At the risk of sounding like a Eurovision host… greetings from Latvia!
I don’t have the sparkly outfit or the slightly dodgy English accent (although some may disagree with that), nor am I looking for my five minutes of fame. So perhaps less Eurovision host, more lazy wanderer.
Riga has become a ‘must see’ for many a traveller, a mid-point on the popular route between Tallinn and Vilnius.
The time difference is +2 GMT and it’s a little surprising to find the sun rising at 3 in the morning when the evenings draw in much the same time as they do in the UK.
The temperature is actually like the best bits of the UK summer and sometimes hotter, but that can be significantly reduced by the wind.
The currency is the euro, the prices are relatively cheap, the local supermarket is Rimi.
Everything is pretty central and the airport is accessible by little more than half an hour by bus for around 2 euros.
So, that’s the stats and stuff.
So what’s Riga really like?
Well, if you’ve been to Budapest, it’s quite similar. A lot of the cities over this way are like that: where communism still flavours the architecture yet the need for growth and change is evident in the modern buildings that have sprung up amongst them.
The main thing you’ll realise about Riga on arrival is the parks. Everywhere you look there are beautiful parks, with statues, floral sculptures, sailing boats, cafes, and sometimes a ‘summer stage’ where I’m told there are free performances. If you’re a park-bencher – book, beer, cake, coffee – this place is beyond perfect. You could probably do a full tour of all the benches and be here for months!
It’s a ‘shoes off’ culture so be prepared to bare feet the moment you arrive in a hostel or home. Also be prepared for the supermarkets to stop selling alcohol around 7:30. Stock up, early!
The traffic lights can be very quick changing so do not dawdle. You’ll be alerted by a series of beeps. When the beeper beeps, get going!
There is a great central market and if you go inside there are a lot of stalls selling local fare. Prepare to put on weight. It is pastry-central here. I haven’t tried savoury Latvian food yet, but that day will come.
Whilst English is not spoken everywhere, the locals are used to the poorly multi-tongued English speaker, and are patient and on the whole very kind.
It’s too soon to tell but I imagine a week would be an adequate length of time to see everything there is to see of Riga. But, since I’ll be here for a while yet, perhaps I can provide a little more detail on that in the near future.
But until then, and until I sample the local beer… Priekā! (cheers)