The bright side of Latvia

Trip Start Aug 08, 2006
Trip End Oct 08, 2006

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

At first I thought I wouldn't make it but fortunately I managed to get to Riga on Saturday, after traveling for about ten hours (walking to Helsinki's harbour, ship to Tallinn, a long walk to the bus station and finally the bus to RÓga). As soon as I managed to phone Rita, my host, she went by car to pick me up at the station and was really helpful all during my stay in her house. At some points it was like visiting my grandfather, she was always asking if I needed anything to eat and bringing everything she could (even when I told her I didn't want anything :). She was also kind enough to offer her place for a hospitality club meeting (that started almost as soon as I arrived) and stayed with us for some time even though she was really tired.
The meeting was really good - I got a chance to meet Girts, one of the first members I contacted in HC (as we were both new and he was planning his trip to Brazil as I was planning mine to Latvia), and a few other really nice people. We stayed in Rita's house until she went to sleep and we ran out of booze, then moved to a bar and then to another for some dancing. Of course I am not much into dancing, but even I can not resist it when they play "Always look on the bright side of life". And then there were the Latin songs, and it is written quite clearly in the Latin gentleman's code of conduct that you can not fail to ask the ladies for a dance when this kind of music is played. And of course the dishonour is twice as high when in a non-Latin country. By the time I went to sleep it was already past six, and I guess we would have stayed longer if the bars didn't close.
The next day I woke up at twelve and Girts picked me up by car to drive to som near by cities: first to Sigulda, to see a really nice castle, plus some parks and a cave and then to Cesis, where his aunt and cousin gave us a guided tour of the city. At some point (I think it was before Sigulda) we also stopped at a bobsled track to get a ride down on a wheeled car. Of course I was afraid but Girts really wanted to go and, as the song (that stuck to my head) goes, just purse your lips and whistle - that's the thing. It was a really bright day too.
For the night some of the meeting members joined us again, but just for a coffee and seeing some fireworks, as it was Sunday and everyone was tired. The fireworks show was really impressive, small but very well organized and with many different kinds I had never seen before. Quite different from the Brazilian "grab everything you can and burn it as fast as possible" style of fireworks.
Then it was already the last day, which I spent walking around RÓga's old town. Very beautiful, but in my opinion not really comparable to Tallinn. For the evening I met Kristine, the Latvian girl from HC that is crazy about Rio and wanted me to bring her some postcards and Jorgen, the Norwegian guy from the meeting, joined us as we met him by chance on the street.
I really enjoyed my stay in Latvia, mostly for the people, but the little I've seen of the land is very nice too.
On to Vilnius (photos at a later time).
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