45. Latvia

Day 01: I got my first positive impression of Latvia immediately after we crossed the border between from Estonia. As we drove along the baltic sea, I could not help but wonder how beautiful the Latvian countryside was. I am a city boy, but seeing green scenery has always calmed me. We arrived at the Riga Bus Station at 7:30 pm and those of us that were coming to Riga came down while the bus continued in the direction of Lithuania and Poland. As I got off the bus, I immediately got the hint that I was now in Eastern Europe. This was through the “What are you doing here?” look I got from an old man that was on the bus with me and the fact that the Russian language was becoming much more prevalent than in Estonia. After getting my suitcase, I headed to the hostel situated 15 minutes away from the station. Within 5 minutes I was already in the Old Town of Riga and I was blown away by what I saw. First, it was the amazing architecture. During my travels, I had heard that Riga was beautiful but I never expected this. It was amazing. The Art Nouveau style was breathtaking. At that moment, I was reminded of all my Latvian friends that moved to London back in the 2000s after Latvia joined the EU. I mean, why leave such a beautiful place? As I approached the hostel, I was stopped by the greatness of Saint Peters Church. I could not wait to explore the city tomorrow. I checked into the hostel and got to meet an Estonian girl and a Latvian lady who was visiting from London. During my conversation with the latter, I noticed that she was the kind of lady who loved black men and she had gone to the Gambia. Why do Old European white ladies go to the Gambia for? I later had a chat with the Estonian girl and an Egyptian man who was also travelling through Europe.

Day 02: Around 9 am, I got ready to go around Old Town Riga. My first stop was the 1221 Restaurant on Krāmu street, one of the most instagrammable spots in Riga. The restaurant is now called Dom however it has still maintained the façade of the previous one. Next, I went to Riga Cathedral and Dome Square. As well as the church, there were some really amazing buildings on the square. The Riga Cathedral was closed for some reason. I then continued my visit to the Three Brothers buildings. There were a couple of locals standing by one of the buildings and they were waiting for tourists to start playing the saxophone. As I did not look like the usual tourists, they did not mind me but it was also hard for me to get a good picture of the buildings without showing them. However, they immediately started playing when a group of Japanese tourists approached the location. My stop was the famous Swedish Gate which was very underwhelming and I could not get any good pictures. There was an old painting by the gate and a Russian tourist and his wife decided to have a conversation with him, blocking the view of the gate. I waited few minutes for them to leave. Next, I moved to the Cat House and the lively and colourful Livu Square. I walked by the famous Black Magic shop that is famous for the Riga Black Balsam drink, considered the national drink of Latvia. I continued to St. Peter’s church and then the House of the Black Heads. I waited for quite a while before I could get a clear picture of the building with breathtaking and unusual architecture. I also came across Oliver from Macedonia, whom I met in Helsinki at the hostel I stayed at. We decided to go to the Riga Central Market to get lunch as I was hungry. I got a Pirags, a national dish that was very delicious. After wondering at the high price (500 euros for some of the cans) of Caviar at the market, we crossed the bridge to the National Library of Latvia. After about 30 minutes of touring the library, we headed back to the old town where I needed to take reels of the previous locations I visited. We also stopped by the Black Magic shop where I was able to get a taste of the famous Riga Black Balsam drink. It was a mix of Chocolate and Mint and the taste was amazing. I also visited some other places I missed earlier such as the Our Lady of Sorrows Church, the Freedom monument, the National Latvian Opera, and the Riga Nativity of Christ Orthodox Cathedral. At that point we were both tired, so we decided to head back to Old town and we got something to eat at the Circle K. We then said Goodbye and I headed back to the hotel. A couple of hours later I headed back to Elizabeth Street for a walk and then headed back to the hostel.

Day 03: I headed out at 8 am to take some additional shots. I started with the House of the Black Heads and being early there were not many people around which was great for me. A few minutes into the shooting session, I was approached by a British Irish man who seemed very eager to talk to someone and also to go to a bar for a drink. After him trying to convince me how great Ryanair was, I said goodbye and headed to Dome square. I then continued in the direction of the Riga Art Nouveau Center, passing by a group of animal rights activists. At Albert Street, I was blown away by the concentration of buildings with Art Nouveau architecture. I then hurried to the hostel before checkout time while stopping by the Latvian National Museum of Art, Riga Nativity of Christ Orthodox Cathedral. I arrived back at the hostel at 10 am and checked out. stayed at the hostel to work till about 1:30 pm.