Armed with a pair of people movers hired for three days, and with the people to fill them eager to get out and about, a long road trip was in order. Three long road trips actually, but taken one day at a time. Today's destination was Rundāle Palace where things were simply not as they seemed, or perhaps they were.
Our delightful English speaking guide was herself just one of the unanswered riddles that arose during the course of the day. There was not a question for which the answer eluded her. If one of our number wanted to know how the nails were made, she could recite the composition of the alloy and the name of the person who made them, and his date of birth and the occupation of his mother. Her knowledge and enthusiasm for her subject were equally without bounds. The sort of boundlessness that one suspects may well have been born in an era where bounds were very structured indeed.
The building had been ransacked of course, and used as a school, and the timber floors and stonework and much of the plaster and all the fittings had been taken to St Petersburg for use in mightier ways, perhaps in the winter palace itself according to our guide. Then, during the Soviet times, the interiors had been lovingly and expertly restored by artisans from Moscow and the gardens were on their way to once again achieving their original splendour after almost forty years of renovation.
It was truly a magnificent edifice and one of which the country can be justly proud, but really, without wanting to rain on Latvia's parade, I wonder if parts of its history whether by accident or Soviet design, are as artificial as the painted marble itself.
"Please don't look under the carpet sir, there are policemen in the basement watching us, and...... " Yes, there are definitely some connections to the past.