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  • Day118

    So a quick rundown on Riga as I am super tired. I am not sleeping and I swear that moving from one hour ahead to two hours ahead is keeping me up all night!

    We headed in today with little (well none actually) pre reading on what to do and see. This is quite unlike me so I felt a little unsure of what to expect. First things first we ate lunch. Most people who know me will know I am not good at two things: 1. getting up in the mornings; and 2. being anywhere on time. We therefore never tend to get anywhere earlier than lunchtime unless we have to!

    Once we had lunch I asked a lady in the cafe if she could give me a map as she had a huge pile. She said no because she counts them .. but helpfully told me where the tourist information was. Map finally in hand, we took a little jaunt around the old town centre, where we found ourselves, until we saw a little tour buggy thing. It said it was five euros each and would take you around the main sights with an audio guide. Having done countless walking tours we thought we would do it in style this time - see picture of model Stuart in the buggy thing. It lasted half an hour and I was too busy watching the driver nearly mow people down to really listen to the guide but it was different and I get the gist that Riga has some old buildings - the oldest being the House of the Blackheads daring from 1334 (but renovated in 1999 of course) - a few cathedrals and a freedom monument that is currently entrapped in scaffolding.

    After our little ride we headed to the Latvia Occupation Museum. In approximately a century the country went from Soviet Occupation to Nazi Occupation to Soviet Occupation. They were treated horrifically, subject to separation of families, executions, deportations to remote parts of Siberia with no food or clothing, being stripped of their national identity and forced to adhere to Soviet/Nazi/Soviet rules and ideology.

    One of the favourite things that I learnt about here - and had heard of in Lithuania - was the Baltic Way. On 23 August 1989, two million people joined hands and the line stretched between Vilnius (Lithuania) to Tallinn (Estonia) to show their desire for independence. This was finally granted on 21 August 1991.

    One thing I had heard of before coming to Riga was a building that is sometimes known as Stalins birthday cake. Why I have no idea and the pictures I had seen and descriptions likened it to the Empire State Building. I was excited as I had hoped it would be like the one I fell for in Warsaw. It was no way near as impressive - as you will be able to see from the picture - but took us on a detour through the market on the way back to the car.

    Whistle stop tour of Latvia completed now onto a new country.
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  • Day35

    Of the cities I've visited so far, Riga is the most highly vegetated--trees, parks, gardens, etc. It creates a nice ambience. The center of town is the Freedom Monument, built in the 1930s during Latvia's first period of freedom, before the Soviet period. There are a couple pictures hete of the old town. Then a statue, a gift from Germany, 4 critters symbolizing the emergence of the people through the wall, or freedom from Soviet domination. The some 18th/19th century warehouses along the Daugava River that are being redone mostly as art spaces. And the Latvian Academy of Sciences, aka here as Stalin's birthday cake. The architecture is Stalinist.Read more

  • Day117

    So, we don't have long here in Latvia so we didn't wander too far for Riga, where we are staying in an old house at the end of someones garden. It is very nice and they have given us fruit and vegetables from their garden!

    It was our third wedding anniversary so we decided to head to Sigulda where we had seen there was a leather workshop. Stuart - who is infinitely better at anniversaries than me - had found out that leather is the gift to give.

    Bucketing down with rain we diced with the treacherous Latvian roads. They are possibly the worst that we have encountered. A lot of people drive in the outside lane to avoid the huge holes in the inside lane. Lorries drive half on the hard shoulder to achieve the same.

    When we arrived at Sigulda, it was still damp and dreary and we headed to the castle complex to seek the leather factory. We weren't very enamoured with the items on offer and had even less enthusiasm for the castle. We agreed that we couldn't be bothered with a visit so instead headed to the nearby town for some lunch. We found a random restaurant which looked like a huge hut but inside was quirky and comfy and the food was sooo good. We both had soup but they were incredible. Mine was tomato with goats cheese in it, amongst other things, and Stuarts was a lamb goulash. Finished off with chocolate cake, the trip to Sigulda wasn't a complete disaster.

    On the drive home the clouds started to clear and beautiful sunshine arrived. As Stuart was snoozing I decided to change course from the mall where we were heading to head to the beach at Jurmala. This is apparently Latvia's answer to the French Riviera and you have to pay a toll of 2 euros just to enter the roads in the vicinity.

