Seeing in the New Decade, from behind the Old Iron Curtain

The initial plan was to go to Vienna for New Years, but everything was either booked or as dear as poison.

Lisa has a friend from Latvia, Liene, who she was exchanging email with, in one of which she told Lisa that she was going to be in Riga over New Years, and would be able to show us around.

The 3 eastern Baltic Countries, had always intrigued me, from the time they were states is in the USSR, so it took me the best part of a millisecond, to jump at the offer of Riga for New Years. 

It was only 30 years ago, that the Iron Curtain came down, what an experience to be able to go to Riga, Latvia for New Year’s.

We drove from Penryn to Gatwick Airport, London (I added the photos from our visit to Stonehenge to my last blog post). Overnighted in a hotel near the Airport, to catch the flight to Riga the next day.

a bigger map, for the geography challenged a lovely Latvian cab driver delivered us to our hotel, in the old part of Riga. Liene met us that evening for a welcome drink, at an amazing bar.

It was in a very old cellar, with bricked arches, to support the ground floor above.

The beers here are way better than very good. The girls are drinking one made with cranberries and honey, it had an alco-pop taste to it, one this life-time was enough.the food was traditional Latvian, I ordered black beans in a smoked bacon sauce, served in a bowel made from the crust of a rye bread loaf, with fresh sauerkraut. Liene was only 6, when Latvia gained independence, but still her stories of living  in the dying days of the Soviet Union were intriguing. It was illegal to speak Latvian, everyone dressed the same, only one model and colour of shoes etc.

As we walked her to her bus, she pointed out the building were people were interrogated/tortured and many “disappeared” from.

As with any foreign city there are the quirky bus stop billboards, this one was something to do with prostate health.Breakfast in the hotel the next morning was notable for 3 reasons. There was no impersonal checking of our room number by the maitre d, a very pleasant change from all other hotels throughout the world.

The food selection was very good. And there was complimentary champagne on offer.  which was enjoyedthen it was time to add  few more layers, before heading out to explore Old Riga

we found the Church of St. Peter, and got the elevator up to it’s viewing level for views of the cityNorth EastNorth Westand South, to a very low on the horizon sundown in the church was the original Rooster from the steeple made in 1690.

According to Christian tradition, the rooster is a vigilant defender against evil, and with his morning song he can drive away all bad things.a lovely statue of Jesusand this painting, of probably a Latvian saint (for my father to work out who he is, please dad)a lovely churchthe Latvians are obviously partial to a bottle of wine, or twoIn the early 70s, my family and I lived in Rome, Italy for 3 years. 30 years after WW2, there was a vibrant, young feel to the place, post what they went through in the war. Latvia is a similar time span post the fall of the USSR, and their independance after centuries of foreign overlords (apart from a brief period between the big wars). There is a youthful vibrancy to the place, and a very obvious pride in their Latvian heritage.

Since 1334 the building where the merchants of Riga “The Black Heads Brotherhood” would meet was  a dominant buiding in Riga. It was reduced to little more than rubble, in WW2. Post Independance the rebuiding of it, in all it’s glory, was an important part of Latvia, reclaiming it’s heritage.

I had to try on the chainmail

in our walking we arrived in the Dome Cathedral, just in time for a 20 minute organ recital in the packed Cathedral20 minutes of Bach, from this amazing organ, was very specialthis is an earlier version of Riga’s coat of armsthe courtyards outside had an impressive collection of medieval cannonsIt was refreshment time, when we stumbled upon the Christmas market, to get some hot mulled wine with a good dash of the local spirit, “Black Balsamand get some street foodto enjoy in the old town ambiance

and buy some roasted in garlic, nutswhen we were up the steeple at The Church of St. Peters, I noticed a bright gold, onion domed building in the distance, which obviously needed to be checked outit was a beautiful Orthodox Cathedralfor New Years Eve,

we started in the bar from last night, enjoying their delectable beers and a food plattershad a lovely chat with the boys on the table beside ours. Andre from Ukraine and Uri from Armenia (thay had a lot of advice on going to their home counties for our next adventure) then it was back to the Christmas market for hot mulled wine and Black Balsanthe first one definitely hit the spot, the second one was a mistakeresulting in us getting drunker than we were expecting

as we made our way down to the river bank, for the countdown to midnightand the fireworks

Happy New Year to you and yours


The next day we went for a walk/explore, through a very quite New Year’s Day hangovered Riga.

Walking beside the river we came across this sculpture remembering victims of  Bloody Sunday, 13th January 1905, which was the first attemp at overthrowing the Russian Czar, which was ultimately sucessful a decade later.

On our way to the Art Nouveau area of Riga

that night we went to a Georgian restaurant for dinner. I ate my first sturgeon (unfortunately the south sea pelagic fish, I eat most of the year, have spoilt my taste buds).we hit a rock-a-billy bar afterwards (in Latvia???) to work our way through all the types of Black Balsammake some new friends, she is from Belarus, him from Belgium

the next day we caught the train to Jumala



a seaside summer holiday town, 30 mins from Rigaa very different beach attire from what people are wearing back in Oz nowmulled wine, in a heated kiosk, on the beachthe food over here is deliciously different from what we are use to. The bread is made from rye, rather than the wheat we are use to. They did a lovely variant from the lamb shanks, we are use to using pork shoulder, with sauerkraut,life is an amazing journey