Riga in the Snow 2017

Riga in the Snow 2017

Riga un Sniegs

Daytime Edition

January 2, 2017

Ansis challenged me to try the bus instead of driving to Riga. He said it would be a good way to get back and forth. He left me a schedule, which I lost, but that did not deter me. I spent part of my day on Sunday scouting out the dirt road from his house to the bus stop about 1/2 a kilometer or so away. The bus stop itself listed times that some kind of vehicle might arrive. How much would it cost? What would it be like? I would find out! Adventure is not adventure if you already know the outcome!

I got to the bus stop at 8:30, and the bus was scheduled to be there by 8:40. I was reassured when two women walked up to the stop. Even though only one of them spoke broken English, she confirmed that the bus would take me to Riga and only cost 1.40 Euro!

 

 

‘The bus turned out to be a converted van, which was fine. The seats were comfortable, and even after making stops every few miles, the trip only took forty minutes or so. I would recommend this form of travel to anyone visiting Latvia. What a bargain to be able to go from town to town for only a few Euro a day! Oh, and the driver had a Latvian flag hanging from the mirror. Apparently there is a new push for patriotism with the threat of Putin and Russia.

When I arrived in Riga, I had that wonderful feeling of disorientation. I can compare it to when I was dropped off in the middle of China Town New York, and I had to find Edgar’s studio in Chelsea. This was before I had GPS or anything to guide me. My first goal in Riga was to find a coffee shop and have a nice breakfast. This goal would lead me to my first bad meal in Latvia.

I knew it was going to be bad… it was called Cile Pica (Chili Pizza) and the menu on the window just looked awful. But I couldn’t find any other open place after circling the block. I just settled. This is what happens when you settle. You order crepes with NO sour cream, and they come to you filled with sour cream. You order one sausage on the side, and you get two giant hotdogs. What kind of self-respecting European establishment would serve cheap hotdogs, fry them, and call them breakfast sausages? I can’t believe the people of Riga would stand for such insolence! To be fair, the waiter did redo the crepes, and they were fine with just sugar and strawberry sauce, but there is no forgiveness for breakfast hotdogs.

Then, I got my handy blue book, “Another Travel Guide Riga 4,” out of my backpack and started looking for cool places to go. This guide was a Christmas gift from Ansis and Monta.

I wanted to go to all kinds of museums, but it was Monday, and the websites said several of them were closed. I started my tour at the Academy of Science building. It has a lookout platform on the 17th floor for tourists.

It was worth the 5 Euro to go to the top. I had never seen such a beautiful view of Riga before, and even in the snowy, misty, foggy morning, the city still shines. One cool moment was when I touched a tile on the wall, and it broke off and fell to the ground revealing a dead but colorful fly underneath. I almost put the tile in my backpack as a souvenir, but then I thought cameras… and probably ASBESTOS, so I let it sit there. I hope they don’t accost me at the airport for destroying government property.

Then, my next goal was to find the secret market at Latgale. This is supposed to be a really cool flea market where you can find just about anything, including stolen stuff. But all I found was an empty lot. I asked a couple of locals about it, but no one seemed to know anything. I found it interesting that this supposed Black Market was right across the street from the Police Station.

My walk continued to the Central Market of Riga. This is a famous location that just about every tourist hears about. Giant zeppelin hangars from the German occupation in World War I were moved here to house this gigantic market where open-air sellers in kiosks surround the hangars, and inside the hangars you can find just about everything you could possibly imagine from still breathing fish, to smoked eel, to underwear. It’s all here!

 

On an editorial note, I don’t know how the Central Market can still be around with all the supermarkets and hypermarkets that seem to dominate not only Riga, but all of Latvia. On my walk, I kept thinking that all there seems to be to do in Latvia is shop for things. That might just be an outsider’s perspective, and I am guessing people would say the same thing about Americans.

As I was walking through the market, the snow began to pick up, and the flakes turned into the big, heavy, beautiful ones that remind everyone of what it was like to be a child. I walked down the sidewalk, to the bus station and to the Stockmann department store with my tongue out trying to catch the snowflakes. I must have appeared to be a madman, but I was laughing and enjoying myself so much.

Stockmann was like Younkers, so I left and walked through the park meandering my way through the gathering snow as it decorated the trees and statues. This summer, Sue and Glen went to the Freedom Monument, but I somehow missed it completely, so I was on a mission to find it. It’s not hard to find. Like my brother, Paul, said, it’s one of the tallest structures in Riga. Dedicated to the first independence of Latvia and really it’s formation as a nation in 1918, the monument rises above the park and Lady Liberty holds three shining stars. The stars represent the three historic provinces of Latvia and the unity that binds the country together.

Beer House

The walk then led me to the Laima clock which I knew was close to the Alus Maja (Beer House) which I visited last week. It was where I met the Hungarians. Caspars was not working, but I met his colleague, Leonards, and he was happy to tell me all about which Latvian beers were worth having and which ones were not. As I was sitting at the bar, a tour group came in led by this very loud and determined guide. I told him his English was very good, and he said he had lived in Canada for a few years. I listened as he told the group places to go and see, most of which I had already been to. At the end, when he asked for tips, I threw in a few coins for eavesdropping.

3 Pavaru statue

I spent more time at the Beer House than I meant to, and then meandered through the Christmas Village again, looking for a museum or some sort of intellectual space to spend my time. I realized that I had not had lunch yet, so I wandered into this upscale restaurant called 3 Pavaru, which translates to “three chefs.” I walked in, and the host took my coat, so I knew it was too late to leave. I was going to sit and see what this place had to offer.

To Be Continued! Riga at Night!

 

 

Other photos from the day…

 

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