We’ve only ever met one Latvian person in our life, and that happened to be a girl in the same Spanish class as us. Other than that we have had close to zero exposure to Latvian people or culture.
After arriving via a comfortable bus from Tallinn late in the afternoon, we walked to our hotel called ‘Forums Hotel’. We checked in and soon realised it probably wasn’t the best place to being staying given the room was ridiculously hot and we were situated right next to an Aussie pub (go figure!). We wanted to make the most of the short time we had there so decided to wander the streets and get our bearings. There was hardly anybody on the street but the sounds of live jazz bands playing in the outdoor restaurants gave this city a really cool, relaxed vibe which is just what we were after.
So what did we get up to on our visit to this Baltic city?
1. Three Brothers
These are three houses in the Old Town which are all heritage protected. They are the oldest dwellings in Riga and are said to have been built by three men of the same family (not sure if this is actually true). Each ‘brother’ represents different stages in architectural developments in Riga as they were all built during different time periods.
2. Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs
Jason usually has the task of picking the places for us to eat when we travel and once again, he didn’t disappoint. This place was so great we went here twice! It is an underground pub with live music, great food and drinks. Everything is ridiculously cheap, with the mains all less than 5 euros. We loved it here and could see why there are crowds here day and night.
3. Free Walking Tour
Like every other city, we opted for the free walking tour to get an idea of the history and culture of Latvia. The tour itself was mediocre this time round but one thing we did find interesting was finding out about the ‘Baltic Way’. In August 1989, roughly 2 million people (675km) from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania formed a human chain by holding hands as a peaceful demonstration against the USSR. During this time these 3 nations were all considered to be part of the USSR but wanted their independence, and this was their way of showing it.
4. Panoramic Riga
This building looks almost identical to the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw. We went here specifically for the rooftop on the recommendation of our tour guide. Oddly, we decided to purchase a jar of 4 euro caviar from the market and managed to eat the entire thing whilst enjoying the view (gross I know…but oh so delicious!). Oh and the view was great too!
5. Exit Game
This is probably close to the 10th exit room we’ve completed. For those who don’t know what it is, quite simply, you are trapped in a room and have one hour to escape by solving different puzzles. We opted for the Harry Potter room with the company Xroom and managed to escape in 30 minutes. We were pretty chuffed with ourselves but were hoping it would last longer.
6. Day trip to Sigulda
Only an hour’s train ride outside of Riga, we opted for a day trip to be able to explore a little bit of Latvia’s ‘nature’ side. This region is known for it’s outdoor activities and is often the first choice for parents to take their kids in the Summer. We walked through the strange ‘Walking Stick’ park, took a cable car ride through to the other side of the National Park and did a mini-hike to the Gutmanis Cave. Now this cave is full of inscriptions all over the wall from travellers who have passed through over the years with the oldest inscription from 1667. It also happens to be the highest and widest cave in the Baltic region.
Til next time
Ann & Jason xo