Riga - a tale of two hostels

July 12th 2012
Published: July 18th 2012
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At no problems
So from Tallinn I arrived in the beautiful Riga.

Well, it wasn't beautiful at first, truth be told after two nights I was seriously considering leaving the place and moving on. Thank god I didn't.

So me being me, I am not exactly the best planner when it comes to travel, ok, scratch that, I just don't plan. So the night before I leave for Riga, I just book a hostel. Problem, when I come to Riga, I have no idea where it is, only that its close to the bus station! When I go to the tourist info, I just go "Hey, so I have booked a hostel, I don't know the name... or where it is! All I know that it is near the bus station." Needless to say, she wasn't impressed, however potentially narrowed it down to Cinammon sallys or Riga old town hostel and backpackers pub. Now truth be told, I didn't recognise either of these names, but I went with the idea that Sallys was a name I would probably remember! So I went for the old town hostel... BIG MISTAKE.

Ok, so I check into this place (Yes, it was the right one (win? No, lose!)) The bar itself seems nice enough, but going upstairs its quite the opposite. The bedrooms are fairly big and despite the high number of beds, fairly comfortable. However the bathroom and showers were a bit different! An entire wall was essentially devoted to mould and fungi - this is pretty un-goddam-healthy. However not a killer for me, I have been in worse and no doubt, I will stay in worse. But the staff seemed short and unfriendly and the entire place was devoid of the type of atmosphere I would of expected from a back packers hostel. Most likely compounded by the fact I had just come from such an amazing hostel in Red Emperor.

Anyway fuck it, I decide to make the best of it. So I run into a guy I can only now describe as a mad Finnish dude. God I wish I could remember his name, but well bugger it. He showed me round Riga a little, showing me an amazing little bar called Lenningrad, which sells a local brewed honey beer, a bit too sweet for me, but if you ever in the area, ensure you try it! I must say, I should thank this Finnish dude, because without him, I would of been so much more annoyed by the end of my next day in Riga, that I may of done something really stupid.

So the next day comes and unfortunately my Finnish friend left early morning. A crying shame as he knew so much about the city. But well, I travel alone for this reason, I can find new people to hang around with and explore the city in different ways!

Now like all Baltic cities, this had a free tour, considering the fun I had on the previous one, I couldn't resist to go on this one. Fortune would have it, that the tour actually started from the hostel I was in (so it was good for something) so I come down at roughly midday, to find only what I can describe as a modern day Jesus waiting to taking us on this tour.

Now at first I would describe this guy (James, a Brit) as a bit of a hippy, he comes across as very happy go lucky, slightlly alternative with his long brown hair and beard and going everywhere in flip flops. He essentially would seem like a traveller to Riga, who came fell in love and never left, so was doing this to support himself. By the end of the tour and a quick beer with him, I would come away with a different view.

So this tour was actually for me, is actually the best of the three tours that you would do in the Baltics as it strives to be alternative. i.e you will see all of these famous sites regardless of this tour, so why take you there. Why not go where most of you wouldn't go normally. I quite liked this, a particular highlight for me is an area ina suburb called Little Moscow. In its centre is the ruins of an old Synagogue which goes back to the German occupation of Latvia, giving you but a brief glimpse of the damage caused by the Germans during this time. Literally opposite this, is a memorial to the local Latvians who had a hand in saving the lives of around 450 Jewish people within the city once the country was occupied. It is a falling wall, with 4 pillars holding it up. On these pillars are the names of these frankly heroic Latvians, who risked their own lives, as well as their families' to save these people. For me this memorial shows society falling and the community keeping propping it up. It was for me one of the most moving sites and thoughts of the entire trip. Granted compared to millions killed, 450 is a small number, but this does not do anything to reduce the risk these people took. And at the very least, because of this, 450 were alive who almost definately would not be, without the intervention.

That was the highlight for me, but the tour also covers the local market - by the way its huge, as in 5 zeppelin hangers huge - plenty of art neveu architechtue (this was lost on me) and a good look around Riga central. So after this epic 3 hour tour, I was invited to get a drink with the tour guide James. I was intrigued to say the least, this guy had been here for 9 odd years, so I figured why not, what else do I have to do.

He took me to his favourite bar, a nice enough place and a good
My favourite photoMy favourite photoMy favourite photo

These guys rocked and this is how I remember them
local lager! We get talking and as it all turns out, he owns his own buisness and his entire background is a bit more corporal and suit techy then I would of imagined. He also came across quite bitter now, for me it was a bit of a disappointment, this guy has the life I want, although not necessarily where I would choose to have it. So to see bitterness was a surprise as I thought we were similar.

Well, after this I didn't stay around too long, I headed back to the hostel in the hope of finding someone or anyone to hang with and grab a beer with. It really didn't happen, the place was dead and the people who were there, just seemed miserable! So the next morning, I decided either I move on to Vilnius or I move to a different hostel.

Now truthly I don't know how close I was to leaving Riga, it was quite close though. It wasn't until I got a message from Bao (Who I met in Tallinn) telling me to go to Cinammon sallys and tagging a guy who worked there, who I shall call Brandon; who in turn told me to get my ass over there, that I really decided to stay in Riga. So onwards to Cinammon sallys, I booked the bed at 3pm and arrived at 4pm. So quick that when I arrived and said I had a reservation, the girl looked at me quizzically and asked "are you sure?" When I told how short a time it was, she laughed and I checked in.

