Like all other Northern countries (and some South-Eastern European ones, including Romania), Latvia has its own national etnographic museum, the typical early-20th century open-air museum with houses from all the regions. And then there’s a smaller, much lesser-known one that I was very much looking forward to see. Jūrmalas brīvdabas muzejs, the open air museum on the Jurmala peninsula, is supposed to showcase the main (traditional) occupation of the inhabitants: fishing.
It is in fact a fisherman’s household. A collection of buildings and objects: the dwelling house, a barn, a net shed, a sauna…
The interiors are nice enough, accurately reproduced with objects put in their context, like any respectable open-air museum does. But it’s only a homestead, plus a collection of anchors and ropes and a fishing boat. A big boat surrounded by trees:
I found all this rather odd when it should be interesting. It should be more personal than the huge Latvian Open Air Museum, the way small carefully constructed exhibits are. But when I’ve seen it in mid-May 2015, the Jurmala Open Air Museum just looked like an abandoned home in the middle of a forest. Apparently supervised by two people walking about who didn’t even answer my Labrīt greeting (Good day!), with no souvenir shop (I like to get something from every museum) and not even an actual entrance. You just go right in the yard and wonder if you’re in the right place and is that all there is?! The home is so generic. It doesn’t have a story of its own, about the family who lived in it. Or if it does, it’s not written.
Maybe it’s a museum that can only be visited with a guide and/or on special dates. The official information does say it offers workshops, guided visits and events such as a wine festival. Maybe that’s the only time it comes to life. Otherwise, the Jurmala Open Air Museum that I’ve seen is simply disappointing.
This museum is not telling any convincing stories to the occasional guest. Outside a festival I wouldn’t recommend visiting it, especially if travelling on the Jurmala peninsula without a private vehicle – there is 1 bus per hour or 6 km to walk from the nearest train station.
In this case the bigger, more famous Brivdabas Muzejs situated on the shore of lake Jugla is better at showing fishermen’s houses and boats. I liked how they were intentionally placed by the lake, as you can see in the photo.
The Latvian Open Air Museum has annual summer solstice and Anna’s Day events at its fisherman’s farmstead “Vitonielki”, in June and July. It also welcomes a folk art fair in June, followed in July by a Folklore Day and a Latvian Sauna Festival, then in August and September by the Day of the Bread, crafts festivals and a harvest festival.