Baltic bliss-- well, aside from the wind.
Trip Start Mar 31, 2011
66Trip End Jul 05, 2011
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Anyway, after the debit card fiasco, it had gotten dark in Riga and we weren't in the mood to get too lost by trying to find Old Town. So we just went to the grocery store to buy some water bottles and hit up a cafe right by the hotel. It was excellent, just as we suspected. I know I've said it 10 times, but the food in this region is extremely tasty and high quality. Hope the trend continues.
The next morning we learned that our hostel provides food for us to make our own breakfast, so I pulled out my little bag of cooking essentials (garlic salt, hot sauce) and made egg sandwiches! I hadn't realized how much I missed egg sandwiches-- they weren't quite right because cheddar cheese doesn't seem to exist in this region, but they were still awesome. The weather had warned clouds, but the sun was shining bright and the sky was perfectly blue. Two beautiful days in a row, how lucky! This time of the year is not famous for weather in the Baltics... the wind is pretty fierce and the sky is usually cloudy. But not today!
We headed to Old Town, which I was expecting to be pretty similar to Estonia, but it was markedly different. The buildings here are taller and have more elaborate facades, complete with beautiful statues of gargoyles and mermaids and other creatures of that sort. We encountered all sorts of street performers-- apparently Latvia is known for their musical prowess.
A few interesting things that I've noticed about Latvia: the Old Town has a ton of temporary plastic structures that function as bars during the day, then disappear at night when the real bars open for business. I guess this is so that tourists like us can drink Latvian beer at all hours of the day!
After a short rest, we went back to Old Town for dinner. We went to a little traditional Latvian restaurant and the food was excellent, and there was a singer running around who must have been 7 feet tall.
On Monday morning (4-11), we woke up bright and early to start trying to contact the Latvian bank to get Dad's debit card out of the ATM. After about 4 phone calls, made with the assistance of the hotel receptionist, we arranged to try and pick up the card between 4 and 5 PM at the bank's central office in Riga. Hopefully it is there, because if not, it is running around the streets of Latvia somewhere.
We relaxed in the morning, then went back to Old Town to check out the Museum of Occupation, which was closed because it was Monday. There were murals on the outside of the museum that basically gave an overview of the history, so we still came out smarter for it.
After securing the card, we decided to check out one of the big local markets. The market was gigantic! It was held in old German Zeppelin hangars, which protected airships during construction and also from bad weather conditions during the first World War.
We had dinner at the Latvian equivalent of Denny's but it was SO GOOD! We got huge bowls of traditional dumplings called Pelmenji, and it only cost us 1 Lat ($2 US) per bowl!
We woke up to get an early start to the bus station and, for the first time, everything went as planned and we arrived exactly 30 minutes before departure time (which is when you're supposed to arrive-- we are usually late). But the bus was 15 minutes late, so we ended up standing around in the arctic cold with our backpacks on for 45 minutes. Guess we should have been late. Anyways, now we are on the bus to Vilnius! The bus only cost us 8 Lats, and it is very luxurious, especially for a bus. It has free wireless Internet and a very complex espresso machine that spits out an assortment of delicious drinks. Plus, it has a TV that is playing music videos of the 80's and 90's hits from Jenna's favorite play list. Jenna-- you would definitely be dancing if you were here. Half of the people are even wearing your black unitard! At the border between Latvia and Lithuania, the bus stopped and an immigration officer came on to check our passports, Then a bunch of customs officers with dogs got on the bus to sniff around (for drugs, I assume). Strange for a border between two EU countries-- or maybe it's not strange and we've just been lucky with borders in the past.
So we will be in Vilnius for a few days, then we have an assortment of night buses and trains through Poland to try and get to Ukraine. I will try to post at least for Lithuania, but I'm not sure about the Internet situation until we stabilize somewhere. Maybe all of the trains will have Internet too! Doubtful. Well, bye for now! Visu labu!
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