Monday, 9 May 2011

Easter and May

I'm not sure why I always type "Eastern".
I insist of adding that n to make it sound more.. something.
Not sure.

The weekend after Riga was Easter, though. Saw the family, like I would be (or so I thought) a lot, for a couple of weeks. May always starts with 14 birthdays in the first two weeks, mine being amongst them. There was my uncle singing the Matthäus Passion on Thursday (and Friday, but Thursday's the one we went to), Friday and Saturday evening church services, Sunday morning, easter morning, and easter brunch, before a barbecue at my cousin's and a sleep over, and a chillaxing day at the beach the day after. I do still abhor the sun.

The week after that I was thinking to myself I was in desperate need of a short holiday, when a lot of things happened at once.
1. I came down with a migraine that wouldn't leave me the hell alone for almost a week.
2. I lost my voice by absolutely not using it too much/too loudly.
3. I thought of visiting the doctor's so got sent to the physiotheraptist and got officially diagnosed with migraine.
4. I visited the dentist cause I thought that silly tooth ache might not be helping my headache much. Dentist found it necessary to send me to a jaw-physiotherapist (didn't know those existed), and a (quick!) endodormic therapy treatment thing I had scheduled next day. (Immediate, after all, is like quick.)
5. At the treatment/surgery thing I got well drugged, and didn't feel anything till they started cleaning. Suddenly pain shoots all through my root down to my throat and chokes me. Apparently my roots have been dissolving themselves. In two months, it's either hoping that stopped, or they're pulling (at least) that molar.
6. After all the bad news my body starting caving in. The moment I ate something wrong (at least, I think I did) I threw up night and day. Diarrhea as well. Total dehydration. Poor me.
7. All this and I'm still migrainish. Yes? Feeling sorry for me yet?
8. I rest/lay in bed or on couch all day, and come down with a fever.
9. There's such an incredible heatwave here (did I mention I hate warmth? I do not function well with warmth. At all) that the fever won't die down.
10. Am totally late with my period. Anyone dare joke about any possible pregnancy will get punched in the nose.
11. Am nauseous a lot since. Through pain, and warmth, and PMSing.
12. Felt a cold sore growing on my lip this last night.
13. Woke up with two cold sores (upper and lower, right hand side).

Good times.
NOW I'm in desperate need of a holiday.
And I'm sad I feel so horrible when I'm supposed to be having the best day of my year.
(Tomorrow's my birthday. I want presents. Hint, hint.)

The Gypsy

Sunday, 8 May 2011

All Around Latvia (2)

Had I mentioned in my previous post that they have a Garlic restaurant in Rīga? Cause they do.
For starters, they have a garlic soup. As a main course, everything drowned in garlic. And for desert? Garlic ice cream. I kid you not. And apparently, it tastes really well, too. You only need not be a vampire, not have any relatives or friends (or partner) who mind the garlic stench that takes two weeks to fade.

Thursday morning started way too early, us having gone to bed by what? Morning. Right. Most of us were walking around on two -three hours sleep. Though everybody knew the day's schedule, so there was hardly anything they could grumble about.

We started out with the Laima Chocolate tour. I was under the impression (at the site) that we'd get a tour through Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. No such luck. It was fun though, and very interesting. Who knew that Laima started out as a factory of chocolate and.. socks?
And before they moved, the factory right next door was a tobacco factory?
That's something to think about, nay?
We ended our tour through the old factory neighbourhood in a Laima chocolate and sweets shop. Very strategic, if I may say so. I did a lot of souvenir buying there, if anywhere. ;D

We had a short "break" to get back to the hotel, and afterwards left for a visit to the Museum of Occupation. And I must say, Latvia's been properly harrassed since.. forever. Middle ages onwards, the Baltic States have basically been change (currency, like) for both Western Europe and the Soviet Union. "Oh, you don't need it? Really? It'll be a burden but, eh, we'll take it for a bit".. Or:
" I'll give you Belgium! =D... ""Uh.. +Hesitant+ " "I'll add some Baltic states? =D" "Oh... Alright"

The woman who gave us the tour was exceedingly enthousiastic (The person giving us the Chocolate tour was so as well. Two enthusiastic welcoming Latvians on one day? Shocking.) and brought the story very humorously. :) Even though it seriously was a crappy story. Poor Latvia.

