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Published: August 1st 2016
RigaDay 191 Wednesday 27th July 2016 – Tartu to Riga
Easy day today, with us taking our time packing and checking out at 11.30. Had a walk through this pretty town again and then sat in the park for a while to enjoy the ambience. Ended up in one of the shopping malls and decided to catch a movie, and couldn’t believe that a movie ticket only costs 2 Euros each. With the movie finished we only had 90 minutes before our bus arrived and so couldn’t eat at our usual restaurant as the service is a bit slow so decided to eat at the bus terminal and as expected it wasn’t very good. Grabbed our bags from our hotel across the road and then waited till our bus arrived which it did smack on 6.40pm. Someone was sitting in our seat and had to move them along, we are unsure if seat allocation is important. We are travelling via “Lux Express” and the bus is pretty good with lots of leg room and media screens in the back of the seats, so Shelley could get her hit of “Fast and Furious” and Vin Diesel which
Blackheads House and St Peters Church
she has been missing, as every bus in South America played these movies.
Trip was just under 4 hours and we hit Riga at just after sunset. Stumbled off the bus and picked up a taxi to our hotel for 10 Euros without any dramas. I don’t know why but we were both feeling really tired despite doing nothing today so after checking in we just hit the bed. Day 192 Thursday 28th July 2016 – Riga
Staying at the PK Riga Hotel, which is about a 20 minute walk from the center of town, our room is small but really nice but the WiFi is sporadic to say the least (which makes doing this blog frustrating) and the staff are a bit cold. Shelley has taken a bit of a dislike to the place and it was enflamed over breakfast when she couldn’t get ordinary black tea and the coffee was bad. She enquired about it and the guy running the kitchen told her that she could get all types of fruity tea but “sadly no black tea”. “Sad” was not the look on her face but was
The cat on the Cat House
more like uncontained fury, and it took all my powers of persuasion from stopping her from packing her bag and leaving the hotel. (What an exaggeration, although his condescending tone was very annoying - Shelley)
Once again we are in a hotel that has ridiculous prices for laundry, and after a difficult search on the net discovered that there was a laundry 15 minutes away, so off we went. Found it without any dramas and discovered it was run by a woman as helpful as a houseplant, and with a personality to match. She could speak English but chose to keep turning her back on us and ignoring us when we were asking her how to use the machines, and it was a real struggle for her to put the machines on the right settings for us. While the clothes washed we had a coffee at a nearby café, as it was pouring rain by this stage and we then had to return to put our clothes through the dryer. By the time we came to pick them up the rain had eased but Shelley wasn’t feeling the best so we opted to return to our room
for a bit.
As it was still raining on and off we decided to try some where close to the hotel for dinner called The Flying Frog and it turned out to be pretty good and got a traditional Latvian dish - pork and potatoes, I see a theme running through these Baltic countries. Day 193 Friday 29th July 2016 – Riga
I brought my own tea bags so no problem with breakfast this morning and it looks like the rain will hold off today, so we walked to the bus terminal to buy tickets to our next destination on Sunday. The bus we wanted was full but got another one at the decent time of 10.30am. The walk had taken us through some beautiful parklands with a canal meandering along with small boats that you can take rides on. Across from the bus terminal is the town’s central markets that are housed in 5 large hangar like structures, which are actually reused hangars. The story goes that in the 1930’s when the town needed to build a large market they reused the roof from some old
Zeppelin hangars at a nearby airfield. I just love seeing these sorts of snippets of recycling antiques.
From here we walked onto the old town which is picture perfect although there are a lot of rebuilds and restorations as the city was bombed in 1940 and 1941. St. Peter’s Church has a viewing platform and I was excited to climb again but it is actually accessed by an elevator which is currently being repaired so the tower is closed, Scott had a relieved look on his face that there was no climbing today. We continued onto the House of Blackheads where the unmarried wealthy merchants lived and partied. It was here on Christmas eve 1510 that the Christmas tree traditional began, as the boys cut down a pine tree and hauled it back to the house and covered it with flowers. The next part of the story did not become tradition as they burnt the tree down although those dodgy Christmas tree lights tend to do that these days. The house is not original as it was completely destroyed during WWII by the German bombings and was rebuilt in 1990’s.
There are many beautiful
churches and buildings in the town but one with an interesting story is the Cat’s House, legend states the owner of the house was exiled from the Great Guild (for wealthy tradesmen) and he had the two cats on the roof turned so their bums would face the guild but after a court battle he was readmitted and he had to turn the cats around.
The old town is fairly compact and it was just lovely walking around taking in all the old buildings. There is a lot of restaurants through the town but most are very touristy with inflated prices and so for dinner we returned to the Flying Frog. Day 194 Saturday 30th July 2016 – Riga
Another day of sightseeing in Riga and to start the day we did a long slow walk around the “Quiet Centre” which is only a block from our hotel. The Quiet District is the showcase of Riga’s Art Nouveau Architecture and oh boy it is spectacular. Art Nouveau was popular around the turn of the 20th
Century and Riga took to this form of over the top architecture
like a duck to water and to this day (despite the bombings) the city still has over 750 Art Nouveau Buildings. Flamboyant, Gaudy, over the top, or just plain ugly, for me it covers all bases, and they are amazing to look at and as much as I sort of like it I am unsure I would want it plastered all over my own home. Shelley was entranced by all the gaping mouths, the owls, the Lions, the naked bodies, and all that scrolling plaster work and proceeded to take about a thousand photos, I just hope she doesn’t drag them out when we get home and expect me to remodel the Façade on our house.
From here we walked through all the lovely parks past the town canal where a kayaking competition was about to start and then back into the old town. First on the agenda was the Riga “War Museum” which Michele had picked as her “must see” and I was glad to oblige as it was free. The museum was over 5 levels in the old “Gunpowder tower” which is the only tower of the old fortification walls that is left standing. Glad
Central Market - Old Zeppelin Sheds
it was free, as not a lot was in English and the whole museum was a bit adhoc and felt we lost an hour of our life walking through it.
Down the road we visited the Riga Cathedral which is the largest medieval church in the Baltic and has a huge Organ, which seems like a bit of a Freudian boast. Every day a man plays this huge organ to the delight of lots of elderly women, who have to pay 10 euro for the pleasure, sort of sounds like a peep show to me. Inside the Cathedral is very plain with all the walls whitewashed, but is a vast space. There is a cloister on the side of the church which is filled with all sorts of city artifacts, like cannons, cast iron and stone work from many of the buildings around town, and was vastly more interesting than the War Museum.
From here we walked through the town looking through all the shops till we stopped at a bar to have a drink. At Drink 2 it started to pour rain so 2 turned to 4 before the rain stopped and we
could head home. For our last meal we returned to the Flying Frog. Riga to us is a bit of a funny town, it is absolutely beautiful and seems almost picture perfect, but it does feel a bit hollow. Shelley keeps saying that at times she feels she is walking through a David Lynch film – Blue Velvet the dreamy white picket fence scene where everything looks perfect. Tomorrow we are off to Vilnius to complete the trilogy of Baltic state capitals
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