Latvia

Where are you now?

Central station, Riga

Central station, Riga

Central station, Riga

Central station, Riga

“There’s nothing to see!”

“It’s boring!” “It’s cold”..”No huskies here,” “If you’d like to see reindeers visit the zoo!” “Go to Italy, it’s warmer there now!”

I would not be where I am now, if I took most of the locals advice as a response to my questions about what to see and do in their country. It was a first,…hearing people trying to turn me from their country, and they almost succeeded, with good reason, ….it was cold!

For some zany reason, I chose to visit the Baltics in the deep of winter. I had tried to gauge the cold by the fact that Helsinki is over yonder, a sea shore across….and Moscow is a hop-skip-jump ‘stone throw’ away, but I had to be here to experience it.

Green taxi outside the arrivals section at Riga Airport, pegged at 5 euros to get you to your hotel.

Green taxi outside the arrivals section at Riga Airport, pegged at 5 euros to get you to your hotel.

Riga is the biggest city in the Baltics, with almost a third of Latvia’s population resident there. It is largely cosmopolitan, with half of it’s inhabitants Latvian and the other half, Russian or Russian-speaking. This winter, it was not just cold,..it was bone cold; teeth-chattering, nose-numbing, face-freezing, the toe-curling icy kind of cold that had a nightmarish-near-hypothermic twist to it, each time we popped out doors.

My saving grace was probably the stay in the scenic four-star hotel, where I woke up at dawn to view a kaleidoscope of colours as the sun came up, then indulged in an overload of spa activities that included; basking in the warmth of the jacuzzi’s bubbles and spending so much time in the sauna, that I came out dripping wet.

Stunning sunrise

Stunning sunrise

Islande hotel spa

Islande hotel spa

Jacuzzi

Jacuzzi

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Then when I moved to another location, a soviet-styled colourful hostel in the Old town, that was sans an elevator, it had me racing up and down the stairs and imbibing copious amounts of scalding hot tea, for warmth sake.

Cosy Room at Central hostel, Riga.

Cosy Room at Central hostel, Riga.

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Breakfast at Central hostel, Riga.

Breakfast at Central hostel, Riga.

But for all the trouble, Riga was…worth it.

Brazenly beautiful, astonishing and ecclesiastical..

My first course of action was to comb through Riga’s offerings specifically on the look-out for freebies. I found one, the Riga Free tours which sets off daily at 12 noon from St Peter’s Church, but was time barred the day I chose to go, winding up instead at the foot of the stunning Latvian Academy of Sciences and was floored by the beautiful Orthodox Church right next to it.

Orthodox church

Orthodox church

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Latvian Academy of Sciences

Latvian Academy of Sciences

Orthodox church

Orthodox church

Seeing no way possible to catch up with the tours, I decided to walk at a leisurely pace, to St Peter’s Church, which was eye-catching from within and without. Entrance to the church was three euros, but there are additional costs should one desire to climb up the tower for a bird’s eye view of the city. After that, I managed to see a few sights and summed up my tour by a visit to the Occupation Museum, then the Central Market. My walk revealed treasure after treasure as I stumbled upon architectural delights.

St Peter's church

St Peter’s church

St Peter's church, Riga

St Peter’s church, Riga

Entrance to St Peter's church

Entrance to St Peter’s church

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Inside St Peter’s church, Riga.

House of blackheads

House of the blackheads

Slaying the dragon statue

A close up of the House of the Blackheads, slaying the dragon statue

Freedom monument, Riga

Freedom monument is a memorial located in Riga honoring soldiers killed during Latvia’s War of independence

Inside the Museum of the occupation

Inside the Museum of the occupation, it reveals Latvia’s history from 1940 until 1991, when occupations by both the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were experienced.

Central Market, Riga

Formerly airplane hangars, the Central Market, Riga.

Central market, Riga..indoors, were formerly airplane hangars.

The Central market, Riga

We left Riga feeling we needed more time to explore the incredible sights, to attend the Latvia Opera and peruse the Soviet influence there. I was pleasantly surprised by the people however, a few stares of course, out of curiosity but smiles all around. They struck me as cultured especially when we got stopped in the streets with exclamations, “We rarely see blacks in our city, so we are glad you came!”

Impressive..

Have you ever been to Riga and what did you do?

14 replies »

  1. I can’t wait to visit but when it warms up! How many days so you think it would take to see Riga? How was the food and dessert? I loved this post thanks so much for letting me and others see Riga.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Gloria, Thanks for reading! I think 2 weeks or so would be good enough! There’s so much to see in Riga, we didn’t even cover everything for the five days we were there. Happy travels!

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    • The food was quite cosmopolitan, the 4-star I stayed in had an Intercontinental breakfast buffet which was quite cool, a spread of everything. I saw a lot of Pakistani kebab eateries, Russian, Japanese and so forth restaurants. I was advised to go to Lido Restaurant for Latvian cuisine but didn’t make it. There were lots of bakeries and sweet shops, so you will have no problem finding desserts.

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  2. I’ve considered going to Riga since there are such cheap flight heading over there and just like you, the curiosity of what it would be like there has motivated me to go. Unfortunately, I haven’t made it there yet, but it seems like cool place to visit. After reading your post, I know I should definitely not go during the winter! 😀 They places you stayed in look amazing though! That hostel breakfast… WOW! What a surprising remark they gave you on the streets! Beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hey Sarah! Great to hear from you! Apart from the cold, I think I really enjoyed Latvia..there was quite abit of friendliness as well from folks on the streets, which surprised me in a way because I really didn’t know what to expect in that corner of Europe. Otherwise, the only upside to going in winter is that we practically had the spa to ourselves which was pretty cool as it was low-season, I think when the weather gets warmer, it gets busy there.! But I would definitely advise folks to visit in Spring and Summer! I loved as well Jurmala which is 30 minutes away (by train) from Riga..was really nice, we walked along the beach and had some mud body wrap treatment at Baltic Beach Hotel..was really cool! I’m thinking of returning there for sure! (Will discuss it on my next post)

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  4. I haven’t been to Latvia yet but I was looking forward to this post as I am going pretty soon. Who knows whether the weather is going to be warm but I’m from Northern England, I’m used to the cold LOL! Thanks for the info. Did you like the tour?

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    • Missed the tour as I was busy at another location, by the time I got to St Peters Church, they were gone..but it was fun walking around and discovering stuff by myself…:-)
      Riga is fun! You will enjoy it for sure!

      Liked by 1 person

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