Living with intent, social engagement, learning, growing, giving
Yes, I do know that Peter Allen was singing about Rio but I adapted the lyrics on my first day here and it’s been playing over and over in my mind since then.
On Saturday the cold, humid autumn air clung to us as we explored the central market of Riga. I think that we had hoped for something like the produce markets in Nice, which proudly displays the luscious bounty of fertile Provence. It’s not like that in Riga and in retrospect considering the short growing season and unfavorable conditions the Baltic can’t be expected to offer such culinary riches. Hundreds of trestle tables were loaded with imported fruit and vegetables and only occasional stands sold locally grown cabbages, garlic and potatoes. We bought coffees and savory pastries for our children from a bakery at the central railway station. The coffee was undrinkable and oily and the warnings about pickpockets rang in my ears as various people with facial scars and neck tattoos wandered around. Fortunately we enjoyed wandering around the markets.
We chose some pomegranates and persimmons from a stall after standing in front if it and deliberating and the stall holder asking in an exasperated way ‘why don’t you buy instead of just looking?’ We asked her to cut the Turkish pomegranate up for us and she did a great job of it. We stood amount the stalls, plucking rubies from the pith, red juice dripping from our chins and hands.
We bought cheeses from the dairy and cured meat pavilion and some of the cheese vendors allowed us to try the cheeses. I don’t think that any of the cheeses were Latvian but they were significantly cheaper than in Norway. We muddled by with a mix of Polish, English and hand gestures. One dear old lady was selling lambskin boot liners and helped me to find a pair that fit my boots. When it came time to pay the 3 Euros (spoken in Polish) she misunderstood my husband’s 2 fingers and thumb and thought he was trying to haggle down to 2 Euros. She became upset at said 2.50 then lit up when he paid 3. Imagine living in such a way that 0.50 Euros makes that much difference to you… Several times we were jostled out of the way by unpleasant looking and mean spirited middled aged women who clearly thought that had more right to be there than us. When we were deliberating over how many and what type of fresh donuts to buy the stall holder glared at me and essentially told me to order or get out. It certainly wasn’t the charming experience of Nice markets but it was very authentic. I wonder if Latvian people were nicer before WWII and Soviet occupation?
After we had bought all that we could carry, including 1L of special honey with medicinal qualities, we headed to the National opera house to buy tickets to a children’s opera. Unfortunately only standing tickets remained so we had coffee in the opera house café and admired the architecture and rich decorations instead.
After spending time in the beautiful gardens beside the opera house and dropping our shopping at our nearby apartment we headed to Stockmann to see a film. We did a bit of shopping in the department store, had a nice lunch at the restaurant on the top floor and bought tickets to see Pan in English and 3D. We were a little discomforted to see signs prohibiting firearms in the cinema. Unlike in Australia the 3D glasses were provided and carefully retrieved by unsmiling staff after the film.
We walked to the Academia of Sciences building to have a panoramic view of Riga, as recommended by my brother. The man at the ticket office does not have a high opinion of customer service and didn’t make us feel welcome, nor stop us from catching the wrong lift, which took us to a residential part of the building but we soon realised our mistake and went back down then up again. The view was lovely and we had excellent visibility.
We wandered along the river promenade in the setting sun then had a quick look at the House of the Blackheads (sounds so much better as Schwarzkopf!), the Dome and other iconic buildings then headed for Ala Folk music café.
We grabbed the last table for 4, which unfortunately was too far from the stage to hear the live music but we at least had a table. We had good meals and my Amber beer was tasty. We watched as dozens of people streamed in and were turned away.
It was a day of new experiences and adaptation as plans changed to fit circumstances. The squabbling increased exponentially as the day wound to a close in the hyper stimulating environment at Ala’s. We agreed to have a separate day on Sunday to allow jangled nerves to calm down.