That’s Majori / Black Balsams and Brainstorm
Both of us have slightly sore heads this morning...so what better than a trip to the seaside to clear them? It was time to hit the Baltic coast, just 35 minutes by train from Riga. The biggest challenge is actually getting on the train...a very high climb, not good for short-legged people like me! Once you do climb onto the train, you can enjoy the journey through the rural outskirts of Riga, which seems to be covered in forests. Jurmala is our destination - but it’s actually a collection of adjacent villages which line the Baltic coast. We get off at Majori station. Majori is best known for its collection of preserved wooden houses and they are rather stunning. We spend a lot of time strolling down the main street, which is like a real-life version of Skansen in Stockholm.
After lunch we head (via some more delightful wooden houses) to Majori beach (pictured above). We walk across the beach and literally dip our toes in the Baltic. The Baltic air is fresh and salty, and the weather bright and breezy. We may only have been standing on a beach, but it’s quite a moving and exciting experience, because this is The Baltic Coast and never before in my life had I ever imagined that I’d ever do anything like this.
But eventually we have to go back to Riga by train - just how "ex-KGB" was that ticket inspector???!!! Riga Central Station isn’t just a station, but it’s a bit of a shopping mall too! We end up (surprise surprise) in a little record shop where I buy a Now-type compilation of recent Latvian pop, whilst faithful travelling companion invests in a Russian-language album by...a Russian girl band!
Our final night in Riga and our final dinner at a small basement bar/restaurant tucked away in the shadow of Riga Castle. A real "Latvian" night too - food, beer and finally our first taste of the, ‘legendary’ Riga Black Balsams, a unique and potent local spirit. Initially it tastes disgusting, so disgusting that I end up having another one in another bar later in the evening. Extra Latvian-points also to this eatery for playing the complete works of Brainstorm/Prata Vetra tonight!
Our holiday is almost over. Have decided that even if Riga hasn’t ripped out my heart and left a million-pound ransom note, the way that, say, Nice or Paris have, it’s still a cracking little city well worth a visit. I still feel that if you want to see the ‘real’ Riga, go during the week and avoid the stag-hell which I would imagine weekends to be.
Part 5 coming soon....