An immitation of a Gulag.
Now try imagining fifty people sleeping on top of each other.
Mostly almost naked. Shivering. In temperatures of -30's.

Guess once who that silly guy is with the silly moustache?

That afternoon we went to the Redisson Blu hotel, and we got a tour and presentation about the hotel itself, before heading up to the famous Sky Line Bar. Some people had suggested doing that in the very beginning, for it being on the 26th floor gives one the perfect view for all over Latvia. I, however, thought it was a nice kind of "closure", seeing as most people were going home the next day. We had spent so much time in Rīga, we could point out some of the spots where we had been. So much fun.

This, sirs and ladies, is the presidential suite of Redisson Blu.

The outside of the SkyLine Bar. Again, at opening hours. (16.00)
Again. Ghost place.

The Panorama View from the SkyLine Bar.

We'd agreed that we'd end the week with a dinner all together at Rozengrals, a medieval themed restaurant, where waiters and waitresses dressed consistently serve you soup in stone chalices, and give you the bill in a wooden box with a crest.
The group had, however, heard that there was an ice hockey game to be played live, that same evening. Some wanted to go and see that, but not everyone was interested in that same activeness. Seeing as that dinner was going to be paid from the "budget", unlike most evenings, there was a certain.. hesitation about who was going to pay, and how. In the end, little Jessie got hold of the credit card and the password. Pretty neat, nay? I'm so reliable. It says so on my forehead +nodnod+
Everybody else gave me the same reaction when they found out : "Oh! Lets go shopping!"
When I'd heard that remark for the fifth time I responded with a "Yeah. That's why they gave /me/ the credit card." I know. I'm such a dull girl.

Rozengrals, Medieval Restaurant.

On the inside.

Part of the group. :3
Friday: No pictures.
Rather "slow" day, in comparison.
Big part of the group was packing, so I went with the only adults to the "shadier" part of Rīga: their "Black Market".. Bizarre place, really. Don't go there with cameras or in big groups. Don't look more out of place than necessary. Use your best Russian/Latvian.
I almost got sold a genuine kalashnikov. I just didn't have the money.
Nor do I think would Customs appreciate the thought.

Kelly, Everlina and I said goodbye to the rest of that group, and moved our stuff to our last accommodation of the week: Funky Hostel. Best place we'd had all week, although maybe that was because it was just the three of us. The two party animals actually hit the hay at 22.00, so I socialized and made friends with an American girl (Lindsay, sweet girl, awesome companion) and the Latvian Hostel manager (Freddie, enthusiastic about everything positive).

Note: Lindsay was doing this quick-tour-all-over-Europe. She'd already been to Germany and Lithuania, came to Latvia and was planning to go on to Belgium, France, Italy, Spain, and Holland before returning to Texas. (She's almost been to more countries than I have. Pfew. And I might have missed out on some.) Sadly I was kidnapped, drugged and performed surgery on on the day she was here in Holland. )= Otherwise I'd've gone to proudly tour her around or something. Lol. But yeah. My luck, huh? If I ever go to Chicago, though...!

Saturday started out slowly. We'd had a couple of long walks behind us and we were reloading. Kelly and Everlina wanted to check out a seven storey shopping mall, for which I excused myself immediately. I was not planning on spending an entire day shopping in Latvia. We've got shops in Holland, and I only go /there/ when I /need/ anything.
So I chartered Lindsay to go for some more culture sniffing *hah* (and more walking *sob*), which turned out to be a spiffing move on my part. We traded cameras, thus I could take plenty of pictures of her, and she plenty of lil ol'me. Good idea, if I say so myself.

We also (spontaneously, I might add) walked into the Museum of Latvian Art (all the way back to the middle ages?), which had an exposition on photography named "All around Latvia" (Hence the title, wink wink, nudge), of a photographer who had seriously been all around, and taken the pictures in Black and White, which inspired me to put my camera on that setting for the rest of the day. Lawl. Seriously brilliant. The two of us met up with Everlina and Kelly at the end of the afternoon. Mall turned out to be a serious failure. We had a drink together, and then scouted for a restaurant near the hostel.

Sitting there, playing all by himself. Poor guy.

Lindsay taking a picture of me taking a picture with her camera.

Totally had not noticed that. I look weird.

