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  • Baltic state no 2: Latvia.

    Riga is a lovely wee city. Apparently the art nouveau capital of Europe (and possibly the world). Another medieval old town. More garlic bread (but this time, the garlic bread did not come with cheese dipping sauce, but instead a sour cream sauce and the bread itself was doused in garlic pieces and butter) I think I liked the two versions equally. Latvia has awesome food. My dumplings quest continued, as well as including meatballs and pea soup into the diet. I know what you are thinking, bread, meat and dairy sounds balanced right? Well it's not but I simply don't care at this point.

    I stayed in a hostel which was the cleanest place I have ever stayed my life. According to a girl I met from the USA, two Austrians were getting busy in the bunk bed next to me, but I slept through the entire thing. What can I say, I have a talent for deep sleep 😪.

    On the third day in Riga, I took a day trip to the Sigulda national park with a German girl, Ida. We primarily wanted to find the bobsled track to take a ride, but when we arrived we were informed by the delightful Latvian man whom had very limited English that they only do rides on the weekend. So if I had gone the day before, I would have been able to kiss the egg. So instead we took a stroll around the track for 30 cents and took some tourist photos in the bobsled made for tourists. The old dude looked a bit bored and then wanted to show us his retro bob which sat above his reception desk. He was pretty chuffed with it.

    Then we decided to take a cable car ride. Well guess what? That wasn't working either. The Latvian woman informed us, "not today, maybe tomorrow". Well I won't be here tomorrow and I'm not coming back on a vague promise. But the walk was lovely. All the Autumn colours were phenomenal! On the way back we stumbled across a chair lift which took us back up to the town. I was so stocked to have found it because Ida was complaining so much about the stairs we had to climb to get to the top, and I would have piggy backed her up to the top to stop her.

    Highlights: Autumn colours
    Lowlights: not being able to kiss the egg before riding in a bobsled
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  • Turns out to be an awesome city! The old town is cute, the beaches lovely, the KGB museum creepy, and food good. Wish I was drinking, some nice looking beers! We cycled to the beach and kayaked the river, both well worth doing. Great place to celebrate Robyns birthday!

  • The Myth of the Common Myth of Common Colds in the Cold

    Those old wives sure can spread some pervasive rumours. Don't go swimming 20 minutes after eating and eat carrots for night vision. No smartass who knows its just a rumour can resist letting loose as soon as it crosses the conversation. For further laughs there is also the siren in the quiz show QI... you know the one. In particular I went beyond thinking about the old wives warning to "wear a jumper, else you will catch a cold!"

    So now we all accept it as a myth, cold weather does not give you a cold! "Its just a name darling"... the new-age wives would chuckle. Its always wise to rug up in the winter, of course. But apparently this is merely to stave off the risks of the much worse hypothermia and pneumonia. Funnily, its not often you hear of someone getting pneumonia because they left their jacket on the bus.

    So it goes more directly: "physically being cold does not make it more likely for you to catch the cold." I have always been skeptical of this common wisdom. But with sticklers like this, I find I just never quite get around to googling them. But today was the day, owing to a combination of being on holidays, and the tendency to have inane debates of curiosity with my partner. I daresay its also relevant that I am going through my first European winter. Hence, here I am in Latvia where the city streets are snow-lined and I have a slight tickle in my throat.

    Thus arises the perfect conditions for a literature review, through the lens of New Scientist and Science Daily. Its hard to get real facts from Yahoo! Answers after all.

    Ten years ago we didn't have much knowledge, or scientific funding apparently, concerning the reason for winter seasonality of Rhinovirus (common cold) and Influenza. We all know it of course - we are hardly surprised when we see pharmacies installing three extra-tall shelving units of paracetamol every winter.

    The mystery was somewhat settled by Lowen et. al. (2007) in their paper. They found that the flu virus is transmitted more effectively in dry air. Their tests (using guinea pigs; quite novel for their field) also suggested that colder noses take longer to shed the virus.

    So its no coincidence that colds spread in cold weather. Smoking gun? Almost.

    Indeed, the real smackdown wasn't delivered until very recently, by Foxman et. al. (2014). Researchers established that when your nose is cold, your immune defenses are reduced. This makes you more likely to catch the common cold. ZING! As someone who used to battle with well-above-the-average number of colds per winter, it feels sweet to say I was right. Sorry to everyone for being so demanding as to ask for an extra blanket when I stayed the night, but I was on to something!

    Lets get all full-circle. This is where the meta magic happens between the blogger and blogee. Stay with me to reflect on my journey. I went forward, beyond the conventional wisdom, skipped past Fox News and Yahoo!Answers and stopped at the last accessible frontier before Google Scholar. This is the realm of the Smithsonians, Scientific Americans and the New Scientists. But it turns out it was by far the long road to the answer. I could have gotten there quicker if I went backwards from the conventional wisdom and just stuck with the old wives tale.

    To perpetuate the mildly interesting dinnertime discussion of myths, I'm going to create one here. I heard it from an old wife, I swear. After all, I've been spending more time in their knitting circles recently. As the tale goes:
    You are far more likely to google your long-lived curiosities while on holiday.

