Riga 06/2017

After a night in Vilnius, Lithuania we visited a Lithuanian shop, bought some groceries and headed in the direction of Riga, Latvia. On the way, we decided to visit one of the proclaimed geographical midpoints of Europe.

Prior to reaching it, we had a weird encounter due to a mistake in the navigation system. Driving towards Riga from Vilnius, the navigation told to drive right on some highway, even though that seemed a bit weird to me. It followed a dusty, stony road, rarely studded with some houses and some seemingly drunk people with a rusty VW Golf 4. At some point, we reached a junction and at that point, I was more than ever sure, that this must be the wrong way.

To our surprise, the drunken people meanwhile had decided to drive their rusty VW Golf 4 on the same road as we did, passing us and blocking the way to one of the junctions branches. As they got out of the car, I already put the car into reverse and checked if there was space behind me, preparing for some fast escape manoeuvre. One of the guys came up to my window, which I opened 1 inch, the other people standing in front of the car.

He started to ask something in Lithuanian. Me: “English, German or Polish.” He started to ask something in Russian. I tried to make him understand that we speak neither of the languages he tried. Eventually, he understood and started to talk in broken Polish, which Natalia understood. After some sentences, we knew how to get to the initially planned waypoint. The key to success was to turn left after 500 more metres on the highway.

The people were eventually getting back in their car, the guy who was talking to us wanted to shake hands. We turned around and even though, given the bad condition of the road, were much faster back on the highway than driving away from it. The car had a special colour afterwards, which lasted until the next rain (see the picture). When we were in a safe distance, I told Natalia to fetch me the disinfection liquid.

We visited the proclaimed centre of Europe and met an older, married couple from Leipzig, Germany. They told us they were travelling a long tour on their bikes, mostly camping, even in the cities. If I remember correctly, they also told that they were teachers at a school in Leipzig, which I kinda guessed based on their attitude and their vocabulary. We helped them by taking a picture of them and so they did for us, we had some small talk and went our ways.

On arrival in Riga, I was amazed by our Airbnb apartment. It was big, it was old and it was quite classy. Leather-chairs, wooden planks on the ground, an old natural gas-based oven, countersash windows. All this paired with a 50 MBit/s internet connection and a free performance of some film-set (I am still trying to figure out which movie was being filmed).

The next days we spent exploring the old town-side of Riga. We both really liked it. The places we visited, particularly the different parks, were perfectly clean and seemed very family friendly. On warm and sunny weather people were going to the parks, sitting, chatting – a scenery which I saw rarely in the recent years in Germany. There was a free, quite stable and city-wide WiFi “lattelecom” almost everywhere. No need to spend money on a SIM-card or do any kind of roaming.

We visited different points of interest, the Latvian War Museum (Latvija Kara Muzejs), a museum which was without any entrance fees and different exhibitions across multiple floors.

The day before our departure to Tallinn, Estonia, we visited the Riga Central Market, a big market consisting of 5 halls with:

  • vegetables
  • dairy products
  • meat
  • fish
  • gastronomy
  • plus some market stalls on the outside

The Riga Central Market is the biggest market in Latvia. We bought some vegetables, fruits, had a coffee, some sweets and fish, we also bought a kind of cottage cheese with a sweet taste and either mixed with cherries, some kind of jellies or plain. I could not figure how this speciality, which we ate mostly with strawberries, was called.

The prices seemed really low. In my theory, you could go there in the morning with 20 Euro, eat the whole day until you are fed up and still leave the market with enough coins to get home by public transport. (Which we did not try, as everything in Riga was in walking distance.)

One day we also visited a special kind of medieval-style restaurant called “Rozengrals“, which was located in a cellar, with very little light emitted by candles. The food there was claimed to be prepared only from ingredients which were available at that time. We really liked the food, the drinks, the atmosphere and hope to be able to visit again. (Excuse the bad quality of the photos caused by the bad lighting conditions.)

On our trip, Riga left a very good impression, much better than most other cities. With streets being clean, people being polite, scammers seemingly not present, prices being more than affordable to me, Riga seems like a very good place for holidays and for living there in general.

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