Wild Winter Fun in Sigulda Latvia | Slide in an Olympic Bobsled down the Bobsleigh, Luge and Skeleton Federation track | Oregon Girl Around the World

Wild Winter Fun in Latvia – Slide Down the Olympic Bobsled Track in Sigulda

What to do in and Around Riga this Winter

FEEL LIKE AN OLYMPIAN IN LATVIA

Ever wondered what it might feel like to whoosh down a slick icy track like an Olympic bobsled team? Or slide head first like the slightly insane competitors who do Skeleton? You can experience it for yourself and you should when in Latvia. Step right up and hurtle yourself down the Latvian Bobsleigh, Luge and Skeleton Track in Sigulda.

Just an hour outside the Latvian capital of Riga, you can take a turn or two in a real Olympic bobsled reaching speeds up to 100km/hr. Not for the faint of heart. Or those under 18, pregnant or with any back issues. Rule you out? Us too. At least more than half of us. But no worries – we can all ride together in the slightly slower, but still thrilling “soft-bob.” On Saturdays and Sundays all winter, you and your friends or family can step into a plush sled and get pushed down the track, hitting speeds of 70-80 km/hr. It felt plenty fast enough for me.

RIGA TO SIGULDA BY TRAIN

We made our way from Riga to Sigulda via a very retro looking train from Central Station. While not the fastest way to wild winter fun, it was cheap and comfortable and had free wifi! What?! Yes, WIFI. With teens in tow, this was worth the slightly longer travel time. No roaming charges. No login, credit cards or emails required. That is decidedly civilized and much appreciated. But don’t get distracted by your Instagram feed and misunderstand the train announcement in Latvian regarding the next stop. Which we may or may not have done.

ONLY GET OFF AT SIGULDA STATION

Most likely the end of your line will be Sigulda itself. You can’t miss it. It’s a fairly big station. But, I may have exited my family a stop too soon. It sounded like Sigulda. Seriously, it did. Having only heard Latvian for the previous 24 hours, it did to me. A rookie move for certain. Suddenly we were on the side of the track in the snow at a stop that nary a soul in February would dare step off. The train honked it’s imminent departure, before rolling away leaving us there. I’m sure everyone was wondering why the heck we got off. Thank our lucky stars we had cellular service. After my mild freakout over my mistake, we made a detour through a chilly but scenic stretch of uninhabited Latvian forest, before finding the freeway and flagging down a passing bus. Phew. Crisis averted and only forty-five minutes behind our regularly scheduled arrival, we have a story to tell and amusing memories. My mistake may live on in family infamy forever. Alas. It was all my fault. But, all’s well that ends well.

STUNNING WINTER STOP SIGULDA

Some say Sigulda is the Switzerland of Latvia. Personally, I wonder if those people have ever been to Switzerland. Despite the lack of anything looking like mountains, Sigulda does have lots to offer the visitor in winter. And it is truly lovely. This town is home to Latvia’s Olympic Bobsleigh, Luge and Skeleton Federation track and is proud of their resident athletes currently competing in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. Back in Latvia, you can feel like an athlete yourself, with bobsled, skeleton and Nordic skiing opportunities. We came for the track. It’s an easy walk from the Sigulda train station and allows just about anyone to go for a slide on Saturdays and Sundays from November to March.

BOBSLEIGH AND LUGE TRACK SIGULDA

This way to the track and wild winter fun. With no line, we timed our arrival perfectly (says the same mom who mistakenly escorted her children through the woods earlier). Built in 1986, before the Sochi Russia Olympics in 2014, this was the only track of its kind in Eastern Europe. You want to do the soft-bob? Yes please. Pick a helmet, pay the man and wait your turn. Which happened to be immediately for us. Get in! How cool that all five us could fit into one sled. A sled that looked and felt a bit like gym mats that have been fashioned into a rectangular box and affixed with ropes to hold on to. Get in! Our wee lass sat up front, then Dad, then biggest brother, then mom, then middle son at the rear. Sandwiched between my taller-than-me teens, we were given a very brief safety briefing. Basically, hold on to this, don’t put arms or any other body parts outside the sled and your camera is your own responsibility. Any questions? Yes? Oh well. Here you go! Pushed down the track with a kick we tried to watch where we were headed, but you pick up speed quickly. And then it becomes just trying to brace our heads and not knock helmets.

