Riga is a beautiful place: made even more so by the fact we had actually made it there (and weren’t Lost In Lithuania). But unfortunately we only had 28 hours to explore.
Wheeling our suitcases through the snow (which eroded one of my wheels, which still causes me grief), we found our hostel just inside of the Old Town walls.
It was called Naughty Squirrel, so naturally we were unsure what to expect, but to this day it is the nicest hostel I have been in. Not only was it very conveniently located- around a ten-minute walk from the main square and all the action- but it was just so fab.
We were ‘welcomed’ with a compulsory shot of the local alcohol (a lovely gesture but certainly an acquired taste), and then shown to our room. Despite a questionable pair of roommates (again), who never seemed to leave the room, (I hope they saw the inside of some good hotel rooms on their travels!), it was so cosy inside! There was a rug in the middle, and each bed had a complimentary blanket and towel on it. My favourite part of all however, was the privacy curtain that you could pull across your bed. I’ve not seen this in any other hostel but it is such a simple, yet great addition: for when you are travelling on your own and feel awkward, at night when people are coming in late, or just if you fancy some peace and quiet!
Heading out for a quick dinner, we opted for a branch of a local cuisine chain called Lido. I can certainly see why the locals love it: it had a friendly atmosphere, and the food was hearty and homely. Reminiscent of school dinners, you grab a tray and go along the line asking for what you want to fill it with, and then pay before you sit down again: adding to the place’s general relaxed vibe. There was an array of meat, various types of potatoes, and all kinds of veg to choose from, so no matter what your dietary requirements, you should definitely pay Lido a visit if you’re in the area.
The next morning, we opted for a two hour walking tour of the old town. This seemed like a great idea, as it was the perfect way to see the city… however it didn’t seem so great once we were actually there: it was quite literally freezing! I couldn’t even take my hand out my glove for the ten seconds it would take to snap a photo without my fingers going numb (I am absolutely gutted that I don’t have many photos to show for Riga) 😦
We were right though, it was a great way to see the city, and the guide was particularly brilliant; getting us all involved, and telling us lots of quirky fun facts along the way. He even took us to the warmth of a pub for a debrief after, where he gave us an idea for how to spend our afternoon…
After lunch, we left the old town to see ‘modern’ Riga. Up the long street pictured below, separating the old and new parts of the city, past the Freedom Monument, is the Radisson Hotel. The tour guide recommended going up to the rooftop bar to take a look at the spectacular views across the city. So this is what we did.
And he was so right. We enjoyed a sophisticated and chilled (but not literally this time) afternoon in the Skyline Bar. It offered a novel selection of cocktails, which proved the perfect accompaniment to the classy atmosphere, a people watch over the city, and a reminisce about our trip.
But, all good things must come to an end, and soon we found ourselves en route to the hostel to get ready for our last night together in Europe (on this trip anyway).
For dinner that night, we had heard good things about another traditional restaurant, called Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs. It was underground, and again had a traditional feel. Everything was wooden, and it was lit by candlelight. The wine in this restaurant was particularly good, however it was fairly expensive, so we opted to carry on the night in a bar instead.
The first bar we went to was Mexican themed, with sombreros and salsa music, so naturally first impressions were good. However we soon found it to be full of stare-y men and our growing sense of discomfort caused us to down our drinks and make a swift exit.
The next bar seemed perfect. It was modern, and there was a enough people in there to create a nice atmosphere, but it wasn’t too busy. At first, we were having a nice, normal time. But soon it became clear we were better off in the first bar- and that precise moment was when the Chinese man who was sat on his own at the table in front of us came over and asked to sit with us. I don’t think we would usually have said yes, but we had just enjoyed two weeks of meeting new people, and so it seemed pretty normal, and in the moment agreed. Oops.
At first it was pleasant small talk, and we thought he might leave us alone after a few minutes… but then it became clear that we would have to be the ones to leave. As we were talking (or being interrogated) the questions became quite intrusive (I don’t think I’m going to tell you where I really live, do you creepy stranger?), and so I started making up answers for fun (it got a bit awkward when I told him that my parents had just been to China, and then later on told him I didn’t have parents when he got too interested in them) (he didn’t even notice though, he was too invested in his phone, and as it turns out, a few other things).
As the man asked us questions, it became more and more obvious that he was looking at his phone, reading something, and then looking up and asking us what he had just read. I started to get suspicious that he was asking questions from his screen. Were these questions people were writing to him specifically for us? My suspicions were confirmed when he then started talking into his phone.
I asked him why he was talking into his screen, but he brushed it off, and opted to ask another question. It was like we were being interviewed. I suddenly had a horrible thought- it sounded like he was letting people know the answers to the questions he was asking… confirming that the questions were coming from someone else. Because it was moving so fast, it was like a YouTube or Facebook live stream.
‘Are you streaming us right now?!’ I asked. At first he tried to deny it, but after a while he sheepishly admitted to it! If that wasn’t bad enough, he then asked us if we would continue answering, as the audience were so interested in the lives of two british girls!!
Needless to say, we got out of there quickly and practically sprinted to the hostel making sure he didn’t see where we were staying as we were definitely finished with our interrogation. And yes, I’ve looked for the video, but I can’t find it 😦
Despite this, Riga was a stunning city; and considering it is the largest Baltic city, it seemed much smaller than that. I felt so comfortable and would love to go back and do it justice with some more time. I would go in the summer, as although it magical with the snow, I’m sure it would feel completely different in the sun.