letter home ii

hi everyone,

I'm writing today from Riga, the capital of Latvia, sitting in one of the many (many) bars crammed full of art students hiding from the sudden and unexpected cold snap that struck the city yesterday.

I've been in Latvia for work a little over a week now, brought here by the completion and subsequent installation of our massive (15' tall, 2 tons heavy) piano to a concert hall being constructed in Ventspils.  Ventspils, a small city, lies a few hours northwest of Riga, where the endless reaches of pine and birch forests give way to the wetlands and tributaties of Latvia's western baltic coast.  the concert hall, still a few months from completion, was partially designed around the inclusion of our piano, which sits three meters off the ground, bolted into the structure of the building itself and suspended above the stage.

working with such a large and still fragile instrument has proven a challenge.  simple acts like moving the piano into the building proved to be full day efforts, to say nothing of the effort it took to lift the piano into its final position.  we wrapped up the final touches yesterday and returned to Riga.  leaving the piano behind felt odd, having spent the last seven weeks doing nothing else but building the thing and only having a few hours with it as a finished and playable instrument.  we plan to return in late July, where the opening of the concert hall will open with a ceremonial piano concert.

I'm taking the next couple days to explore Riga before heading back to Hungary by car, crossing Lithuania, Poland, and Slovakia on the way.  Riga is proving to be a deeply enjoyable city with a stately germanic architecture, although I'm entertaining myself in finding small art theaters and bars that, at a distance, could easily be mistaken for abandoned buildings.  that architectural tradition stands in stark contrast to Ventspils, which could have easily been mistaken for a coastal Danish city at a distance.

David Klavins, the piano builder I'm working with, has family ties in Latvia, which has afforded me the chance to explore some of the countryside as he visits old friends and family.  my incomplete impression of the Latvian countryside has been entirely filled with old traditional log-built houses, sauna cabins with adjacent ponds, and honey cake.  my short time here has left a strongly positive impression and I hope to explore the country more in the future.

besides this monumental piano, my time since my last letter has been much less full of solitude.

Manon came to visit for Easter weekend brought spring with her to Budapest.  we spent our time exploring castles, roman baths, and experience a traditional Hungarian celebration (which mainly seems to revolve around fried dough).  I've begun to explore the nearby regions as well, visiting Bratislava and some of the towns that dot the shores of the Danube as it runs north of Budapest towards Slovakia.

Manon is in the midst of working out her move to Torino, Italy to her employer's Italian office.  this year has been full of stressful moves and she's facing yet another one, but we'll be able to spend time together much more easily and are both greatly anticipaitng that.  similarly, I'm very close to moving from my current residence in the sleepy town of Vac to Budapest itself, which will create a small commute to work, but will open up exploring Budapest greatly (as well as give me a place to host visitors).

I'm looking forward to an eventful summer and hope to see many of you soon.