Friday, August 21, 2015

Visiting Riga

We decided to go visit Riga because Latvia isn’t far from us and the Baltic Sea sounded like a pleasant alternative to the heatwave occupying Minsk when we made the decision. While the train and the plane cost about the same amount, we imagined that we might prefer the train because we sleep well on trains and we’d travel overnight. We forgot about the border crossings, which happen in the middle of the night in either direction. First you get passport control from the country you’re leaving. Then, about the moment you’ve fallen back asleep, you get passport control from the country you’re entering. Soon after, you get a third visit; this time, from the customs officers who want to see the luggage under your bed. We liked being in Latvia, but I’m not sure I’d repeat the train.

Except that by train we got Masha, who served as our conductor in either direction and kept our train car immaculate and beautiful. Alla said it would have been offensive to offer a gratuity to a Belarusian train conductor, though I strongly feel that she deserved one.

I liked the receptionist at our hotel in Riga, too. We arrived well before the Wellton Hotel expected us, but Alisa smiled brightly as she negotiated with the maid staff to set up a room we could take over soon. She works long hours, and we saw her often during our three days in Riga. She radiated a charming smile that warmed our hearts every time we passed through the lobby.

We discovered that we’d arrived on the second day of the City Day weekend, and we enjoyed special music and exhibitions as a result. I danced with some of the locals at a rock ‘n’ roll concert while Alla enjoyed the sun and the music, and after a long walk along the riverfront, we stayed to hear delightful modern folk music at another stage.

On Monday we took a local train to Jurmala, a district along the Baltic Sea just 25 minutes from Riga. While we didn’t enjoy swimming weather, we had a great time walking along the beach and through a district with many restaurants and shops. After a false start at another restaurant, we settled in for lunch at The Lighthouse. Dear Readers, I highly recommend that restaurant. We liked our meal so much that we came back for dinner, even though we weren’t even hungry yet. We liked everything we ordered, and exclaimed often over the flavors and textures of each dish. The duck breast, by the way, was exquisite.

On our last day in Riga we toured farther afield and tried to take in as much as possible of the city’s diverse and interesting architecture, winding streets, colorful parks, and waterways. We had a blast, and we’re already talking about when we can go back.

For more photos, click here.

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