    A long stretch of beach with soft white sand and - as the weather hadn't been too good - not too many sunbathers. We took a walk along. I was shocked that Stuart had his shoes off before I did and even dipped his toes into the sea! After stopping for a drink at the beach bar, we headed off for dinner. We first went to a restaurant we had read about online and appeared to be the only customers except for two mafia types sat at the bar. On reading the menu and seeing the price of the food however we felt even more uncomfortable and decided to bail.. Instead we headed into the town centre and had a burger meal: very relaxing, very unromantic and very us :)

    The architecture there is like nothing I have ever seen before. Most of the houses are large and have either a tower or a turret poking out of the top.. I have added a little selection to give you an idea.

    Jurmala was definitely worth the change of plan and the 2 euros.
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  • Day31

    Visiting new friends in Latvia, a look at the beach about a block from their home and the Ghost Tree, a sculpture on a park across the street from their home. Arija and Astrid were most gracious hosts showing me their town.
    One last thing--sweiki means hello.

  • Day15

    Morning bus trip to Sigulda to the east, the most popular resort in Latvia, in the Gauja River valley. We stopped at the Latvian bobsled track. You were able to walk alongside some of it.We then got on our bikes and cycled through the Gauja National Park visiting Latvia's "largest cave", Gurmana Cave. The whole cave has many carvings, ancient and new. We even had a busker there.
    Continuing on we stopped at Turaida Castle. This castle still had many out buildings and towers standing. Latvia's oldest church built in 1205 is also there.
    After lunch we headed back west mainly along the main road with a few hills and a bit windy to Saulkrasti to a private bicycle museum which was very interesting. One bike had rope for tyres and one was built entirely of wood made from an old building of significance. We popped down to the beach but was a bit cold and really rough to dip into. Had a paddle instead.
    Bussed back to Riga and we had tea as a group at The Garlic Pub. Garlic in the meal but they also did a garlic beer and garlic coffee. A few of us shared a garlic beer but didn't go for the coffee
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  • Day32

    Out at the tip of Latvia where the Baltic Sea meets the Bay of Riga. Pics from the treetops showing the Baltic one way and the Latvian forest the other. Pics up and down the beach taken from off shore, and those are my feet in the clear Baltic Sea water to prove I waded out to take those pictures.

  • Day112

    Another terrific night on the floor ..
    We tidied the area and got ready to leave around 12. It was a 3.5km walk to the bus stop and it was so hot 😭 our backs were disgusting.
    We got there at 12:45 and the next bus came as 1 :) it was silly though because our bus line sold tickets in a different spot across the road which cut our time very short.
    While everyone was packing their luggage onto the bus I was asked to answer a random survey about Estonia - it was much longer than I expected - all about how much I'd spent, how long I'd been there, what tourist stuff I did etc.
    on the bus and off to Latvia woo 🇱🇻🇱🇻
    We made 1 stop - Will got off and got a few sausage In a rolls. I went to the bus loo and wasn't thinking and so now I probably have any number of diseases. I went barefoot. 😨I didn't even realize I wasn't wearing shoes til the floor became wet 😒😒😒
    It's a 4hour 40 min trip. The bus wifi is working for Will but not for me :( I do need to save phone battery though so we can find our hostel. I thought I would pass some time and start his though 👍🏼
    Went through the border - so far Latvia is just trees.

    Arrived at the bus stop and walked to the hostel.
    Our check in was the best so far - Will is signed up to beer tasting, we got a map and info about the area and free tour starting points.
    We also get free shot but we have postponed it til after dinner.
    Went to our room which is on the third level 😪
    Our room is awesome and so are the toilets. This hostel is rating well so far.
    The bar downstairs is also 24hours and has 1.5€ beers at certain times. Tonight I think it's from 7-10.
    Will is going to die lol.

    We went walking and got subway. I got a full length sub this time but our overall total for 2 subs was still 11€ cheaper than Finland lol.
    We went to an ATM and got money out.
    Will likes Latvia so far. So do I.