Wild Winter Fun in Sigulda Latvia | Slide in an Olympic Bobsled down the Bobsleigh, Luge and Skeleton Federation track | Oregon Girl Around the World

ONE MINUTE OF MANIACAL SLIDING

After all of 60-70 seconds or so, we swished to a stop at the bottom of the track and were assisted quickly out of our sled. I’m sure we won no medals, but it was a blast. So worth it. Serious family fun. And it truly felt longer than it is. At the bottom of the track, your sled is loaded onto a truck and you climb in alongside it for an escort back up to the top of the hill. Hold on tight. These guys are efficient if not necessarily concerned for your safety.

TRY THE TRACK HEAD FIRST IN THE SKELETON

Depending on the demand, you can try to beat your record and do the track again. For an additional fee of course. Or try the “frog.” A makeshift soft green “skeleton” for two of your team to attempt. Head first. Sans helmets. Yes. You heard me. If it seems counterintuitive, it’s because it is. Head first. Sans helmets. I guess you have a greater risk to bump heads with your fellow passengers in the soft bob than the skeleton. Or so we were told. My almost birthday son convinced his Dad to do it. A little faster, a little wilder and definitely rides a little higher up on the curves. Instructions this time? Don’t do anything. Like you are lying on the couch. And don’t breathe. It will fog up the plastic cover and you won’t be able to see out the front. Ha! Ready? Set.. GO! Lucky for the rest of the team, there was an indoor room to wait for your late entry lugers. 

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

Sigulda Bobsleigh and Luge Track
Šveices iela 13, LV-2150, Sigulda
+371 67973813
e-mail: bobtrase@lis.lv
HOURS FOR SLEDDING: 12:00 – 17:00 Saturday and Sunday, Nov – March
TRACK VISIT: 08:00-20:00 every day

COST:
Soft-bob | €10 for adults 14+, €7 children up 6-14
Skeleton frog | €10 for adults 14+, €7 children up 6-14
Olympic sled | €50 per person aged 18+
Top of track viewpoint | €0.60 for adults, €0.30 children up to 14

HOW TO GET THERE BY TRAIN:
Riga – Sigulda, Latvia
1 hour 15 minutes
€1.90 each one-way
Find current train schedules online here.
It is an easy 900-meter walk from the train station to the track.

TAKE A TOUR:
Too much to navigate there yourself? Take a tour. Many tour operators around Riga will pick up at your accommodation and drive you right to the Bobsleigh track in Sigulda. Contact companies directly to discuss options, there is more to explore and they can work out the perfect day out from Riga for your group. I can recommend Red Fox Tours who were quick to respond, easy to work with and super friendly. Tell Janis I said hej from Copenhagen!

WHERE TO EAT:
Mr. Biskvits
Ausekļa iela 9, Sigulda, LV-2150, Latvia
Need a pick me up or something to warm your bellies once finished? Head to cute and cozy little Mr. Biskvits across the street from the station for delicious pastries, sweets, soup, light dishes and coffee.

NOTE: The Bobsleigh track offers summer versions of the ride down between May to September if you find yourself in Sigulda outside of winter.

We loved Latvia. In Winter. I’ve got more to share. Stay tuned. Heading there soon? Pin it for later!

 

T ravel Loving Family

Faraway Files #64

Travel Blog Community

SHARING TRAVEL STORIES FROM AROUND THE WORLD

Hello travel peeps! We’re back! Well – I’m almost back. Leaving Latvia later today after a lovely winter break across the Baltic Sea from Copenhagen. It has been the perfect place for a city break plus winter fun for our whole family. We had an adventure taking the train from Riga and getting off at the wrong stop to trek through a snowy forest, snag a ride from the passing bus and finally find our destination – the Latvian winter sports center in Sigulda. Here you can slide down a regulation bobsled, skeleton and luge track like the big kids. It was a blast. And then so fun to see some of the live action happening in South Korea from Latvia, knowing the turns some of those athletes took to get to Pyeong Chang. Literally. More coming soon on the blog! Continue reading “Faraway Files #64”

Lighten Up Copenhagen with Winter Light Festival

Winter Light Festival Illuminates Copenhagen Harbor

February is GETTING a little brighter

Copenhagen is winning at winter. This year for sure. This is our fourth winter in the Danish capital and speaking from experience, I feel a little like a winner myself whenever I make it past January on the calendar. While all that Danish hygge definitely helps, I was more than happy to hear that the city has added a little illumination to the night, letting Copenhagen lighten up this winter. Enter the Copenhagen Light Festival all over the city celebrating the Danes special connection with design and oh-so-luscious lighting.

