and responses, so Signija and I worked together. The questions were all about Latvian folk superstitions, and I thought it would be easy, but the questions were challenging. In the end, I guessed 3 right and so did Signija, and with 6 points, we were the winners! Whenever you win something with someone else, this forms a very strong bond. This was a great injection of Latvian culture into the evening.

You can try the quiz here. I did my best to translate it from Latvian to English, but it is still pretty rough! Answers will be posted next week!

I got an envelope and opened it, and inside were some vouchers for free pole dancing classes from Energy Duck. Awesome!

Then we took a group photo and went on our merry way. I reunited with Anita.

Photo: @white.lizard.photo

More Dancing

The night went on, and Kristofers and Anita went upstairs to this loft area where they could lounge and drink. I wanted to keep dancing, so I did.

The band was great, and I enjoyed myself immensely. At the end, I gave my gift certificate to a nice woman that was dancing too. Her two friends got mad at me and said that if I gave her something I had to give them something because they were all together. I didn’t buy that logic.

I went to check on Anita and Kristofers had disappeared into the night. On my way up the stairs, Signija asked if I wanted to go to the CukuraFabrika (Sugar Factory) with her and some other people. I said that I would check, but I figured they were just being polite.

When I was upstairs, Anita and I decided that we were going to just stay put, but then Signija came up to ask again, and I felt that this was something we had to do.

Later I was told that Latvians do not just ask people to do things to be polite. This is a good lesson that I will try to remember!

The Sugar Factory

So we all walked to CukuraFabrika, and it was me, Anita, Signija, the Balloon Dance Lady, another date girl, and the male host of the whole thing.

I think that the only time I went to a club like this was in college. It was like you might see on a movie with the thumping and the lights and the DJ and the sticky floors.

Anita danced with us all for awhile, and then she went to sit down. I kept dancing, and by the time I checked my clock, it was 4:30 a.m. I figured we should probably go home. In the process of dancing, I broke my glasses, but nothing seemed to matter. I was Cinderella in Liepāja, and it was just incredible. I wish I could tell you more, but what happens in Liepāja stays in Liepāja!

After saying my goodbyes and thanking everyone, I left with Anita and got back to the Scott’s flat. The next day I took a bus home, exhausted but still feeling so energized by the fun weekend! I am blessed.

The End


Side Note

Here is what I don’t understand. Most days, I am so sore and tired that waking up and walking can be a chore. But here I was, dancing all night and just feeling alive and wonderful. What does it mean? Is it all in my head? Was it the Liepāja fresh sea air? The wind? The beer?


I guess the solution is just go to Liepāja, and you might just feel a bit better!

Some more photos

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