On our way to Sigulda, I was learning about life in Latvia from our guide, Rihard. He mentioned that since 50% of Latvia is covered in forests, Latvians are very close to nature. A family activity in the summer is to spend a day in the forest picking wild berries & mushrooms. The berries are preserved as jams and mushrooms with salt for the winter ahead.
Upon learning that we had never picked, let alone seen wild berries, he offered to take picking berries. I really didn’t know what to expect. Just half a mile hike into the Gauja (Gau-ya) National Forest and we were surrounded by little shrubs of Blueberries. The deeper into the forest we got, the denser the shrubs became. We plucked the fruit and straight into our mouth they went; they were delicious! My son hesitated, any food that didn’t come out of a box with a pretty grocery store label is viewed with suspicion. “It’s Organic,” I thought to myself, “this is what we pay an arm and leg for in LA”.
Then he showed us the real strawberry, as they grow in the wild; it was smaller than a penny! I had never seen or heard of this. It tasted exactly like the giants in the LA grocery stores. This was incredible, my mind was blown. We ate tonnes of these berries. Later in Jurmala, North East Latvia, we saw ladies packing in a box full of berries like Rihard had said. Back in the forest, we found some mushrooms too but Rihard wasn’t certain of their kind so we didn’t pick. “All mushrooms are edible but some can be eaten only once”, joked Rihard.
With purple hands and the belly full of berries, we continued our hike through the forest and towards the Gauja River. Latvia is a country of only 2Mil people, so it’s easy to find a quite spot. We spent time by the serene river banks just absorbing the beauty and quietness. My son continued his passion for throwing things in the water – this time it was sand.
I suppose for an experience to be memorable, it has to be unique and enjoyable. A simple activity we did as a family was the enjoyable part, that it was in Latvia, made it unique. And clearly, these days, I can blog about anything silly.