    Sources I actually read
    1. Smithsonian Magazine (2015) "...Cold Weather Could Cause Colds"

    2. New Scientist (2008). "Cold Weather Really Does Spread The Flu" [Accessed Dec 2015]

    Scientific Research Appropriated by Above Sources
    3. Lowen et. al. (2007) "Influenza Virus Transmission Is Dependent on Relative Humidity and Temperature"
    4. Foxman et. al. (2014) "Temperature-dependent innate defense against the common cold virus limits viral replication at warm temperature in mouse airway cells"
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  • After seeing Robyn off, I headed West, to do a loop of the peninsula. My first night camping was awesome, so quiet and isolated next to this amazing lake. Second night was less awesome, in a forest full of mosquitos but I hid in the tent and survived! Hit Ventspils, and am camping up the coast tonight!

  • I arrived in Latvia with a destroyed stomach (lithuanian food).First stop was Bauska, which is situated close to the lithuanian border. Because of my strong problems with my stomach I decided to take a bus to Riga, where I took a hostel to get well again. I spent more than a week here and just enjoyed the city with everything it has to offer. The End of my trip: I took a ferry from Ventspils (Dubai of Latvia!) to Germany.Read more

  • Die Hauptstadt Lettlands beeindruckte nicht nur durch seine unzähligen Rock Cafe´s sondern auch durch sein gemütlichen Stadtkern. Man kann eigentlich alles gut erreichen hat sich schnell durch die wichtigsten Reiseziele gearbeitet um danach genug Zeit für das Rahmenprogramm Kneipe zuhaben sofern man eine Herrn Tour geplant hat. Insgesamt ist Riga eine schöner Wochen Trip in dem man alles gesehen hat was man sehen muss...Read more

  • Nach Narva ging es für uns abends noch weiter Richtung Riga. Wir suchten uns bald ein Nachtquartier am Peipussee, der auch noch die Grenze zu Russland markiert und mit über 3500 Quadratkilometern so groß wie ein Meer wirkt. Mit Blick übers Wasser und einem beeindruckenden Vollmond darüber gab es Abendbrot mit Knäckebrot, Käse etc (wir entdecken unsere Leidenschaft für dieses Essen immer stärker...) und eine frühe Nachtruhe um 22 Uhr.
    Das Frühstück am nächsten Morgen gönnten wir uns ein einem entzückenden Café im Stil der 30er-Jahre in Tartu, der zweitgrößten Stadt Estlands und aufgrund der großen Uni die "geistige Hauptstadt" des Landes. Der Gegensatz zu Narva hätte nicht ergreifender sein können: Bereits zum 8 Uhr morgens präsentierte sich diese moderne Stadt aufgeräumt, vornehm und farbenfroh. Die hohe Lebensqualität konnten wir quasi greifen. Und die Bedienung war mit ihrem Rock und Hütchen sehr charmant.... "More wishes?"
    Nach der Überquerung der Landesgrenze zu Lettland steuerten wir den Gauja-Nationalpark, genauer die Seilbahn in Sigulda an. Wir freuten uns auf den MarcoPolo-Geheimtipp, denn aus den Gondeln sollte man aus großer Höhe einen spektakulären Blick auf die Schlucht, die zahlreichen Burgen, Ruinen und Schlösser und die Sandsteinfelsen haben. All das stimmte auch - nur das "spektakulär" kam uns nicht unter. Alles war ein wenig in die Jahre gekommen und bedient wahrscheinlich eher den russischen Geschmack. Nunja... Daniel verzichtete auch auf einen Bungee-Sprung in die Schlucht und insofern machten wir uns nach der Gondelfahrt und einem Spaziergang wieder auf.
    Abends um 17 Uhr erreichten wir den Campingplatz in Riga und stellten uns auf den reservierten Platz zu unseren Helsinki-Tallinn-Gefährten: Jessy, Calle und Mario. Es wurde lecker gegrillt und bis 2 Uhr in der Nacht das Streunerleben gefeiert. Gestern sind sie weiter gefahren und unsere Wege werden sich nun nicht mehr kreuzen. Auf dem Campingplatz sind wir nun die Einzigen. Wie immer: end of season...
    Riga ist natürlich ein hervorragender Zeitvertreib. "Die Perle des Baltikums" - wie sie sich selber nennt, sehr zum Ärgernis der anderen Hauptstädte. Aber... es ist etwas dran! Eine wunderschöne Stadt mit Geschichte, Schönheit, viel Stolz, grünen Oasen und bestem Wetter für uns. Da dieser Beitrag jedoch bald enzyklopädische Ausmaße anzunehmen droht, sei kurz zusammengefasst: Top top top ! 👍😊😁
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  • Nach einem weiteren Tag zu Fuß, kehrten wir erneut auf einem Campingplatz ein. Unsere Hoffnung bestand darin vor Sonnenuntergang einen Schlafplatz zu finden, um nicht an der Bushaltestelle schlafen zu müssen.
    Und so geschah es. Wow, was war das für ne geile Hütte! Eine Blockhaus mit Terrasse und Grill, 100 Meter bis zum Strand. Also erstmal ankommen, Grillzeug kaufen und losgegrillt :-) nach dem guten Start, weiter ans Meer den schönen Sonnenuntergang genießen und den anstrengenden Tag bei ein paar kühlen Bierchen ausklingen lassen.

    Wir entschlossen uns schnell an diesem schönen Ort noch einen weiteren Tag zu bleiben. An diesem Tag gab es ein Animationsprogramm, welches wir interessiert beobachteten. Abends gab es eine kleine Prozession zum Strand mit traditionellen Tänzen und riesigem Lagerfeuer. Die bösen Geister und Gedanken wurden symbolisch im Feuer verbrannt, indem jeder etwas rief und alle darauf antworteten. Das war skurril und fantastisch zugleich :-)
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