On this friday my girlfriend and I left Vilnius by bus for Latvia. We had to go to Prague, but we changed our destination to Riga where the first Christmas tree ever was erected…
The 5 hours travel will drive us to Riga for the evening. I start to feel local because it is my 5th time since March I visit the city but the first of my travel-mate, however I still have many things to see and to do before being a local.
Getting to the Green Apple
Our bus came in the central station around 18:00 and we had to walk 10 minutes to reach the Green Apple Hostel. It was before have dinner in center, to take the key and leave luggages. The check in was long because we had to arrange it without the Hotel Riga reception but in the Green Apple. Not as I did during my last journey. To find this reception, on the third floor of the building we must have to take stairs from an outside entrance closed by a security door with code, unknow… After 30min we enter with a resident, had keys and put our bags in our new comfortable room (the same as Hotel Riga).
Dinner and visit
While we were walking searching for a restaurant, the snow was falling. My first “big” snow. Unfortunately it didn’t survived more than hour and after dinner streets were just wet. Besides we tried the TGI Friday. I didn’t know this chain before but I like it very much now! Especially the Jack’s Burger which is just AWESOME, CHEAP and TASTY.
After I provided a tour in the mains streets and squares, actually the bests places of the Old Town. By the way, we were surprised to see so much Christmas tree. In fact for celebrating the 501 anniversary of the first tree put in Town Hall square, Riga municipality put arround 20 trees in the Old Town, some real, other much more artistic and contemporaneous, as a result our journey was a bit more worderfull than it should be.Furthermore I discovered – thank to my girl – a small area next to Saint Peter’s church which lead us on Kalku iela.
We finish the evening by a visit in Saint Peter’s church and its tower. Despite it was had a very cold wind we enjoy the view on the night Riga.
Crossing all Riga by walk
Our Saturday was divided in two parts, the first in the new Riga area across the Pilsetas kanals, and the second on the opposite side of the capital. The day started again under a small rain by a breakfast in a Double Coffee on Kalku iela, the place is calm and the music original, no radio pop/dance music. After being on the liberty square we continue our walk to another Christmas market and the Nativity Cathedral, the russian cathedral was transformed into a planetarium during the soviet time. The last times it was in construction, but now they finish it, the cathedral is beautiful. Later we had a stop in Radisson hotel to have a view the whole city from the sky bar, however it was close and we didn’t see anything… Once outside the rain stopped and the sun was with us for the rest of the day. We discovered the Saint Gertrude’s church which is an old wooden and stone church not far away by walk from the Russian Cathedral, in reality if from outside there is nothing special, the interior is much more intersting, at least for me.
Capital of the Art Nouveau
After see inside and been asked to pay for renovation we move to the Art Nouveau district that is to say big and nice architecture among many less nice building. The Latvian congress center and its park was our way back for city center, its glass pyramids remember us the Louvres Museum.
Once in the Old Town we tried a first time to visit the Dom, but it just closed at 15:30 … For all that the Dom square with the biggest chirstmas market of the city gave us a little compensassion and we had lunch in the Charlie Pizza restaurant for let our feet to take rest.
Behind Vanšu bridge
During the last part of the day we saw the Riga’s Castle, which is now the President office, and cross the Vanšu bridge to be in the special wooden houses district on Kalnciema iela. During we were on the bridge we saw the sun moved away. The wooden house district is not so interesting but maybe we weren’t on the best site, if you have ever seen this kind of construction you can skip it (they have similar in Estonia).
Problematic Victory Memorial to the Soviet Army
After a long walk though some dark street we reach the Victory Memorial to the Soviet Army to remember the fight of the URSS against the Nazis. Monument is quite big and in a typical soviet style with its 79 meters tall obelisk. However it’s not in the city center and we never heard or read anything about this construction before, because not present on the maps, monument totaly ignored by the population even if half of them would like to delete it.
After a small nape in our hotel, we made a soviet-pub crawl. The results was that on four pubs, one doesn’t exist, on was too far, another too shitty and the last one, Leningrad pub, was really good! Night was safe! It’s decorated like an old soviet living room, and gives us loud music, friendly atmosphere with cheap and tasty beer!
Because sunday was our last day we had a simple itinerary. We chose only to see the some specials places according to my new tourism guide. Thus we been in the Riga’s University, saw the old pharmacy. Oh! I was going to forget, I went again the Dom cathedral, but not open yet this time…
Central station and around
Almost two hours before the have to be in the bus we took the way back to station. We didn’t pass directly by the old town but though train station district, area where you can record some post-apocalypse movie. We finished with the Academic Science building and the market, both didn’t change since my first time there.
14:40 and time to go inside the bus for a four hours travel to Vilnius. And I already want to go again…