In the Museum.
The artist who made the biggest impression on me had his paintings in a "don't take photographs"room. Bugger.

Not sure why I liked this. The old man looked so sad.

I just laughed out loud at this.
Only one other creature will. Probably.
No offence though. I took the picture with love. :3

All Around Latvia.
Black and white Numero Uno.
Black and white Numero Dos.
Good food. Good place. Rather cute.

Our Hostel view.

Last day there was a Sunday. Last day we did anything, anyways.
We (Kelly, Everlina and I) went to Sigulda! :D Took the bus from Riga, and it brought us to Sigulda in roughly an hour. It was too warm for Latvian weather, I mean.. seriously.. I could've just gone to .. Italy or something. Pff.
Anyways. Sigulda's a little town based on forest, basically. With castle ruins, caves, churches and the like. Seeing as Everlina's got a fear of heights, we passed on the cable track ferries, and Kelly's got claustrophobia, so we also did not even try seeing the caves. We did have fun, though, and certainly made enough pictures to last us.. well, a long time of laughter.

Went back to Riga and found a burger (bah) place to eat something before heading back to the hostel and resting/freshening up a bit. Then we went to the Sky Line Bar for our "final goodbye" to Riga, Lindsay came along too! :) I even made a video of the panoramic lift going down. Notice Everlina's standing by the door a good way away from the glass. Poor girl. See through lifts are no good for fear of heights.

Central bus station at Riga.
Everlina taking my picture whilst I'm taking hers.

Two brilliant guards. Not too serious, though.

Snow in dah sun!

Sigulda at it's best.


Two churches in one picture. :)

A beautiful ruin.

Castle. With a British "ah".

My (virgin) Mojito in the Sky Line Bar.
Kept turning that song of the ad over and over in my head.
Tastes like something I had in Roastery (Egypt) years ago. :) - brought back memories.

Sky Line Bar -- and going down.

Last morning there, I'd packed and was ready, and went for one last quick walk around town with Lindsay whilst Kelly and Everlina got ready (showered and packed).
I finally found Riga's famous Cat's House. :) The one I'd bought a souvenir of days earlier.
That seriously made my trip complete.

If you've stuck with me this far, I take my hat off for you.
Of course, means you either skimmed or already are a faithful reader (in which case you are loved).

Updates on my current state in the next post. (Which will be soon. -as soon as I feel a bit better-Promise)

The Gypsy

Monday, 25 April 2011

All around Latvia (1)

I remembered this morning that this was pretty much the reason I started a blog at all. Once upon a time, a long while ago, I thought it would be fun to keep track of my travels and post pictures online. I was still living in Egypt back then, and suddenly impatient to wait till I started traveling, I just went along and started typing. Which has worked out quite well for me, seeing as it's a brilliant way to vent.

However, whenever I do travel, I should probably give some sort of account on this blog.
Just to slightly keep the idea alive.
And because I just want to write about it. Hah. You hadn't seen that coming, had you?

I definitely haven't been "all around" Latvia, but I've seen pretty much every street in Riga, and we even went on two daytrips to the beach and forest.

Day one started out good. The weather was sunny, though chilly, and hundreds of Latvians welcomed us with a flashmob of blowing bubbles on the biggest square in the centre of Riga. That was defininitely fun to watch.

Bubble mob!

Jetlaggy (or just tired?), we only picked a place where to have breakfast for the next day, didn't do too much. Oh, and I started keeping a lookout for new shoes. I thought that'd be a good idea, seeing as I hadn't brought along my most comfortable ones. (Wait, do I have comfortable shoes at all? Probably not. Shoes aren't meant for comfort. Flip-flops, on the other hand... Anyways.)

The next day we moved to the hotel we had booked, which meant a change of rooms.

After that, we had a three hour walk with a theme: Architecture. Riga's one great place for art and architecture. Seriously. From Renaissance, Gothic, to Art Nouveau, from wooden houses till brick ones, from old to extremely modern, new and flashy. And all next to one another, so that the contrast showed even more. Same with Latvian people, by the way. It was either entirely slutty with too short skirts, too high heels, too much make-up, too much of a perfect hair-do, and too blond, or it was a fur-coat-that-covers-everything-even-with-the-sunshine. They just don't smile. They walk right into you, or stand on your foot, and don't apologize. Maybe I'm too Dutch, or just weird that I expect everyone to smile all day at complete strangers?

