Another bus ride, this time from Siulaia to Riga, Latvia. Rural Latvia seemed poorer than Lithuania, at least the roads were poorer, but Riga made up for it—it’s beautiful! I had some trouble finding my Tiger Hostel, but finally did, and it’s fine. (I have tiger sheets and a tiger duvet!). When I arrived I discovered that I had been locked out of my hotmail account apparently because of sending all those emails. They thought someone was using my account to send junk mail. I had a dickens of a time trying to get it unlocked.
In the meantime I had lunch and then went sight-seeing in Old Riga. One building, the Blackhead’s House, was originally built in 1344 for a guild of German unmarried merchants. The house was destroyed in 1941 but was rebuilt to original specifications in 2000. Riga’s patron saint, St. Roland, stands in front of it, facing the Town Hall.
A new experience—-for the first time I used a free standing WC in which you put money to open the door; the whole thing is cleaned automatically after you use it. This one was located right in the main square. How convenient and what a good invention!
They obviously went on a massive building spree during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s as many of the buildings are beautiful Art Nouveau buildings with fancy statuary and carvings decorating them.
I visited several museums and churches, then looked at Riga Castle where the present President lives now. I stopped for a coffee, then walked through some parks where people were spending their Sunday. There are canals/rivers running through the town, too.
The next day I did a walking tour of some of the Art Nouveau buildings. Riga has over 750 Art Nouveau buildings—the most of any European city—and these I saw were on steroids! Such fantasy! Such imagination!
I also stopped in at the Russian Orthodox Cathedral, which was freshly muraled with religious murals since the Soviets had used the building for a planetarium. And always it’s fun to see the tall, blond, fashionable, Latvian young women, many of whom had bought flowers.
The next morning when I took the bus to Sigulda, Latvia, it was raining but gently. By the time I got there, it had stopped although the sky was seriously overcast. I chose a hostel that was a bit out of town, made from a school, I think. It turned out not to be dorms, but I had a private room with bath. Of course one is quite isolated that way. Still, sometimes it’s nice to be alone!
I mainly spent the afternoon eating. I had the best meal that I’ve had here at the Black Cat Restaurant, recommended by the LP. I had a smoked pork shoulder with horseradish and mustard, oven-roasted potatoes and a nice salad. It was so good, and such home cooking! An older woman came out of the kitchen to replenish one of the dishes (it was like a cafeteria) and I suspect that she did the cooking. She just looked like a good cook!
When I went back to the bus depot to get the suburban bus to my hostel, I arrived at 1:29 for the 1:30 bus. It didn’t come, so I assumed that I had missed it. I waited an hour for the 2:30 bus, and that never appeared. I tried to find out the deal, but not much English in small towns, so I don’t know what happened. I walked, which took about 40 minutes, so not a big deal. I discovered the next day that those early afternoon buses don’t run when school isn’t in session, so I had another walk after castle-seeing all morning. I was plumb tuckered!
The castles were fun to see. The new Sigulda Castle was built in the 1890s. The old one was built in 1206 as a knight’s stronghold, but it was ruined and is now being reconstructed. In looking for it I had taken a wrong turn and walked about two miles downhill, thinking it was just around the next corner. Finally I discovered my mistake, and couldn’t face climbing up that hill, so I stuck out my thumb and a car stopped right away. It was a young Latvian man who knew where Minneapolis was (!) and when I expressed surprise, he said, “I go to school—we Latvian men are smart!”
The Krimulda Castle was fun to get to—I rode in a cable car over a deep valley—but not much was left of that castle, either. The Turaida Castle was a different story. It was founded in 1215, but many of the buildings are younger than that—from the 14th to 16th centuries. I climbed up in the 130’ tower and tried to repel the invaders, but alas, German tour groups just kept coming!
Tomorrow I shall try to catch a 7:40 AM train by taking my local bus that, this morning, arrived at the train station at 7:39. I watched as the train pulled out at 7:42. I bought my ticket so all I have to do is jump on board. We’ll see—-