Last stop: Riga

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June 4th 2013
Published: July 2nd 2013
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I arrived in Riga around 6:30am on the Friday. My ticket gave the impression that I would be changing buses in Vilnius, Lithuania, at 4:30, however, at 5:30, we had not stopped. I became a little concerned until I noticed street signs indicating that I was headed in the direction of Riga.

I took a taxi to the Naughty Squirrel hostel, where I was greeted by a woman named Wendy. She showed me a city map and advised numerous places of interest. I went out for a walk, stopped for breakfast at a bakery called Martin's, then kicked back and relaxed in the common area of the hostel until my room was ready.

I showered, pottered around and laid down for a while. I slept for perhaps half an hour before I was awoken by a familiar voice; Rich had arrived! It was great to see him and after a quick catch-up, we set out for dinner.

We tucked into tiny but pricey steaks, then went back to the hostel to get warmed up for the pub crawl. We got chatting to a few fellow travellers, including a really cool German guy whose girlfriend was sick in bed,

aka 'hangover soup'
and a young guy from South America.

We had our four free shots before leaving the hostel, then set out to trawl the bars. I remember sipping my free beer in an empty underground club that filled up as we were leaving, handing Rich a seemingly abandoned shot and girls giving him evils for drinking it in a bar that served epic mojitos (of which i probably had one too many), dancing at a rock gig somewhere, and sitting outside yet another bar having a deep conversation with Rich. I don't remember getting back to the hostel or refusing more alcohol while Rich drank his beer in the bar area, but Rich filled in the blanks the next day.

Lifting my head off the pillow the next morning was somewhat of a challenge. We dragged ourselves across the road to what claims to be the oldest bar in Riga, and treated ourselves to some much-needed solyanka, aka 'hangover soup'. We also ordered main courses, which proved far too much for both of us, and I offended the owner of the place by only eating half of what was on my plate. Tut tut.

In the afternoon, we set out to the shooting range, as booked through our hostel. I was the only woman in a group of fourteen (aside from the guide). When we arrived, we were given safety information and ear muffs etc, then we began shooting. As Kevin Hart once said, "this is when the bitch came out of me"; in short, I (metaphorically) shat myself. I was so petrified that I tried to back out. Fortunately, Rich and the female guide talked me into persevering.

Rich and I quietly agreed that the old-ish guy running the show was clearly a stone-cold killer. He had a confident calm about him that oozed an unspoken ability to take out our whole group in seconds. He didn't speak English, so any translations were carried out by our tour leader (who, apparently, was also the owner of our hostel).

I was last in line to shoot, as Rich and I had signed up to the 'Rambo Package', meaning we would be shooting all five of the guns on offer: a glock, a magnum, a pump-action shot-gun, a spas and an AK. Despite the fact that I was shaking like a leaf, I managed to hit my target every time with both hand-guns, the Magnum quickly becoming my weapon of choice. The three big guns, however, was a different story. To sum up, I quote Rich:

"Did you get bored of shooting your own target, hence going for everyone else's?"

We left the shooting range with far less severe hangovers than we arrived with, and despite the fact that I was counting down the bullets and guns in anticipation of leaving, I'm glad I did it. I have decided, however, that the next time I fire a gun, it will be with the purpose of killing somebody (preferably with a handgun, otherwise I'll most certainly miss). Otherwise, firearms have no place in my hands.

We relaxed in the afternoon, then went to a restaurant/bar called Ala (full name: Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs, aka Folk Club ALA Basement) as recommended by the hostel. The food was amazing, but, once again, my eyes were bigger than my belly and I was unable to finish my 1kg pork hock meal. Of course, I saved room for a pear cider or two, though.

We trotted back to the hostel, and sat at the bar next door, nursing yet
The Academy of ScienceThe Academy of ScienceThe Academy of Science

aka Stalin Birthday Cake
more cider. Then, we turned in. Such melts.

On Sunday, we rose relatively early and trotted down to Martin's for some pastry breakfast treats, before heading to St Peter's church to join the free walking tour. I should probably add that we stopped for a cheeky pear cider at The Dubliner (quite obviously an Irish pub) but that our initial intentions were honourable - we only went in to enquire about the showing of that evening's football. Realising we had time to spare, though, we kicked back with a drink. Before midday. Sheer class.

At midday, we joined the tour, led by Angeles, who was informative, funny and cute as a button! The tour runs daily from outside St Peter's (look for the yellow suitcase!) and is free, although donations are customary. Typically, I don't like organised tours, preferring to explore by myself, at my leisure, but I really enjoyed and would highly recommend this one! It had it all: history, culture and architecture, and was thoroughly entertaining throughout. Among other things, we visited a church made of wood (one of many that were repeatedly burned down during Latvia's numerous invasions), the 'Stalin Birthday Cake' (a Soviet Stalinist structure, now the Academy of Science), and the Freedom Monument - erected in honour of the soldiers that lost their lives during the 1918-1920 Latvian War of Independence.

Afterwards, we hung out with two guys from the tour (a Colombian and an Aussie from London - both of whom were actually staying at our hostel) and had lunch at Ala. I was a little less ambitious this time, and went for a chicken meal, which was delicious. No prizes for guessing which beverage I washed it down with.

We had a wander around the town in the afternoon, put the word out about the England v Brazil match, then went to the Dubliner. We ordered food, and bagged ourselves decent seats in front of the screen. We were shortly joined by loads of the lads from the hostel, as well as Sabina (who works there) and the football chatter and banter began.

A little Brazilian guy joined in the fun and games, shouting obscenities in Portuguese, much to our amusement! When he yelled something particularly offensive (and similar to the Spanish equivalent, hence my understanding of it) he turned and apologised to me, obviously having seen the
shocked (yet still amused) look on my face. Then he continued his tirade.

The match ended in a 2-2 draw, and we set out in search of the next watering hole. We soon arrived at Kiwi Bar, where we drank, laughed and chatted til the wee hours. I bailed out relatively early, though, as I didn't want to be hung over the next day. Such a sensible lass, me.

On Monday, I made myself look presentable, stopped off at Martin's for breakfast, and went in search of my new school. Having been interviewed by Skype and offered a position whilst in India, I wanted to go and introduce myself, as well as check out my new workplace.

I won't waffle on too much about it, but I was very impressed! It seems modern and organised, and the staff were friendly and welcoming. I'm looking forward to getting started!

In the afternoon, Rich and I did some souvenir shopping, and I had my one and only healthy meal in Latvia - a prawn salad. Without cider. Bet you didn't see that coming!

Back at the hostel that evening, we participated in a few games of beer-pong, grabbed a burger and chips a few doors down, and trotted along to Kiwi Bar. Rich and I had decided to pull an all-nighter, given that we would have to be up at 6am to get to the airport, anyway. It was a long but fun night, ending in a 4am meat pie, 5am kick-out, and the last three standing being Rich, Michel (from Canada) and myself.

After a shower and half-hour laze in the common room, we took a taxi to the airport, both glum to leaving Riga. I didn't feel too miserable, though, knowing I'd be returning in a few months. Also, tiredness was beginning to take over, and once I sat down on the plane, I was out like a light.

And so concludes my epic three month journey! This entry is muy tarde, so apologies to those of you that have been sitting at the computer since the end of May, awaiting my final entry. This trip has been an awesome experience and I have met some amazing people! Now, back to reality. Until next time.....


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