Friday, August 1, 2008

Latvia Photo Expedition - Trip Report

Well, what can I say?  The Photo Expedition to Latvia occurred on July 13-20th 2008 and boy did you miss a memorable trip!  The weather wasn't always agreeable (it rained during our first day in Riga; however this only served to challenge us some more on "how to get compelling shots when the light isn't always agreeable").
 

Read on for more...
In addition to beautiful countryside and a highly-refurbished downtown, Monika Ronit (our guide and hostess) also got us a meeting with the mayor of the village of Lapmezciems.  That was the beginning of a week where we were treated like royalty - they treated us to a guided walking tour, a personalized tour of the local cultural museum, and (a great feat for me) a return to one of the performance halls that I had been to 20 years earlier as I documented a historic US-USSR cultural exchange.  A magazine article is even in the works regarding the arrival of the Americans (only Americans signed up for this tour for some reason) and my reflections as a 2-time visitor.

So what changed in 20 years?  Well, there are actually an abundance of products on store shelves now, and you only have to stand in ONE line to buy an item (see historic note below), there are lots of cars on the roads now (many of them quite expensive due to the immigration of wealthy Russians).  There are no longer Abacus' everywhere - they have been replaced by computerized cash registers.

(Historic note: in Soviet times, three lines were the norm to purchase one item:  First you stand in line to tell the person what you'd like to buy; she writes it down on a piece of paper and hands it to you.  Then you stand in Line #2 to pay for it, at which time you receive a claim check.  The third line is so you can submit your claim check and pick up your item.)

We had our own private Mercedez van for most of the trip, which whisked us off to the far-flung areas of the country each day, free to roam around and take pictures, challenge each other creatively, and getting impromptu technical tips in the field.

In short, it was definitely the opposite of your typical tourist experience, and a great time was had by all! 



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