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Published: November 4th 2013
Red brick Gothic, as often seen in cities that used to be part of the Hanse.
In the middle of August, my friend Hetty spent a long weekend in Riga. We arrived there on a Wednesday night, Hetty had flown in from Munich and I from Hamburg. It was perfect timing, and we started our long weekend that we had both been looking forward to with a nice glass of wine in the hotel bar. This was a kind of curious experience. We wanted a glass of red wine each, Cabernet Sauvignon, to be precise. The bar tender said he was sorry that the wine was not cold – which of course was perfectly fine for us. Who drinks cold red wine?! Then he started opening a bottle of white wine and I had to tell him that we actually wanted RED wine. But finally, we got what we wanted and enjoyed it.
The next morning, we started exploring the city. Our hotel was located close to the Cathedral in the city centre, therefore we could easily walk everywhere. Riga does not have one single “must see” attraction. What is nice about it is rather the city as a whole. It used to be part of the Hanse, the trade union of cities in Northern Europe.
... where we attended the concert with organ and saxophone.
Thus, there are quite a few of the brick buildings that one can also see for example in Hamburg. But there is also a lot of Art Nouveau and there are still some traditional wooden houses that reminded me of Norway or Sweden. The city is by a river, the Daugava, which has one side arm with little parks on both sides of it that make the city very green.
Everything we wanted to see was within walking distance and Hetty and I did quite a bit of walking. We enjoyed the warm and sunny weather and the nice food in the restaurants. On Friday night, we attended an organ concert in the Cathedral of a very special kind: organ and saxophone, composed by contemporary Latvian composers. It may sound strange, but it actually was quite a nice and at the same time very intense combination.
The food we had there was really nice. For example, on Thursday, we had some traditional potato variations for lunch and then had dinner in our hotel room, with wonderful cheese, nuts, dried fruit, and wine. On Friday, we went to a medieval restaurant for lunch. It was in the basement of
... the square in the city centre where there are many very nice restaurants.
a building and only lighted by candles. When we got into the room, we could barely see anything after coming out of the bright sunlight outside, but after a while, our eyes got used to it. The food was excellent (we had a pumpkin dish and some kind of non-sweet wheat cake). On Saturday, we enjoyed some nice food just opposite our hotel. Finally, there was a chocolate shop where we had variations of chocolate cake and tried some traditional Latvian liqueur.
On Saturday and Sunday, there was the big city festival. There is a lot going on in the city during this festival. There were stages where bands played various kind of music, there were little competitions like a run or a boat race, and there was a spectacular air show with different planes just above the river. The planes got so close to us that we could almost see the pilots! On the square in front of the dome, there were many stands selling crafts. The nice thing about this arrangement was that there were only stands selling goods, no food stands. The latter were more close to the river, where Hetty and I sat down in
Chocolate & liqueur shop
Wonderful selection of chocolate and here we also tasted Balzam, a traditional Latvian liqueur.
the shade, had some garlic-garlic bread (very stinky, but extremely tasty) and tried the Latvian beer. This was a lazy Saturday afternoon, and we definitely enjoyed just hanging out in the shade and watching people (yes, always the psychologists 😉).
We both really enjoyed the weekend. The city has a nice atmosphere and is very laid back. This sometimes comes at the cost that in the restaurants sometimes one has to wait until being served for a while, but we did not mind at all because we were on holiday. People are friendly. The city is not purely Latvian, there are also many Russians who live there, and there are of course the tourists. Thus, menus in restaurants are usually in at least three languages: Latvian, Russian, and English. The Latvian language is part of the Finno-Ugric language family, the one that is so different that one simply cannot understand a word of it. I already mentioned it, but the food was also really good, and I liked the fact that even as a vegetarian I could choose from a rather wide variety of dishes. Hetty and I worked the food off by going running together twice, which was
... on rooftops...
the first time we did this and which worked out just fine.
Too soon the weekend was over, it was Sunday afternoon, and we had to fly back home. Thank you Hetty for a wonderful weekend in a beautiful city 😊.
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