Latvia

First impressions of Riga

An evening stroll, beer, burger and smiles. My first impression of Riga.

“What is that mountain-like building over there?”

The taxi driver laughs out load when I ask.

We, the taxi driver and I, had already managed to cover a lot of different topics on the short drive from the airport; from weather to our equally cool cats. His openess and friendlyness gave me great hopes for the next few days. Three days on your own can become boring and lonely if people are closed and unfriendly.

And I was correct; the building is supposed to look like a mountain, but clearly everybody does not agree on the amunt of money spent to build it. The National Library is the first building I notice on my way into the centre of Riga.

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EVENING STROLL
It’s and early February Saturday evening. After checking into my hotel I set out on an evening stroll. The first thing I see is the spire on St. Peter’s Church. A spire that will be my navigation point for the coming days.

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I walk with no other plan than to take in the atmosphere and find a decent place to eat, and the second attraction I bump into is the House of Blackheads.  As I continue, spending most of my time looking up on all the beautiful facades, I walk past most of the attractions I’ve read about; the castle, the three old houses called Three Brothers and the Swedish Gate.

I’ve seen and read about all of those sights in magazines, guide books and on Pinterest before. What fascinates me the most are the rest of the buildings. The narrow cozy streets, the open lanes and squares and how the wall decor is lighted up on every second building. I think I understand what my taxi driver meant about the city being more beautiful at night than day, but on the other hand I can hardly wait to see everything in daylight!

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Even though it’s Saturday night, the streets are quiet. On my walk I only passed a few other tourists with their cameras out, and some locals rushing to and from something. But I still felt completely safe wandering around on my own…

BEER & BURGER
Getting hungry, I soon understood where all the people were; inside all the warm and cozy restaurants! I had to try a few different places before I found a restaurant where I didn’t have to sit by the bar. I know a lot of solo travellers’ top tips for others travelling alone is to sit by the bar, but when eating alone I usually prefer the company of my book…

At Easy Beer & Burger I was directed to a nice, small table. The waiter handed me a menu and said he’d come back shortly to explain how everything works. Wait, what?! How difficult can it be to order a burger and a beer?? A few minutes later he was back with a menu and what looked like a credit card and points towards the walls.

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Apparently I can help my self with all sorts of local and international beers, wine and even make my own coctails. All I have to do is pick a choice of drink, find a glas, swipe the card I got and pour as much as I like. Nothing I’ve ever seen in a restaurant before, but oh so brilliant! Together with the best burger I have ever tasted, I sample some of the local beers.

SMILES AND FRIENDLY FACES
As I am finish my beer I get eye contact with the older lady at the opposite table. She raises her glas and smiles.

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On my way back to the hotel I pass a bar with a live band, people are gathering up outside listening and dancing to the music coming from the several speakers. I join them for a while before continuing towards St. Peter’s Church.

I am smiling too. Riga is already creeping under my skin. So far I have not seen a unwelcoming face. This is going to be a lovely few days!

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