Jul 02, 2012
. We joked right away that, "... We're not in Sweden anymore..." like Dorothy leaving Kansas. Even the Latvian staff on board the ferry wore heavy expressions of inhospitable abruptness. If we smiled at someone on board the ferry, they looked at us like we were nuts. If we smiled at someone in Sweden they looked at us and said, "Hay-hay!" which is simply "hello." It's impossible to be brusque and say "hay-hay!" in Latvia. No, we're not in Scandanavia anymore. But Riga is a marvelous city. We found the open air market, the cobblestoned Old Town and a chocolate maker, much to Anna's delight. The former Soviet oppression is still palpable, but Latvia has been hard at work to shed its past. According to our Swedish friends, who served in the Swedish navy and lived in Moscow during the cold war, all of the Baltic states are trying hard to bill themselves as the new destination hotspots for Europeans. And rightfully so, it is beautiful here and rich in history and culture. Tomorrow we head west to the coast which is about 150 km away. We're trying to take a bus, to save three days riding time, but it is proving difficult. Picture a stout old Russian woman in an apron, with a sour expression and a wooden spoon in her hand saying, "...iz forbidden to take bik." So we'll see. Everyday is an adventure.
Arrived here in the former Soviet Union via ferry from Stockholm. Our Swedish exit was an hour long cruise through the never ending archipelago just east of Stockholm. It was more of a sight seeing cruise than an exit. The archipelago is incredibly picturesque. There are islands big and small, forests of oak, birch, and pine, and brightly painted cottages on nearly all the islands. Some islands have just one little cottage. Other islands are large with paved streets and cars. Most all traffic, however, is by boat and the boats are wonderful and varied beyond belief, from small two person rowing skiffs to high bucks power yachts and cruising sailboats. And everything in between, including some beautiful woodies that would likely win the Con Cours de Eleganc in Tahoe. In contrast, the entry into Latvia was purely utilitarian. We crossed the Baltic Sea and entered the extremely working class port with classic Soviet brusqueness. There was nothing to be enjoyed here, disembark and go out and spend money