Riga, Latvia is such a treasure. My third visit and the first in summertime. One third of Riga's city centre is built in the ART NOUVEAU style, which makes it so attractive, and possibly the least expensive city to visit, certainly compared to nearby Scandinavia
. I was waiting for my regulat No. 3 trolleybus from downtown to my hotel when I felt a little peckish. Across the road was a big McDonald's and McCafe so I thought I would give it a try. Squeaky clean, large, comfortable padded chairs and couches, and free wi-fi. What's to lose? I ordered a large cheeseburger and fries, an orange juice and a crunchy fruit sundae...all for E4.00 Talk about hot and fast. My order number was up and ready in 2 minutes and with a smile.
Riga, Latvia's capital and only large city had a troubling time under the Soviet regime, but the country gained its independence..again in 1990 after thousands of its citizens were killed duting WW ll and 190,000 imprisoned in the Soviet gulag from 1945-1950. Now, its internet speed is among the world's fastest 13.8 MB/s compared to UK 8.6, USA 11.9. France 7.5, Brazil 3.4.
Its national flag from 1280 is older than all others but Denmark. It even owned a couple of overseas colonies in the 17 C in the Gambia River in West African and Tobago in the West Indies. I arrived at Riga's modern airport on Ryanair at a modern, recently opened discount airlines terminal. While taxiing we passed the Portuguese Football Federation private jet in which the European champions had recently landed.
The national airline AIR BALTIC, founded only in 1995, is based there and in the past I have flown to exotic places such as Tbilisi, Georgia, and Baku, Azerbaijan. Walk ouside the terminal across the street and catch a bus 10km to the city for just over €1 or as i did this time, €2 for a small 24 seater passenger van with very few stops.
Jacobs Jufess emigrated to USA in 1854 and iin 1876 invented denim jeans which were marketed by Levi Straus. There are booze shops all over and Black Balsam, a traditional liquor is made from 24 different plants, flowers, juices, roots, oils and berries.
This afternoon I took a one hour cruise on a small boat with 6 other passengers around the leafy, grass embanked canals and into the River Daugava past building old and modern and under stylish bridges and past the ferry port where the huge TALLINK ferry to Tallin, Estonia was berthed and past the yacht harbour.
I always visit Central Market, a UNESCO World heritage site, as is the centre of Old Riga. The market consists of 5 huge former Zeppelin hangers and with 3,000 stalls it's Europe's biggest and ouside I love the many fruit, vegetable and flower stalls. Next door is a large long distance bus terminal..I am booked on a 4 hour trip to Vilnius, Lithuania early tomorrow, and a modern train station. You can catch a trolleybus into the centre from there. €2 if you pay the driver, but buy a multicard at a convenience store and it works out at just ove €1 as you press the card at a terminal onboard the trams, buses or trolleybuses.
Stroll along the canal banks past birds and waterfowl and many modern and older statues with plenty of places to sit down and picnic on the grass or the wooden benches. Radiating from Town Hall Square I visited the House of Blackheads, St.Peters Church, and the very tall Freedom Monument where two soldiers were slowly marching using the goosestep.. We have Dome Square. Livu Square. Riga Bourse,, Riga Castle, the Powder Tower and across the River Daugava the ultra modern National Library of Latvia.. and lots more alongside cobbled streets.. Come on over and give Riga a try. You will be surprised, pleased and want to return.