Travel
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Part IV: Riga

Yo Guys! It’s throwback Thursday time. Except for the part that I can never get myself organised enough to post on an actual Thursday.

Err.. Frowback Friday?

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As I mentioned in the rather rambling ‘all the things of 2016’ post , I spent waaaay too much time at the end of last year writing my thesis, and waaaaay not enough time doing the blogging thing. So there’s some things I have to catch you all up on.

Priorities, amiright?

Anyway.

Imagine that it’s way back in July/August, and we’ve just been up to the cabin-in-the-middle-of-a-lake (start here) and made a very-quick-Stockholm-stop.

Riga was next.img_8377-copy^The Riga ‘Freedom Monument’ honouring soldiers killed in the Latvian war of Independence.

Going to Riga was kind of a strange choice. The decision breakdown for me went something like this:

  • 20% because my ‘adopted grandmother’* was Latvian.
  • 30% because we were travelling with our beloved friend Ellen, who we had previously travelled rather magnificently with into (the also Eastern capital) Budapest.
  • 50% because it was close to Gemany and Stockholm, and there were cheap flights.

(or, for everyone who is not me- probably 90% it was cheap and easy, and 10% we all agreed fairly quickly).

*This sounds more complicated than it is. No-one was adopted, but my granddad did hang out for a fairly long amount of his life with his next door neighbour. As my actual biological grandmother died when my mother and aunt were very young, Silvija, the neighbour, was very much the grandmother we had throughout our childhood.

Anyway, if you didn’t even know that Riga was the capital of Latvia (but very cleverly managed to surmise that based on my comments about my Grandmother- good work you!-), well then, you’re pretty much at the same level of knowlege as we had before we headed there.img_8378-copy

We arrived in the city in the late afternoon, and managed to have a short wander around our adjacent square and look in at the supermarkets.

Which is how I found this:

But more on that later.

Admittedly, we didn’t get a lot of time in Riga. We arrived in the early evening of a Thursday, and flew out at midday on a Sunday. Really only two full days to explore the capital.

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Being the sensible and hungry people that we are, our first stop on Friday morning was the Central Market.

It. Is. Amazing.

I mean, I love markets of almost any kind, but this guy (which is mostly a food market), is something special. It’s a huge place, filled with every kind of thing you can imagine, separated into sections.

Fruits and veg, pastries, cheeses and yogurts, fish, meat, pickled thingamijigs…it’s all there, you just have to find the right er, hanger. img_8391-copyimg_8402-copy

I made a beeline for the bakery stands, where they sell all kinds of baked goods at insanely cheap prices.

12 cents per little bun!

My aim was to find ‘bacon buns’, which I spent my childhood eating thanks to my grandfather’s girlfriend. I knew that the Latvian word for the little delights was something in the pierogi family, but working out ‘bacon’ was beyond me….img_8395-copy

.. so there were a few false (but nonetheless delicious) starts.img_8401-copy  img_8403-copy img_8408-copy img_8411-copy

Success!

I went back for more. Which, well… did I mention that whole ’12 cents a bun’ thing?

I probably could have spent a good chunk of time lining up, buying bacon buns, eating bacon buns, and repeating the process.

But there were other delights to catch the eye.img_8414-copy img_8419-copy img_8422-copy img_8428-copy

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Mmmm, smoked fish. img_8438-copy img_8440-copy img_8441-copy img_8445-copy img_8446-copy

Check out the haul! We managed to eat almost all of it, except for one or two of the filled pancakes (jam and caramel), which went quite hard in the fridge. Also proving impossible to completely consume was the long stems you can see at the top of the photo (above the tomato). They seemed to be pickled garlic stems, and, based on the fact that they were actually quite (relatively) pricey, I suspect one normally only buys one or two, but I stupidly pointed at the whole bunch and nodded eagerly.

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Anyway, once we had stuffed our little faces, it was time for some education. img_8474-copy

^Dr Plant-biologist Wiszniewski standing in front of a board explaining how plants work.

Visiting the Sun Museum is recommended as one of the top 10 things to do in Riga, and although I’m not honestly sure that I can support that claim, visiting it definitely was an interesting experience.

Given that I’m into breakdowns right now, I would call this guy 5% sun-based education, 10 % sun-worship, 15 % ‘occupy your kids on their holidays’ and 70 % ‘collections that get out of hand’.

Apparently the owner received a sun-shaped pendant in 1999, and ended up with over 400 sun-based sculptures and artworks.

I can kind of see myself opening up a cat themed one in 20 years time.

Anyway, because no photography was allowed in the museum itself, here are some pictures of the boys and girls making beautiful sun art to take home (thus spreading the delight of sun collecting throughout the world!)

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^Ellen misunderstanding the difference between a sun and a ninja turtle there. She might have to have another run through the sun museum to learn.

All in all, we like the sun museum so much, that we felt inspired to actually go outside, and see this ‘sun thing’ for ourselves: the rest of the day was spent in general wandering around the city.img_8495-copy   img_8501-copy    img_8508-copy img_8510-copy img_8511-copy img_8512-copy

Fast forward to Saturday morning. I crept out of bed super early, grabbed my google map, and headed to shop the op shops.

I’m not even kidding.

I love op shopping, but there are just so many hipsters in Berlin, and as a result such terrible things left in the op shops. In Latvia, where things are already very cheap, there are many, many op shops. Plus, you pay by weight, which means you can get some rather lovely high-quality items for a very cheap price (hello 2 euro pure silk summer dress).   img_8525-copy img_8527-copy img_8531-copy

I’m going to be honest.

Stop number two (or five or something, after multiple op shops) was not even ‘meet up with the crew’.

Instead, while they were busy finding out that a coffee shop/bar they really wanted to visit was closed, I made a beeline for this:img_8538-copy img_8539-copy

Yeah.

I said I like markets.

After grabbing some coffee with the others, we made a group decision (or Elle bravely decided, I forget), to cross the river, and explore the other side.img_8541-copy img_8542-copy img_8544-copy

What we found there (and it is hidden out of sight a bit, so you have to find your way), was the Zanis Lipke Memorial.img_8545-copy

The memorial is a very small museum, which describes the life of Zanis and his family.

During the war, Zanis helped to smuggle approximately 40 Jews out of the Ghetto, and ultimately out of Latvia itself by a process which involved hiding them at his own house. It’s a rather beautiful story, which begun with Zanis saving just one Jewish man he knew as a friend, and then extending that caring to others he did not know.

Anyway, it’s hard to tell from the photos, but the memorial is a rather lovely place, and I would definitely recommend a visit if you’re ever in Riga.img_8549-copy img_8553-copy

Aaaannnd, that’s all folks.

Although we only got to spend a couple of days in the city, travelling to Riga was definitely a lovely experience, and a pretty nice ending to our extended summer holidays with some of our favourite friends in the world.img_8567-copy

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