    We had our shot. The backstory is some dude invented it, it's 40%+, sugar free and the creator use to claim it cured anything including broken bones and cancers. It use to sell in pharmacies.

    I didn't mind it. Will hated it but he is pussy when it comes to shots other than sambucca* lol
    He is currently enjoying his first beer of the evening.

    There are 3 free tour options but I think we will do the one of the old town.

    I went upstairs and had a snooze while Will met people. he came up soon after though because he was the only one signed up for beer tasting lol
    Oh well.

    The room is really hot and it's annoying because it has double windows and also because they open in you can't have the blinds down so I feel like everyone is looking in.

    I have the worst pimples on my chin.
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  • Day113

    Horrid night sleep hahahahaha 🔫🔫
    It was so hot. We tossed and turned the whole night. We finally left the hostel around 12:30.
    Our original plan was to go to some neighbourhood that was suggested on our map and a cat cafe. I looked up the cat cafe and it had been permanently closed down 😭😭😭 so our other idea for scrapped too because I felt let down by the map hahah. It was also 3km away and the pictures from my google search weren't very exciting.
    Our first task of the day was food.
    We OBVIOUSLY must try as many foreign Big Macs as possible so maccas it was.
    Will got a grand big Mac and it was friggen ginormous.
    The maccas was sweltering so we sat in a nearby park.
    The park was so pretty!!!! It has a waterfall, love lock bridge, flowers and was just maintained really well!
    We made a scene by feeding some birds some chips. 50 more came to join us lols
    We went for a quick walk around the park which also had little canal boat things and then headed towards the Riga Ghetto and Latvian holocaust museum.

    We had to walk through markets to get there. Goodness they sell some random crap. Some look more like pawn stores and Vinnies shops.

    I didn't have it loaded on my maccas so I only knew the general area it was going to be in. I was getting a little worried but we got there eventually :)
    It was free and actually very good. Wills favourite free one so far.
    The first room was an exhibition for the Armenian genocide where over 1.5 million died.
    I had never heard of it before which is shocking. The shit they chose to teach in school...
    that's a lot of people...
    they didn't hold back on the photos. Dead people eveeywhere.
    I need to go and research more in my own time because I should learn more.

    The second room was for the WW2 victims. The warehouses we were in and the ones around us where the original sort of holding sheds for Jews coming from Prague and other area who were then sorting into usable/non useful workers and then sent of the several camps including aushwits **
    It was a display with big cubes covered in information and pictures hanging from the ceiling; maybe 100+ of them.
    Because we couldn't read the Latvian, before we figured out what it was, we were hypothesizing if there had been a concentration camp in Latvia or if these people had been sent here and saved.
    We figured it out when most people's death date was 1942/43.
    The next room had another good display with a name of each victim with Jewish roots that went from Bremen to Theresienstadt and did not return. It represented the one way journey to the train station.

    Outside there was carriage with trees in it where it talked about "useful workers"
    There was also a alley fenced with barbed wire with all the names of the victims. a daunting amount. And realistically only still a very small section of the overall extermination of WW2.

    As I said The whole thing was in the place they were held. It still has some original doors and things that were completely rusted through.

    We then walked back through the markets. They have different berries.
    We walked home and I booked accommodation for Poland so everything is now booked except for our first 4 days in London :)
    Feeling organised.

    We then just went walking.
    Loving Latvia! The buildings are really cool. It doesn't feel as old as Tallinn nor as fantasy land but still, brilliant.
    Baltics are kicking ass.
    Had a look at magnets - they all had a black cat but i don't know its significance 🤔
    I got a photo with a big cat we found though :)
    It's not as touristy here and I like it.

    We went to the Aussie pub and they didn't have a single Aussie beer and out of the 4 that they do sometimes sell - I only recognized James Boarg*
    Will was devo, he was so excited lol.
    We walked past some nice churches and through different areas like a shopping district and an artsy vibing district.
    Apparently Riga is hosting the choir games 2017 👍🏼
    Riga city hall was really pretty.
    We had dinner at TGIFridays- the menu was different so I got a bruschetta- delish.
    We then went home, downloaded game of thrones then headed to the cinema to watch planet of the apes.
    it was pretty good.
    We made a realllly big boo boo though.
    We asked if it was in English which it was so we were like ok cool.
    We forgot however that the monkeys sign half the movie. The subtitles were of course in Latvian....
    we just guessed what they were saying the whole time
    How Dumb and funny.

