Published: July 3rd 2012December 1st 2012
This entry includes a text about our short stay in Riga on June 14:
"It is all too simple. We took an Ecolines bus from Berlin to Riga. The bus turned out to be very convenient and there was even an attendant and we could order meals and drinks; but there were only several persons on this route.
The trip took the whole day and we passed several cities and towns like Suwalki, Marijampole etc. On arriving to Riga, I had a feeling that it seemed very much like our own Russia, something remaining from the Soviet era. There was a 4-hour wait till the bus to St. Petersburg.
I bought a map and we left the luggage at the station; there was Russian speech everywhere. I wanted to have a short walk seeing the main sights as usual, and this was completed in less than 2 hours but then we returned to the bus station and sat there waiting for the bus. From time to time, if not constantly, persons would approach us seeking material assistance and speaking Russian.
The bus to St. Petersburg was full up. I had no sleep. Some “obscene word” guys
were talking quite loudly behind our backs and this was very annoying, but very soon the border was passed (no queues) and we entered the good old Russia via Narva (there is an old fortress there).
I’m intending to visit Riga again to have a more extensive impression of it." Text below is for December 1 and 2:
Simple Express bus from Vilnius to Riga departed in the morning. A young man (from Egypt, if I heard in right) was disallowed boarding due to lack of passport. The driver urged him to present an identity document, the man seemed to understand nothing, though he was accompanied by a girl who tried to explain to him everything, finally, the driver gave them directions to a sort of consular or embassy establishment. There was quick document check at the Latvian border because passengers were few.
My Teddy Bear Hostel was so close to the bus station but there were no lights at the entrance because of repairs. I was met by a Russian-speaking girl and was sole in the room at first; in the evening, 4 females were added.
I went outside at once, because it would soon
get dark, and I wanted to redo all sights quickly. Quick travelling is questionable practice, but nevertheless I do what I’m able to do. It felt a bit different this time compared to the first time, when I was more enthusiastic. Should we always be more enthusiastic on the first visit to a place?
A lot more tourists than in Vilnius promenaded the paved narrow streets and squares. The Doma Laukums offered several fair booths selling music, handicraft, clothes and foods. I breathed in festive Christmas air and went to the Lielais Kristaps on the embankment (the sun was setting in scarlet halo). The next point of interest was castle walls, again only remains, with a tower and a cannon; Freedom Square with a statue on top holding a wreath, Radisson hotel blazing with lighted windows, and the Orthodox Cathedral also looking superb in dusk light.
Near the square there was the omnipresent McDonalds where I refected myself with a burger and fried potatoes. Proceeding to Livu Laukums, I saw more fair booths, most of them closed because of late time, and the garlands on fir trees stretching to buildings complemented my cheerfulness.
I again proved to
myself the usefulness of studying guidebooks for certain places, and this time it was the café Pelmeni XL (specialized in various kinds of pelmenis) which I noted from Riga in Your Pocket and, given the fact that next day I most likely wouldn’t be able to taste it, entered and satisfied the inner man again with pelmenis and soup. Very cheap.
I spent the evening at the hostel, reading the book and reading about Sigulda. There seemed to be so many interesting items, but I felt everything would come out all right.
On arriving to Sigulda, I did not know where to go, but intuitively chose the right direction and soon came across a large tourist map and carefully studied it. The first attraction was the Keys Park, next, the white Lutheran church. I found my way by the map and signs on each crossroads. There was the Canes Park and very few people. I came to the Old Castle ruins and the Kropotkin Palace. Just a few meters from the castle entry, there were about two dozen small fanciful figures of funny warriors, made of I don’t know what (stones and metal,
Another treat was the cableway to Krimulda over the Gauja Valley, in a small cabin managed by a girl selling the tickets and controlling the car. It wasn’t very scary and the views were fir and other trees snowed up. I had no map, but there were signs; it was a bit cold but after descent to the valley it became warmer. I saw the Krimulda manor and castle ruins hidden among trees like in a fairytale. Everywhere was snow. I descended into the park enjoying the scenery and the small cave and the large Gutman cave. The latter’s walls were covered with all kinds and sizes of inscriptions overlapping each other into a maze of words, signs, and lives.
The last destination was Turaida Castle, it was unseen, I followed the road shoulder, a bit hazardous due to cars passing every other minute. Soon I saw the castle and wanted to simply go up the hill but then found the entrance and paid the fee of 2.00 LVL to climb the renovated tower with a view platform. So many castles, so many towers this year… I had to hurry to the bus station, and it came
on schedule, its only passengers being me and a woman.
Back to Riga, I had to wait several hours before the bus and explored the central station complex. Then I sat at the bus station, finished reading Dandelion Wine. The book made me so gloomy, how the little boy thought about life and death… Heart-rending. Happy Christmas and New Year!
There are more photos below