Once Copenhagen jumps into the New Year with one of the best celebrations in the world, the lights usually turn off and January can be dark and damp. Life turns indoors and we all cozy up with friends and coffee and Netflix normally. Hygge this. I’m ok with the downturn, but am also grateful when it goes. You can feel the days getting incrementally longer come February. Halleluia. Happy dance. And while the month is still brisk and may bring some snow, it now affords some reasons to get outside after dusk. Bust out your best mittens, scarves, beanies and boots and beeline to the city to see the lights. Lighten up Copenhagen!


RELATED: COPENHAGEN HAS THE BEST NEW YEAR’S EVE IN THE WORLD

CRUISE THE COPENHAGEN CANALS AFTER DARK

Throughout the month, you can get a good overview of the installations along the canals. Take a guided canal boat cruise with Stromma. 45 minutes beginning at 19:00, you can get out on the water in a heated and covered canal boat. A classic start to any sight-seeing tour of the town, it is pretty cool after dark. Bundle up and sit outside if you dare. We loved the dark water lit up with the lights. But hurry and book soon, limited seats are filling up fast.

Stromma
Tickets: 100 kr
45 minutes
Leaves from Ved Stranden dock near Højbro Plads.

INSPIRING LIGHT FESTIVALS ABROAD

Our first experience with a city-sponsored light festival was in Berlin for Lichterfest back in 2016. In a rainy, cold October break it provided a nice break from the damp autumn weather. Lichterfest had a broader scope than we found here in Copenhagen, but the Danes do it their way. Always. Minimal and well designed, Denmark knows how to make an impact, even if subtly.


RELATED : BERLIN SHINES | TAKE YOUR FAMILY FOR LIGHT WEEKS

BEST OF COPENHAGEN LIGHT FEST

The program for Copenhagen Light Festival evolves over the month with new exhibits cropping up and fading out each week. Check the website for the up-to-date schedule of exhibits. Here were our favorites from the opening weekend that you should be able to see throughout the month.

ETERNAL SUNDOWN

LOCATION: Kalvebod Bølge
ARTIST: Mads Vegas

142 fluorescent lamps align along the harbor bridges in front of Kalvebod Brygge creating a virtual sundown of light. With a near rainbow of blues to sunny reds and oranges and yellows, this installation is sure to bring sunshine to the harbor all month.

Light Installation on the Copenhagen Canal at Kalvebod Bølge | Light art by Mads Vegas for Copenhagen Light Festival 2018 | Oregon Girl Around the WorldKalvebod Bølge Copenhagen waterfront Light Installation by Mads Vegas 2018 | Oregon Girl Around the WorldEternal Sundown by Mads Vegas | Light Installation for Copenhagen Light Festival 2018 at Kalvebod Brygge | Copenhagen Marriott | Oregon Girl Around the World

THE WAVE

LOCATION: Ofelia Plads
ARTIST: Vertigo (Formerly Obscura Vertigo)

The Wave is an impressive interactive light and sound display that encourages participants engagement. Walk through. Listen. Absorb. Be mesmerized. It’s amazing. Returning for the second time to Copenhagen, The Wave is part of the Frost Festival 2018 and sits on the harbor in the modern cultural space known as Ofelia Plads. One of my favorite places to soak up summer, Ofelia Plads is the place to be once again this winter.

Interactive Light Installation The Wave at Ofelia Plads Copenhagen | Light Festival 2018 | Oregon Girl Around the WorldTriangles of light from The Wave on Ofelia Plads for Frost Festival 2018 | Copenhagen Light Festival | Oregon Girl Around the World

HONORING A MASTER OF LIGHT

LOCATION: Louis Poulsen Showroom, Gammel Strand 28
ARTIST: Jakob Kvist

If you haven’t heard of Danish hygge – then seriously where have you been? And whether or not you are fed up with hearing hygge hyped in all parts of the world, it will always be part of the Danish DNA. Part of creating a space for hygge is getting the atmosphere right. Here in Denmark, that means investing in good lighting. If you have the means, a light from Danish light design company Louis Poulsen is the way to go. Many of the Danish design greats have created masterpieces in lamps and overhead lighting for Louis Poulsen. I’m coveting one of the bright Poul Henningsen pendant lamps, still the original design but now in updated delicious colors. One of each please. Can’t afford a designer lamp? You can soak up the light emanating from their showroom this month. I love the rainbow fruit stripe colors of this installation by artist Jakob Kvist.

