Latvia - The Potato Chick

Riga, Latvia

In a sentence...another fabulous spot in the Baltics.

Food we loved...everything we ate in Riga was delicious but the most interesting discovery was tinned sprotes. They are a small oily fish, sort of like a baby sardine. Really tasty on crunchy bread and a staple of the Latvian diet.

As we arrived in Riga the cold weather really got serious. The glamour and excitement of the snow was gone and what was left was an icy wind and the sad realisation that gloves had to be worn during the day.

As tempting as it was to stay inside curled up under the doona, the show must go on. And so we instigated a new sightseeing plan of action which ensured some “inside time” (preferably with a warm drink) every two hours.

We started off with an evening watching the ice hockey, a game between Riga and Helsinki. Riga had an early 3-1 lead but could not hold on and eventually lost the game 3-4. Not that the end result had any effect on the utter adulation and enthusiasm of the majority-Riga crowd. They cheered off their team as if they had won the championship. Some later research by Nick revealed that the people of Riga are somewhat used to their team losing.

We braved the cold weather for another bone-chilling free walking tour. Luckily the guide took us to some interesting indoor spots as well so that we could regain feeling in our fingers and toes at regular intervals.

Riga’s old town feels very similar to Tallinn’s except that it is completely flat. While there are not really any viewing points to look over the city from there is more green space than in Tallinn. This is partly because when the city walls were dismantled the moat was turned into a canal which is surrounded by park, a lovely public space which would be fabulous during Summer.

My favourite statue in this park was of George Armistead, an Englishman who was the mayor of Riga for 11 years. Armistead is pictured with his wife and a chow chow dog. One would assume that the dog was a well-known Armistead family pet. However, this is not the case. The statue artist’s chow chow had died recently and it is suspected that the statue was his tribute to his own beloved pet.

About one third of the buildings in central Riga were built using the art nouveau style and we spent a morning checking them all out. The best way to describe this style of architecture would probably be “busy”, a lot of elements thrown together on the facade of each building.

We explored the Russian black market where Nick considered purchasing a Russian passport. After that, we strolled through the Central Market which was probably the best food market we’ve visited during our trip. Constructed from disused Zepellin airplane hangars, the market is enormous with entire halls dedicated to dairy, meat and fish. Everything looked so tempting, especially the salmon and other seafood.

Riga’s Occupations Museum was excellent and gave a really good picture of what life was like for Latvians while the Soviets were in occupation. The stories of the conditions people faced when they were deported from their homes to Siberia and other far flung places were particularly awful.

We finished off our time in Riga with some separate activities. I checked out Riga’s trendy district (a non event) while Nick visited the shooting range to try shooting with a hand gun. Riga is a very popular buck’s weekend destination and, with activities like this readily available, you can see why.

Riga was another great stop on our itinerary and we can only imagine how much better it would be if visited during Summer.

Next stop...Warsaw, Poland.

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Posted 4 December 2014