Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Riga Diaries Part 2

Day 2, 20.05.08
Supermodels alert!/It’s Baltic!/Turkey stuffed.

The sky is bright blue, the sun is shining, and there’s a little breeze in the air. The Riga air feels so fresh and clean and invigorating - unlike many cities we’ve visited in the past.

Discovering Riga by day takes us to the other side of the Old Town, to the Powder Tower, the Swedish Gate (one of my favourite little buildings in Riga) and through various beautiful streets which have an unreal, fairytale-like quality to them, down to the River Daugava (pictured below) which is possibly one of the "bluest" rivers I’ve ever seen.
It may not have the prettiest riverside views, but the Daugava is still worth seeing, and will take you right back to the main square and home of one of Riga’s most photographed sights - the House of the Blackheads. It's actually two buildings side by side. Here's one of them...

It wouldn’t be a holiday for me without a trip to at least one record shop. Randoms is a small, Fopp-style store staffed by young emo-trendies and stocking everything from international rock to Russian-language pop (the only one I recognised was Dima Bilan) and everything Latvian. I came in search of Prata Vetra and happily left the store with my two new purchases: their new CD and last live DVD. I couldn’t find any megastore-type record shop, that’s not to say there aren’t any though.

Still in search of some familiar sights, we crossed off the Three Brothers after lunch. These are three adjoining buildings: no.17 (above) dates back to the 1400s and is said to be the oldest building in Latvia.

In Dome Square we saw a fascinating open-air photography exhibition with contrasting images from 1987 and 2007. Of particular interest to me: one photograph of Prata Vetra, and one of a blue cow! Which I liked so much I took a picture of a picture! (above)

Double Coffee is the Latvian equivalent of Costas/Starbucks, only with nicer seats and, on this day, slightly more disinterested staff.

The Russian Orthodox Cathedral (above) is also quite a striking sight and had my camera working overtime. As you can see the sky was still a beautiful blue, and the sun was still shining.

On our first full day in Riga, I’m struck by the classy appearance of this city’s residents. They seem to just ooze class and style, and give the French a run for their money. Most of the young women of Riga look like supermodels, they walk with a catwalk swagger and navigate the cobbled streets in high heels. They also look mostly rather stunning, and my faithful travelling companion spends the rest of his holiday with his head swivelling from one supermodel to another. Great news for him, but not so great news for me as the Riga hot-guy count hasn’t yet made it out of single figures.

Dinner tonight at a Spanish restaurant near the Swedish Gate. How Latvian is that eh!!! Like every other city it seems Tuesday night is rather quiet in Riga and many of the bars are closing earlier. The weather is also - dare I say - "Baltic" tonight, but a brisk walk back to our hotel warms us up.

Back in time for the results of the first Eurovision Song Contest semi-final. The Latvian TV commentator is relentless, and the results are announced. Finalists include Russia, Norway, Finland and the bonkers Azerbaijan song, but there is no room for the likes of Slovenia, the Netherlands or Ireland. For indeed tonight, Dustin the Turkey was well and truly stuffed.

A great day in Riga, and more to come. (Part 3 of The Riga Diaries should appear here on Sunday)

No comments: