The start of our trip - the view from the bus, from the National Opera, towards the Canal and opera park and, across the street, university buildings.
Still in the city; one of the central parks.
Turning onto the main street in the capital, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the left, Freedom Monument somewhere behind the trees in the middle.
Out towards the suburbs; note differences in architecture.
Crossing the railroad tracks - just outside of the city; mostly pine forests (planted).
More rural scenery, this time with houses.
There was ice over my window on the bus, and I decided to use it as an element, rather than try to work around it all the time.
I'll let the trees speak for themselves.
Sometime around 3.30PM, the sun made an appearance, shortly before setting.
This one came out a lot nicer than I had expected, because the camera chose to focus on the window, rather than the scene.
A last glimpse of the sun...
... and, literally moments later...
Only light still streaming into the sky.
The Gulbene park, decorated with lights.
A decorative apple tree (I think); children for scale (tallest = approx. 1 metre).
The Gulbene city symbol (swan; gulbis = swan); indeterminate material, as I was in rehearsal at this point.
Here is the start of deliciousness; if you look in the background, you can see bricks. They're very old bricks (for Latvian bricks), but they're not the best part.
These buildings are part of the whole estate ensemble where we were staying. More about them later.
The back of the estate (http://www.baltapils.lv/ - sorry, there's no English).
The building whose short side was facing the camera two photos ago; turns out, it's one LONG building. (I'm having trouble figuring out which building this is, since none of the maps on the website seem to open. But it's definitely from the 18th - 19th century; this style of brick+stonework was popular among the German barons ruling at that time.)
Just to show that I'm still paying attention to the winter wonderland around me.
Along the long side of the estate, paralleling the street (to the right); rebuilt and restored in recent years, but in its almost-original appearance.
The original front door (as in, entrance; I don't know if the actual door is the original) of the White Manor. Redone in the neo-Renaissance style in which it was built. The red building out back might be the Red Manor, a neo-Gothic style. The first estate was built in 1763, and it's been rebuilt several times.
This is on the inside of that white wall. ROCKS. This is what I starting drooling over. I know they're only rocks, detritus from glaciers, but as far as I know, it's all local materials. I'm SO glad they've kept it as a design element, at least along the inside of the outer wall. (Wooden beams, too, so it really takes you back, until you spot the TV on the wall. :) )
Rocks and bricks in harmony (see some newer rock-word near the top). Some of this wall might actually be original wall from the 1700s. Even when these estates and manors got destroyed during the various wars, usually some wall remnants remained standing, and I know almost none of them have been built from scratch.
So all these rocks and bricks may very well have been laid by on the orders of some fancy-pants German baron lording it over his Latvian holdings and slaves-in-all-but-name.
A close up of a rock. The lighting was pretty low, and my hand was a bit shaky.
Back outside, there's a hole in the wall! And some (probably) original (or close to) brick/stonework is shining through.
This building here - not sure what it is in the ensemble, but you can see that it's a slightly newer reconstruction. The way the rocks are laid together and the colour (less weathering) just stands out, especially alongside some actually old buildings. But, the whole estate complex is in the process of being completely reconstructed, and not all of the buildings have survived, so newer work like this is inevitable!
The other side of that long, long building. Not sure if it was a residential building, or a storehouse/some other work house. It's not open to visitors, but they are running a youth centre out of it, so...
Close up of rocks. Lots of these kinds of rocks around. The rocky beaches are full of them, just more rounded samples.
Right up close. (Colours are a bit skewed due to the camera losing power and my cell camera taking over.)
Another rebuilt building in the same style. Didn't get right up close to it, but this may have been the dairy processing building (for cheese)
I liked the dark grey with pink squiggle.
The afternoon moving on.
Most of the following pictures were taken with cell camera through the car window, which is why they're so blue. Heading out to the country's tallest mountain (hill - probably kame).
More winter beauty.
What many of the old estate buildings look like, if not cannibalized for rocks and left untended (drive-by).
Then we turned off the highway onto the road to take us to the mountain. And discovered that sometimes, winter encroaches.
The forest has turned dangerous.
It was obvious they did a lot of regular cutting, because, alongside the branches still hanging overhead (freakishly low), those already fallen/cut out of safety concerns were still lying by the roadside under various levels of snow.
Back out in the fields.
Then I rolled down the window for this one... (colour change).
We were driving through the area with the bunch of little houses in the middle of the picture (more or less). It's a crappy shot, but there's a bunch of red and green stars here and there; quite a few of those are erratics, all with strange names like Devil's Rock or Grand Rock. Didn't get to see any of them, sadly, but I have a feeling summer's a better time for it anyway.
At the foot of our highest peak.
Looking down towards the low-lands (not from the top; about the middle, I would say).
Close-up of tree.
Just after sun-set.
Looking up towards the peak. It's somewhere up there.
On the way home.