A symbol of people holding up a falling wall.
One of the WWII monuments for the jews and those who helped them out.

The Science Academy.
Or Stalin's Birthday Cake.

Zeppelin halls re-used.

An orthodox church.

Art nouveau?
Or just strong men ;)

Three different century styles alongside each other.

We walked into Espa (a spa, obviously) when it started to rain too heavily, and the people at the reception were friendly enough to give us an entire tour spontaneously. :) So they can be hospitable when they want to be. We ended our walk in a pancake restaurant. Good idea. :)
Just (two minutes) before all shops closed I bought myself a pair of (seemingly bowling) shoes. More comfortable than what I'd brought with. :)

The next morning we visited the Rīga zoo. We actually arrived before opening time, and that meant we got to see it as a ghost town. They've got a wide variety of animals, of which the kangeroos were the most surprising, and the tiger and giraffes the most impressive. They, however, had no elephants. Which zoo in the world doesn't have elephants, for crying out loud?

By noon we'd seen it all, and left for Rīga's Central Station, after which we took the train (three seats, more spacious then I'd expected) to Jūrmala, the widest beach (32 kms) of Latvia.

The Latvian train. Cute, nay?

Part of James' tour group -- Free Tours :)

We had a tour and saw some of the most important buildings there, visited a sort of place of a sect? They did things with herbs and summer solstices and believe in witches and seasons and karma and whatnot. Then our tour guides had thought up a game: We could walk that 5-6 kms we'd spend hours walking right back, in a competitive (rat) race, with several assignments and questions about the information they'd given us on the way, each correct assignment or answer scoring us bonus points.
Conclusion: Lots of ridiculous assignment pictures. Lots of walking. Lots of blisters.

Solstice. I find that hard to spell still.

Bright blue sky. Long walk. Motivated people.
On the way there, anyways. Walking back was a different story.

Says it all, really ;)

We only searched for a place to eat when we got back to Rīga, and I think we just spent the evening in each other's hotel rooms making a mess.

The next day we took fairly easy. We asked LiveRīga for a presentation, and they gave us that in a little room of Air Baltic. Cosy, modern and simple. And most importantly: Apple green. :)
The guy spent a lot of time hammering on the fact that Latvia's been hit by the economic crisis more badly than most countries, which triggered the story the guy at the zoo had mentioned: 20-30% of all Latvians have emmigrated in the past couple of years, most of them in their twenties and thirties, hoping to find a better future elsewhere (especially trying their luck in England and Ireland). That explains the abundance of elderly (usually smelling like garlic) in Latvia, and a minority of teenagers and children. And families at all, really.
It also explains the lack of laughter and smiling over there. A bit. Partly is probably just Russian/Soviet stoicism.

We visited a "real" Mall that afternoon, cause the group had thought up to go bowling somewhere. With real, I generally mean out-of-normal-proportions-mega-huga-über-fancy kind of mall that you walk in to and forget in what country you are, cause it's so characterlessly state of the art fashionable.
I'm pretty sure that paragraph had grammatical mishaps, but it also tells you I'm not a mall-girl whatsoever. For a mall though, the place was exceedingly pretty.


Bowling. Bar. Karaoke. Video arcade.
They had it all.

Oh. And shops. As in.. Big name shops.

Bowling was fun, for bowling. It got rather tiring after an hour. And obvious who plays it a lot and who never does. It was more about the company I s'pose, than anything else.

That evening four of our group construct a little game of ZigZag across Rīga, where they'd left us several clues all over the city and had us running from one big monument to the other, till I actually started recognizing street names and remembering where which café was. Quite a record, for my poor memory. I think I could even type some street names out here, if I tried.
I wish I hadn't said that. Now I'm about to try.
Kaleju iela. Skunu iela. Skarnu iela. Karosjna Barova iela. Bivibas iela. :) There we go. Iela means street, by the way. First Latvian word I understood myself.

We ended that evening/night/morning all together in a club called Essentials. Seeing as it had been an entire day of teamwork and teambuilding, we figured, why not.
Pretty interesting to see how different people party differently. I won't over analyze it, partying should be a no brainer anyways, that's part of the fun. It definitely was our last outing as an entire group partying, that's for sure.

To be continued.... :)

The Gypsy