After Riga we made our way across to Latvia's west coast and back towards the Baltic Sea, having carefully planned our route to ensure that the roads weren't too bad. I imagine in a year or so's time the road network will be vastly improved since renewal of all the main roads are well underway to bring it on par with Estonia.
We had considered taking the A19 up to Ventspils but Lonely Planet called it 'Industrial' and while I would have liked to have visited the Soviet Radio Telescope the length of the de-tour was too great. I didn't mind so much, because we were going to Karosta.
I think we're in danger of painting a picture of a deserted, abandoned Latvia which I can assure you is not the case. It just so happens that we've spent too much time watching post-apocalyptic films and are attracted to exploring these abandoned towns and buildings.
Karosta is a disused war port and was a closed town with origins dating back to 1890. It's a strange place largely deserted with buildings either abandoned, lived in and squalid or less frequently renovated rubbing shoulders with each other. We saw lots of people cleaning the streets and the steps to the abandoned buildings and the whole place is surprisingly clean and well kept which added to the time-warp feel.
In the center there is a large Russian Orthodox Church next to a group of run down Soviet apartment blocks which looks totally alien in its environment. There isn't much in the way of tourist attractions but there is a large ex-Military prison which was open for 92 years and has since been turned into a tourist attraction. You have to take a guided tour round which is a bit theatrical and involved running around the yard, standing in line, being picked off and as a result we took very few pictures from inside! You can stay in the prison overnight if you wanted and they cater for stag do's also!
We wanted to try and get to the Northern Fort which wasn't signposted from the main road and we ended up getting there using our phone with Google Maps Satellite images to guide us in. Time has taken it's toll on the fort which is slowly being claimed by the sea but we spent a good hour or so exploring the remaining buildings with no other tourists in sight.
I'd have loved to explore the whole area of Karosta in more detail, there are many more abandoned buildings and ex-soviet hardware we'd have liked to have seen and photographed, but we didn't want to rattle our van to pieces as many of the roads are so bad that people drive along the grass verge instead!
After Karosta we spent two days Wild Camped in Liepaja right next to a fantastic 'blue flag' beach. The town itself was a bit of an strange one, we made a bee-line for the acclaimed 'Amber Clock' to find a load of dirty amber fragments glued to a egg timer? Not quite what we were expecting! The beech was excellent though and we walked until we couldn't see where we had come from turned round and walked back again.
Overnight Location GPS: (56.50985, 20.99615) - Large free carpark with access to beach. No restrictions, WI-FI in range.