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When my husband asked if I wanted to take a trip to Riga, Latvia from our new home in Trondheim, Norway I was supportive but not super excited. I knew that my brother loved Riga and my colleague enjoyed a weekend there but traveling solo or as a young couple is different to family travel. Anyway we decided to book a 4 day weekend in Riga the weekend after our 11th wedding anniversary and before autumn developed the teeth of winter.
We found an apartment through Booking.com with an excellent location, within 10 minutes walk of the old town and beside a big beautiful park. We are in an old apartment building with an old elevator and nestled between a designer fashion store and a strip club.
Our 75 minute flight with Norwegian air was comfortable and we prepaid a cab fare to the apartment with the green cab company. Our driver was friendly and chatted with us and pointed out some sights and gave us suggestions for activities to do with children.
After checking in we headed into the old town for a late lunch at Lido restaurant, on the recommendation of the cab driver. Lido is a charming restaurant with old fashioned decor. They have a buffet of traditional food and they were still very popular even at 3:30 in the afternoon. We ate wayyyy too much because the food was delicious and the portions huge.
We enjoyed looking at the interesting architecture in the old town and my eye was caught by a woolen dress in a shop window and 20 minutes later I was the pleased owner of some new work clothes. The shop was run by a feisty Latvian woman who aggressively confronted a young man with a white backpack who came into the shop. He didn’t appear to be typical clientele of a not very fashionable shop but I was surprised by the violence of her confrontation, grabbing, pushing and shouting at him. Afterwards she looked at me in an embarrassed way and processed a tax free claim for me. The confrontation left me wondering what sort of issues are faced in Riga, the next day we encountered strict security at an electronics shop and at a cinema we snickered to see a sign prohibiting guns in the cinema.
We headed next into the Gallery Centre to use the facilities on the top floor and buy a few things tax free. We headed back out into Riga old town by evening. We found a quiet wine bar and were seated by a hipster who was about to screen the 50s film Rock a bye Baby. Our children were captivated and ate their dinner without fuss. I can understand why some families eat in front of the tv because it leads to less mealtime conflict than is typical in our family lately. My husband and I sipped drinks (I couldn’t even consist eating dinner after such a huge lunch) and enjoyed the peace and harmony.
Riga is a nice city with a well preserved old town. The lingering influence of Soviet occupation and the huge Russian population is clear and I wonder what it would have been like pre WWII.
There are some seriously hipster aspects like the coolest barber shops that you’ll ever see, funky basement bars, cool wine bars and slow food kitchens. There are many interesting looking museums, a beautiful opera house, a funky old cinema showing a film festival this week and concert halls but there are some flashy and seedy aspects like the gambling and strip clubs and the safe, cosy feeling rapidly recedes in the direction of the railway station.