It was Zane's Godmother who organised our magical mystery tour today, and while the tour of the little brewery in the middle of nowhere with its incredibly enthusiastic and proud staff and its terrific luncheon menu was a completely pleasurable experience, it faded into distant memory in the afternoon when we arrived at the "Repatriation Hospital".
Now here was a place one sensed that one would be told to get well and one wouldn't dare to contradict. Even today there was an air of gruff austerity about the place, and while it passes among the population as some sort of spa resort holiday camp these days the grim past is never far away. Precisely four or five metres away to be exact, lying below the thickness of the bomb proof steel and concrete floor, the largest of the Soviet defence bunkers in Latvia is still intact, with all it's original equipment, including it's special telephones with direct lines to anywhere that hasn't been destroyed in the nuclear war, as well as the control centre for firing the hidden missiles at a doomed Europe.
But let's just focus on the cheery stuff, the KGB listening rooms, where conversations in private households were monitored for any sign of discontent, perhaps so the discontented could be sent for a well earned holiday where they could contemplate many things far from the survival centre built here for the top brass.
It was all a bit sobering really, even more than the thought of spending a weekend at the "Repatriation Hospital" upstairs.
Our guide was of course enthusiastic, knowledgeable and perhaps just entertainingly prejudiced against the former overlords of his country, happily explaining the jokes within some of the propaganda posters, and offering the board room complete with vintage seventies Russian pop music for weddings, parties or anything really. He seems particularly fond of bucks parties held there, when participants arrive in full Soviet police uniforms and eventually, after succumbing to the evils of Vodka, tend to lose their way back to their rooms above, littering the foyer of the hospital and it's corridors with their recumbent selves. He seemed to think it adds a touch of reality to the place.
So it must be said, did the grimacing receptionist in the starched uniform, unlocking as she did the ice cream refrigerator to dole out each piece in turn but not before taking the forty cents or so from one customer at a time, and then writing a receipt.