    We walked home, watched game of thrones and now it's time for bed. 👍🏼
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  • Day36

    Another medieval castle, partially restored. Pics are of the castle and courtyard. The original altar from the 16th century was found and reset. The girl in the pic is standing on stairs at the small opening to a dungeon (taken from the the dungeon). And a view from the top of the castle.

  • Day114

    Left the hostel and first headed to the black cat that sits above the guild. (Thx google search)
    Hehe, I like it.
    We then went and got breakfast at some coffee shop because Will wanted a cappuccino. What I wanted they didn't have so I got the mango/passionfruit fruit thing.
    She pulled out a carton of store bought juice and added ice 😂😂😂
    Ermmm, it really shouldn't cost that much then lol.
    After, we went to the Museum of the occupation of Latvia 1940-1991.
    It was free so that's good but it had too much writing. Walls and walls of text.
    The video was great though and I learnt a lot.
    Very short version is they were occupied by both the soviets and the Nazis at different times and Latvia suffered a lot.
    Will didn't like the museum much either because of the writing I'm guessing.
    We then went walking through a park and ended up sitting on a bench for a while.
    I like the different birds, especially the little ones.
    Walk walk walk - we found a magnet shop. I got one of the black cat because it's different from my other ones.
    we then Just wandered back to the hostel and have been here ever since.
    I did some Iceland itinerary searching and found one that sound unbelievably amazing but is probably too much money 😔 still 🤞🏼
    Wills dad was on the news again so we watched that little short snippet on fb.
    We are going to go to Argentinan for dinner and I am so overwhelmingly excited. It's 4:40 and I want to go NOW.
    I'm currently captain pimple face but there is one under my nose that is so so painful.
    Will tried helping me pop it with his pliers 😂

    Jokes we didn't get Argentinan. It was so expensive and no variety.
    We got food to go and ate back in our room and watched some Big Bang.
    At maccas some weirdo got a Coke and then a shot of coffee in it 🤢🤔😷
    I need to shower and pack 😒

    Today we also walked past the freedom monument which kinda looks like the Statue of Liberty.

    I showered but the water was cold and I forgot to take soap with me lol.

    There is the most annoying sound that won't shut up.
    It's like that ding dong noise when you enter a shop?
    Maybe it happens when you go to reception - we haven't been back since day one so don't know if the door makes that sound but something is, and I want to shoot it.

    Alas, I went and packed then sat down to read, but my kindle is out of juice and my charger is in the bottom of my bag... I'll just have to repack later lol.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Republic of Latvia, Lettland, Latvia, Letland, ላትቪያ, Letonia, لاتفيا, ܠܐܛܒܝܐ, Latviya, Латвія, Латвия, Letoni, লাতভিয়া, ལཏ་བི་ཡ།, Letonija, Letònia, Lettonia, Lotyšsko, Латви, Latfia, Latvia nutome, Λεττονία, Latvio, Läti, لتونی, Letonii, Lettonie, Lètonie, Letlân, An Laitvia, An Laitbhe, લાત્વિયા, latibiya, לאטביה, लाटविया, Letiska, Lettország, Լատվիա, ラトビア共和国, ლატვია, Lativia, Letlandi, ឡាតវីយ៉ា, ಲಾಟ್ವಿಯಾ, 라트비아, لاتڤیا, Latvi, Lativya, ລຼາດເວຍ, Latvija, Латвија, ലാത്വിയ, लाट्‌विया, Latvja, လတ်ဗီးယား, लाट्भिया, Lettonnie, ଲାଟଭିଆ, Łotwa, Letônia, Lituniya, Lativa, Летония, Latvie, Látvia, Letonùii, ලැට්වියාව, Latfiya, Летонија, லாட்வியா, లాట్వియ, ลัทเวีย, Latbiya, Letonya, Latviä, لاتۋىيە, لٹویا, Latviyän, לעטלאנד, Orílẹ́ède Latifia, 拉脫維亞, i-Latvia

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