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Riga Reunions and a Mongolia-bound Madman

Posted by on June 15, 2011

There’s something tremendously fun about reuniting with friends in distant lands or faraway places in other countries. And so it was that I had caught up with Danny in Riga.

Danny with his bike, Sprocket

Danny with his bike, Sprocket

In case you missed my earlier mention, Danny (who I’d originally planned to join, before going by public transport) is currently riding a scooter from London to Mongolia, and in Riga was going great guns, despite several setbacks – having his laptop stolen in Berlin, rear suspension failure, multiple crashes, blow-outs … you get the picture. Anyway, he was stuck in Riga waiting on his Uzbekistan visa for the past week, but had managed to finally get it the day before I arrived. He’d resolved to sticking out the weekend before heading north to Estonia.

If interested in Danny’s misadventures, you can visit his blog here. Also please note that he’s doing this with Mongolian Rally Charities and would appreciate a donation to help the cause, and to make his insane trip even more worthwhile.

Danny had made himself well known at the hostel and got on especially well with Gita, one of the staff. The three of us headed out for dinner that night – despite Danny and I having just eaten in the afternoon, we have big appetites 😉 We ordered possibly the largest pizza I’ve ever seen – 50in – and what appeared to be a yardglass of beer, all much to the disbelief of the waitress, before meeting up with two more of Gita’s friends and hitting some of the local bars.

River around Old Town

River around Old Town

It all got a bit hazy but what shocked me was walking back to the hostel in the early hours – 4am or so, and realising that it was light. The latitude we were at was starting to become noticeable in the hours being set by the sun.

The next day was rough. And yes I get the obvious theories, but it felt worse – and I cite potential food poisoning from the pizza / pork dinners the day before. Regardless I was under the weather all day, while Danny and Gita headed to the beach. And given they cycled there and it was further than expected, I’m semi-glad to have missed that!

Stalin's 'Birthday Cake'

Stalin's 'Birthday Cake'

The following day, Danny said adieu and headed off north, bound for Estonia. I spent the next few days in Riga ticking off the sites, doing the walking tour, and even treating myself to some normality and seeing the latest Pirates movie. Amusingly it was in English with both Latvian and Russian subtitles, which your brain still tries to read, regardless of the futility of the effort.

I climbed Stalin’s tower – or birthday-cake, depending on who you’re asking, and had a magnificent view of the city. Riga’s old town is smaller than Vilnius’s, but has many more ornate buildings, and a unique style, more of which will be in my upcoming post on the walking tour.

View of Old Town, Riga

View of Old Town, Riga

I also visited the Museum of Occupation. Much like the Museum to Genocide Victims in Vilnius, it has an imposing cube-like design, and is a visiting point for many heads of state. Its recontruction of scenes from the war and the sending of families to the gulags in Siberia is very interesting and demands a good couple of hours, at the least. For more information on this dark time in the Baltics’ history, have a look at my post on the subject.

Finally on Thursday, my invite for Uzbekistan arrived. Sadly the embassy is open only on Monday, Wednesday and Friday – so the next day, I headed along. More next time.

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