Red Castles

Trip Start Jun 19, 2007
Trip End Jul 21, 2007

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Flag of Latvia  ,
Wednesday, July 4, 2007

 It seems the Irish weather has followed us. Rained all night and this morning a soft, constant shower mixed with cold weather saw us eating breakfast at 10 o'clock wondering what an earth we'd do today.
The receptionist at the hostel was pessimistic. 'Yes, I think it will rain all day,' she said. The internet weather said we were in for light rain. We took the side of technology (it sounded more optimistic) and headed off on a bus to the Latvian Ethnographic Open-Air Museum, much to Rosa's disgust. She had learnt that anything with the word "museum" in it will invariably not involve: a. trampolines, b. Barbies or c. Ice-cream.
Have to admit it did have the most boring name ever for a museum. It was a bit like calling Sovereign Hill the "Victorian Open-Air Museum for the Period of Gold Boom in Ballart and Surrounding Areas". Actually, the museum was very similar to Sovereign Hill, only without the fun bits like the mine tour or the gold nugget 3D display. And there didn't seem to be anybody else around.
We enjoyed it, actually. Lots of different Latvian farmhouses, barns and windmills taken from throughout Latvia a couple of centuries ago and rebuilt in a tranquil forest. There's over a hundred of them, which is a lot of walking. It took us most of the day. The houses look like Irish thatched cottages, except the roofs are at sharp angles so the snow will fall off.
It was warm all afternoon, so that receptionist must pay, as I had to carry around all out wet weather gear.
This evening I went into the Old Town to observe Latvian night life, leaving Rosa and Josefa to early nights. Here are some of my observations:

I can't follow town maps at night.

Tourists like town squares, even if beer is four times the price as the little kiosk around the corner.

Touts spruiking strip club joints come across as muggers when they approach you suddenly at 10.30 at night shouting at you in Latvian. Seriously, I was approached by around ten of them in half an hour and I didn't actually see any strip clubs. Perhaps they were Jehovah Witnesses? So I eventually stopped and took a leaflet. Yep, they were for strip clubs.

You can never pick what the number one tourist attraction will be in a city. I bet Copenhagen would never have bet on The Little Mermaid statue receiving more visitors than the royal palace. But they do. The biggest attraction in Riga is a couple of black cats perches atop a merchant's house in the Old Town. He was refused entrance to a guild, so in revenge he bought the house opposite them and built the two screeching black cats to forever raise their hackles at the guild's front door. Now the cats are everywhere: postcards, t-shirts and on spirit labels.
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