Louis Poulson Showroom with Jakob Kvist Light Installation for Copenhagen Light Festival 2018 | Gammel Strand København | Oregon Girl Around the World

LASER BEAM | LIGHT ON NIKOLAJ

LOCATION: Nikolaj Plads 10, 1067 København K
ARTIST: Martin Ersted

Nikolaj Kunsthal just off Højbro Plads is lit up with changing lights, but what is truly impressive is the giant green laser beam that points to the tower all the way from Tivoli. With a new winter season open at the amusement park, you can extend your winter wonderland of sparkly lights with activities like ice skating and rides under the lights.

Copenhagen Light Festival 2018 | Louis Poulson showroom with Jakob Kvist display and Tivoli Laser | Oregon Girl Around the World


RELATED: ALWAYS TIME FOR TIVOLI

COPENHAGEN ARCHITECTURAL ICONS USE LIGHT DESIGN

Many of Copenhagen’s most iconic architecture already utilizes light as part of their design. As you may have already gleaned, the Danes have placed a high value on creating atmosphere with light. Basically since the dawn of electricity in Denmark. From creating those happy hygge filled spaces inside to lessening the dark Danish winters outside. Come to Copenhagen she said. And see these quintessential buildings, many with permanent light displays and some now even more exciting this season.

COPENHAGEN OPERA HOUSE

Three round light sculptures visible through the windows of the Opera House are said to represent the red flag with three white dots of nearby freetown and hippy commune Christiania.

Copenhagen Opera House from Light Festival Stromma boat tour | Oregon Girl Around the World

THE ROYAL DANISH PLAYHOUSE | SKUESPILSHUSET

The Danish playhouse sits right next to Ofelia Plads, so you can check it out when you go see The Wave. Take note of the thin fiber optic thread lights that hang like stars in the foyer. There are thousands of them that glitter through the glass windows over the harbor.

Royal Danish Playhouse | Skuespilhuset Teater lit up on the Copenhagen Harbor | Copenhagen Light Festival 2018 | Oregon Girl Around the World

BØRSEN | THE OLD COPENHAGEN STOCK EXCHANGE

One of my favorite buildings in Copenhagen, the Børsen was originally home to the Danish Stock Exchange when opened in 1640. Since the mid-1800’s, the building has been used by the Danish Chamber of Commerce and is unfortunately not open to the public. But wander down the canal and enjoy the blue light installation in all the windows, known as The Danish Chamber of Light.

Lights on the Børsen Copenhagen Stock Exchange | Light Festival 2018 | Oregon Girl Around the World
CIRKELBROEN | CIRCLE BRIDGE BY OLAFUR ELIASSON

Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson who is responsible for the light sculptures at the Opera House has also utilized light on his Circle Bridge. The Cirkelbroen (in Danish) is super cool and interesting day or night. Find it sitting across the main canal from the dramatic Royal Library called the Black Diamond as it stretches over the exit of the Christianshavn Canal.

Light display on the Cirklebroen Circle Bridge by Danish-Icelandic Artist Olafur Eliasson | Copenhagen Denmark | Light Festival February 2018 | Oregon Girl Around the World

MAP OF FESTIVAL AND MORE INFORMATION
COPENHAGEN LIGHT FESTIVAL

Oregon Girl Around the World

 

Faraway Files #63

Travel Blog Community

SHARING TRAVEL STORIES FROM AROUND THE WORLD

We did it! At least those of us who call the Northern Hemisphere their home made it! Up here in Denmark, that is an accomplishment for sure! Phew. Another January successfully navigated. And while the weather is still a pretty solid grey today, I was definitely grateful for the sunny blue blues we had grace our skies on Wednesday. It was a perfect day for a giant walk into town to meet friends for pie.

Does food take you places? I am a huge fan of trying the local cuisine on vacation, but what about when you get home? Sometimes we pick up a pack of spices or other dry good that we can take back to help recreate a bit of the tastes we tried and loved when away. I put my Greek oregano on my feta and tomatoes and cucumbers here in damp Copenhagen and it almost feels like Kefalonia. Almost. But it’s a nice memory to conjure. Continue reading “Faraway Files #63”