So Cinammon sallys, a truly amazing hostel! I loved the place truly! I couldn't imagine a better place to of been spending my time! For me it's all about the common room, which is essentially an extremely comfortable frontroom; couches, bean bags, books, puzzles and random cool games, including the Cinammon Sallys never ending drinking game! What also makes it special are the Sallys. Ieva, Daiga and Dace. Three lovely and beautiful young women, who despite being in charge of the hostel when they are working, with their own working office, all sit in the common room all day, chatting to the guests, even participating in the games, even the drinking ones! That combined with the drunken Sally - Brandon, who is in charge of organising unofficial pub crawls
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looking cool as ever
and the usually ever present Martin ( a Swedish carpenter, who fell in love with Sallys and Riga just as much as I) who is the worlds best DJ, create a chilled out, warm and welcoming atmosphere, like one I have never experienced. To the point I would probably never left if I didn't have to. And when I did leave, it was for matters of the heart (first time) and work which made me.

So, as I check into Sallys I almost instantly join a band of 4 German lads, Peter, Manuel, Matthias and Andreas, all good blokes, with some pretty cool quirks. It all begins with a short trip to a local Irish bar with the German lads to watch the German game, led by our Aussie pub crawl guide - Brandon.

I really don't remember much of this night, well the Germans won, so thats probably why. But who cares, because the next night, was for me at the time; the main event, the reason I was in Riga! The summer solstace festival. Sure it lived up to the hype, but as it happened there were better times to come!

So summer solstace first off, next time I will go the beach! You see, like all good Brits, I can read storm clouds, I know rain clouds and I knew it was going to rain that night, you could see it and feel it. Everyone could, so I decided to stay in the city. Did it rain, did it FUCK! bloody pagan gods were smiling that night it would seem! Instead, Brandon an Icelandic man who's real and virtually impossible to pronounce name was shortened to the tongue friendly Rago, plus myself, all decided to stay in the city. Truth be told, it was a good choice, we watched the football, Spain I believe - who won naturally! We then just wondered from bar to bar, on the way picking up two Latvians and two more Australians! I cannot remember any of these guy's names, but hell, I am happy about this, we shared an amazing and spiritual night where we got fucked up and danced like mad men! We eventually ended up at the coolest bar in Riga, the hardcore hangover club, which had simply the best DJ ever! It was here that we were met by Luis - a Dutch guy and Hilberto - a Mexican both of whom were staying in our hostel! We stayed here till 10am gone! Brandon, our Aussie guide, was meant to catch a flight 2pm... he walked in through the doors at Sallys at 4pm!

Brandon hung around another night and it was this night, I spent the second most memorable night of football I have ever had in my life... and do you know what, my team lost! So heres the scene, England vs Italy. An irish bar and I was with 4 Americans, 5 Dutch, 4 German, an Aussie, a Swede and Chineseman, I ask you, if this is not the sole point of football and travel then I tell you now, I do not wish to be part of either. I can't think of anything more beautiful! So England lost, so I don't care. Ihad an amazing time. I can't actually remember much more of the night, past the fact that when I returned to the hostel, one of the Americans who I sat next to in the pub was ill, if it wasn't for her joking and laughing I may of cried at the match! Oh and by the way, we will call her Delila!

So I come in and the poor girl can barely breath due to coughing. I look back at this next part with pride, simply because I went out at 5am in a strange country and found a Pharmacy! I think this is brilliant haha! However I do see this kind of act as an important part of travel, you always help a traveller in need, because one day you might need it yourself! This is something I really learnt in Spain on the camino! I really need to finish that set of blogs actually!

Now then, so I finished the night with Delila in the common area of Sallys, having a good old laugh, something which she was not necessarily happy with as I was, the poor girl was so ill she could barely speak. Yet she did! Says it all actually!

Ok, I reckon I should mention here, that yes, the last few days or so, were pretty much drinking and yes this next part is pretty much the same. Well if you don't like it, bugger off! This part is my favourite!

Ok, so I wake up and it was a pretty standard day in the hostel, until the night. The whole hostel was pretty much in the common area. I was sat with Delila and her friend Lysa. Now truth be told, I hadn't paid any attention to Lysa until this point. I cannot remember a bigger mistake ever. So between these two, I am having a great time, a real good time we laugh we joke and then we decide to get up and go out. Unfortunately Delila was still too ill to join us. So Brandon, Luis, Lysa, the German lads, Josef another German guy and the two Johns and myself all decide to hit the town. We start off at my favourite beer garden, no problems. It was here that I start to notice what an amazing person Lysa is. I order our drinks and some garlic bread ( if your ever in Latvia, try their garlic bread. Its awesome!)

So I should explain about Lysa, now anyone who has read any of my blogs will know, that I have a small like for hair raising experiences... I have been through some pretty insane experiences and yet here I am! Well this woman has been through the same. She was in the middle of Egypt when shit hit the fan a few years back, stuck in Alexandra and she wanted to get back to Cairo! And at the end of it all she could say was, "well I just knew, if I made it, I would have a cool story". At some point in life, you find yourself in another person. That is what this is, she was me, entirely the same philosophy and love of getting in and out of really bad situations... Additionally we have both been told by recent ex partners that we will never be happy with someone, as we will never have enough!

Now I look back at this and I can't decide if I am attracted to this girl or if I am so shocked to meet someone who understands me so fully, that I just don't know what to think or do. For me this meeting is quite possibly the most important part of this trip. It told me in my own views and ideas, I am not alone and that city tours are not for me! I am stupid enough to think this meeting is as important for her, but well, I would like to think as the night when on we both had some effect on each other.

The next day she and Delila went to Vilnius, I nearly went to, but for some reason I didn't. Instead I went the next day in the hope of catching them. I never saw them again...

But there is still one last little bit to go before this tale is over. My final night in Riga consisted of myself, Martin the DJ and an American called John and Erik a Dutch guy. We spoke about the world its problems and all those kind of things that drunk travellers from different places talk about when they get together. Then, onto Vilnius...

Whats the worse thats going to happen? - this is my personal motto!


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