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.
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?
One of the WWII monuments for the jews and those who helped them out.
Or just strong men ;)
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.... :)