Riga at Night

Riga at Night

Riga Naktī

January 2, 2017

Creepy, right?

I broke this up because it was getting long. If you are interested, you can read what happened up to this point here. I was at a fancy restaurant decorated with creepy statues that reminded me of the first season of True Detective.

Tell me that’s not creepy.

So they sat me down in these comfortable chairs at a table near the bar. It seems that almost everywhere I go in Latvia, I have to wait longer for a waiter than the locals. Maybe I just am not doing it right or something, but I sat for a long, long time before Veronika finally came to see how I was doing and to take my order. I opted for the trout. It sounded safe. I got the cheapest house white whine they had. Everything else seemed very expensive.

The Variety of Spreads

Veronika returned with several varieties of confections that she spread out on the waxed paper on my table. She squirted berry reduction, orange jelly, apple spread… all these different flavors and gave me some bread. “You use your hands. Is okay,” she said as she walked away. Okay. I had never seen anything like it. I felt like royalty.

 

I dug into the succulent, flavorful bread and spreads and just tried them all. They were wonderful, although a bit more of a dessert than an appetizer. I have to give them credit on originality. I had never seen anything like this before. I am having a tough time finding the words to even describe what this was because it was so different.

The Plate

Outside the windows, I could see the snow falling as I finished tasting. And then my main course arrived. Completely off balance, the plating seems to take advantage of the white space… or I was supposed to order a side, but I was too cheap to do so. Either way, it is beautiful and artistic. Right?

The trout was the best fish I have ever tasted. I think this is still the best meal I’ve had in Latvia. It was a smaller amount, but just perfect for lunch. Delicate, and everything worked together. I have overcome most of my food fears by trying these different dishes, and I am just accepting that these chefs know what tastes good. Most of the time, they are right!

The War Museum

Creepy Latvian Guard

I had plans for drinks at 5:30, so after the meal, I had about an hour to kill. Museum time! I finally went to the famous Latvian War Museum which is housed in this very conspicuous tower in the midsts of Old Town. I had never gone before because I figured it was touristy. But hey, I was a tourist, and I wanted to see a museum.

 

Bonanza! It was free! I just had to hang up my coat and put my backpack away, and I was off on the tour. I won’t bore you with all the details which took me from the Medieval Latvian era all the way through the present day. The highlight was to see the time of German and Soviet occupation in the early 1940s. This was when Vitauts, my father, was conscripted into the military at the age of 15. I found the display of the shoes that they were given to the young men to be especially powerful. I look forward to getting home to share these pictures with him to see if any of them strike memories.

The whole history of Latvia is so convoluted. I am used to our American history which is tidy. We are such a young country that basically formed from this idea of a manifest destiny. Latvia’s history is dirty and muddy with so many conflicts with so many surrounding tribes, affiliations and countries. It’s amazing that there came to be these common people with a history and language that they could call their own. A country that has been trampled over and over by history, but the people remain united. It’s kind of exciting when you think about it.

Or maybe it’s sad, and I’m just being optimistic. Either way, it’s fascinating to me.

Most of the signs were in Latvian, so I wish I’d had a guide to share with me some of the information. I was just looking for anything familiar. As I walked through the history of warfare, I thought of my friends from Yutan, Jeff, Cory, Billy, and the rest and how we used to play with toy guns and really get into it. The models and reproductions at this museum were just incredible. I wish the display were more spread out and set up so that the models were out in the open as if recreating some scene from history. They deserve better than to simply be put upon shelves.

The museum was closing at 5 p.m. A bell rang at 4:45, and the doors started closing. Time to go!

Me Happy

Now it was night, and I walked past the Laima clock again, and through the park to some hidden alleyway for supper. I seriously had another rapturous moment of pure joy as I saw the park dressed in its winter splendor, and there was again something so beautiful and magical about everything that it’s hard to put into words. I was laughing aloud, tearing up, all so emotional in the spirit of just feeling like… I’m here, doing this… right now? I am so blessed.

Andaluzijas Suns

The Big Red

I found myself aimlessly searching for an address, when I came upon this beautiful woman smoking a cigarette in a doorway. “Kur ir Andaluzijas Suns?” I asked. She said, “That is my place. It is right around the corner.” She pointed, and there was a courtyard I had completely missed. It was lovely.

I was a bit early, so I decided to have a drink. I went with the Big Red. It was neither big, nor really red, but it was delicious. I later found out that the restaurant was named for a movie that Salvador Dali had made, very hipster. “An Andalusian Dog” That’s why the dog on the menu has that mustache. Duh! Warning… only watch this if you have a strong stomach.

For supper, I was given a menu in Latvian and told to, “Just choose something.” I found a word I recognized because of my cousins: “Jerins.” I will have the lamb. I was so proud of myself for knowing some words.

The meal was very good, but not as delightful as the presentation. The little lamb chops were spread on this long, black board. Each one on top of a spoonful of mashed potatoes. Artful. That’s the only way to really describe it.

 

 

The MTS Station

The meal and the company were delightful, and now I just had one more mission– to find out where the bus back to Ansis’ house was going to be! I knew that the schedule had one at 9:35 and at 10:40. It was only 9:15, so I had plenty of time. I stopped in front of this hotel where there was a bus and stop. It seemed like a likely place for a bus to show up. But I was wrong.

 

I checked my watch, and it was a few minutes past 9:35, so I started walking up and down the block until I found it. The MTS station that no on in Riga seemed to know about. It is this space where vans drive up to specified stops. Each stop has a time table. Each bus space is numbered. Oh…. Jeff. Why didn’t you find this before? Now it was after 9:40, and I would have to wait until 10:40 for the last bus to arrive. Oh, look… a casino.

Yes, I spent another 15 Euro at the stupid casino. But this time I did get ahead a little bit before squandering all of my money. Some drunk guys wanted to engage in conversation, but I was too worried about missing the final trip back home. I just had to hope that the bus would really be there, and it wouldn’t be canceled or off on this particular day for whatever reason.

At precisely 10:39 the driver showed up at the stop. He spoke no English at all, and Ansis’ house isn’t exactly easy to find. I showed him the map on my phone. It was just me and one other guy who got off halfway on the van, so the driver wasn’t too busy. When he approached my stop, he literally counted the roads between us and Ansis’ road to see where he should let me off. I kept telling him there was a bus stop and a veikals (shop), but that didn’t help. I figured he must have driven this route a hundred times… shouldn’t he know?

Anyway, he slowly found the stop, and I walked in the frigid arctic air back to the house where I fed the fish and the bunny and promptly stayed up too late reading Anna Karenina thinking about how it applied to Latvia and my trip and the world.

Next up? Bauska Pils. Yes… another castle.

 

 

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