Latvia 2006                                           
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Isn't modern life great? We can now jump on a plane and head effortlessly off into the wide blue yonder and 2 hours or so later land in an ex Russian satellite country, where you spend the afternoon & evening drinking, eating and generally having a good time - and still be home for afternoon tea the next day. 
Just after Christmas I received a phone call from Dez asking if I fancied a "Little adventure".  Now, you have to be a bit careful with Dez's little adventures, they can either be a severe risk to life and limb or cost a fortune. I remained non-committal until I found out just what the idea was. It seems he'd been mooching about t'interweb and found some as in ú3-99 return tickets with Ryanair to Riga,  the capital of Latvia.  Think on, that Riga is on the Baltic Sea coast and the flights were for mid January, so I think I can be forgiven for being a bit reticent.

I don't do the cold but it sounded like a daft enough idea, especially as he'd talked Howard and Steve into coming as well. Bizarrely, it was just for the one night, the idea being to go over have a good night on the town and a enjoy a few beers and return the following day. Hey! What could go wrong? Firstly, the airport tax to go with our cheap fare was ú26, still it was a cheap night out. Then they charged us all ú16 for booking by credit card, and there was still the hotel to pay for. Dez being Dez, we couldn't go to a flea ridden old knocking shop.... Ooooh nooo - we had to book into the Hotel Riga in the old town, possibly the most expensive place in Riga.  



    Riga International Airport

It's 7am on the morning of 26th January, The day dawns to a cold frosty start, but we've all made it to the John Lennon airport ok and we're now in the departure lounge getting ready to board our Ryanair flight.  We've cleared passport control and in a mere 2 and a half hours time we'll be touching down at Riga International Airport in Latvia, where we'll be greeted by a steel grey featureless sky and the freezing cold temperatures of an uninviting Latvian day.  The flight's a really good experience, especially flying over Denmark and the Southern  tip of Sweden, clear skies have given us a lovely clear view of the islands and frozen wastes around the Baltic Sea, it's stunning looking down on it from 38,000 feet!.


Steve & Howard leaving the plane

The Hotel Riga is everything I expected an ex Eastern Bloc hotel to be. It's clean but quite austere and cold, that is cold as in not very welcoming as a building, not cold heat wise! It's also not very modern.  The staff here aren't austere or cold though, just the opposite in fact - they're very helpful, polite and have a good sense of humour. Our young receptionist Kristina has eyes that could melt the icicles off a polar bears arse and a voice to match, the bar is well stocked and we have time to kill. Life is good. We very quickly warm to the hospitality of the people there.

The Riga is a very well maintained hotel even though parts of it are quite old, and that includes the lav in our room. If you've read this far then you'll know that most places we go there's a toilet story involved, and this one centres around Dez's fascination with the bog pan. He's highly amused by the fact that the bit where the water flushes down is at the front, meaning that you actually poo onto a wee shelf at the back. Then when you flush, the water knocks the little walnut whip off and sends it scooting down the pan.  Keeps Dez happy for hours that.  Obviously the Latvians like to inspect their jobbies to make sure all is well with the  bodily  functions, can't think of any other reason to design such a bog.

In it's privileged  position opposite the opera house the Hotel Riga is well placed for some of the best bars in the old town, and most other places of interest are within walking distance of here.  We never ate at the hotel except for breakfast, which is truly outstanding. The buffet style counter caters for every taste, be it a continental brekky or a full blown English / American, with all the whistles and bells.  

Hotel Riga reception area


The Riga Opera House from our hotel window

"Bring your swimming trunks" he said,  "The hotel has a swimming pool" he said.  
Didn't say anything about it being outdoors, on the piggin' roof and minus 15 deg though did ya Dez?? 


One of Riga's many trams. They're everywhere and although we never used one I'm told they only cost 20 centimes - about 20p per journey

It gets a bit nippy here in winter! This is the frozen Riga Canal which goes down past the University buildings.
In summer it's beautiful along here.........allegedly.

The Statue of Liberty - Riga. 
In the background is the hotel that houses the Skyline  Bar - where the arial shots (further down the page) were taken  


The Statue of Liberty monument is located in Brývýbas Street on the edge Riga old town. Dedicated "To The  Fatherland and Freedom",  it's unveiling took place in 1935 during Latvia's brief period of independence between the wars. Known locally as "Milda" it was a powerful symbol of the Anti-Soviet movement and became the centre point of gatherings in the late 1980's, during the early stages of the country's drive for independence. Why the Soviets never pulled it down remains a mystery, but now it serves as a shrine to national independence. 

This old dear was feeding the birds, she'll have seen many changes take place in Latvia in her  lifetime (That is if she's not here on holiday from   
        Pontefract of course)......   Instructions for being a  pigeon:  1. Walk around cooing aimlessly for a while pecking at cigarette butts and other shite on the floor   2. Take fright at someone walking past and fly off to ledge somewhere.  3. Have a shit   4. Repeat.



The Orthodox Cathedral


The Russian Orthodox Cathedral on Brivibas Iela took 8 years to build from 1876 onwards and it's had quite a turbulent history. In the Soviet anti religious years it was converted into a planetarium, and during the second world war the Soviets destroyed the interior which has since been rebuilt. After Latvia gained it's independence it was reverted back from a planetarium to a church, but the locals still call it the "Planetarijs"      


Taken from the Skyline Bar on the 26th floor of the modern Reval Hotel. This is looking along Brývýbas Street, towards the Statue of      
           Liberty,  the roof of the Orthodox Cathedral is on the bottom right and the frozen River Daugava can just be seen at the top of the shot 


Another photo of the Cathedral,  from the Skyline bar



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