Anniversary in Riga

I’ve been curious about traveling in the Baltic countries for some time now. Everyone tells me that it’s gotten much more safe in the past few years and I know it would be cheaper than Southern Europe and closer to  Finland too.

In the 7th grade my school chorus made a trip to Vilnius in Lithuania and we rode bus through Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Naturally, I was young, but also I got really sick on the way and I was practically passed out because of the fever, so from the 5 day trip I only remember watching Sound of Music in the bus and not having enough tissues in the room I laid down while others got to know the city.

Anyway, it was time to see some Latvia! We had an anniversary coming and since it’s our first one we wanted to do something very special. Originally our plan was to go to London, but since Kasey couldn’t get a day off of work we only had a weekend. We decided to go London later with more time (and money) so we picked another destination. Riga.

Riga is the capital of Latvia, only an hour flight away from Helsinki, and Air Baltic has some pretty affordable flights going there daily. It is said, that Riga is one of the most underrated cities in Europe and I was curious to find out how it would be.

So, last Friday we went to the airport using the brand new train. Train makes it so much easier to get to the airport, but I was surprised how far the stop actually was from the terminal. First there was bunch of tunnels and escalators and then there was a 500 meters walk outside on a gravel road. I’m sure they’re still fixing everything and probably by now there’s already pavement on the road, but my heels (or feet in them) didn’t enjoy the walk.

Ready to go!
Scary old-fashioned propeller plane :S

When we arrived to Riga it was sunny and beautiful outside. It was the summer I’ve been waiting for ^_^ Even though we were a little lost we managed to catch a bus to the city center and the way form the airport was amazing. On the southern side of the river there were tons of old wooden houses and big parks. Once we reached the river we got a peek of the magnificent National Library and the famous bridges over the river Daugava.

National Library. Possibly a space ship.

Our hotel was a short walk away from the Old town in the side of the newer part of the city which was nice because it let us walk through this beautiful park every day and find the different routes to the old town. I had googled “what to do in Riga” and “Weekend in Riga” so many times, that I knew that the “must-see” things were mostly in the old town. Even though there would have been plenty do outside the center, like the Jörmala beach, zoo or a botnical garden with exotic butterflies, we decided to take it easy, enjoy being together and explore the center leisurely without too many adventures. So we mostly walked around the old town, the river banks and in the park around the Opera house and enjoyed not having to rush anywhere or worry about being on a right bus.

Opera
Freedom Monument
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Traditional food and amber beer
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House of the Blackheads + tiny us being cute

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Visiting a sun museum

Something special we did was a Latvia food tasting tour by Riga Explorers Club. A young, nice Australian guy whose name I couldn’t catch gave us a tour around the city’s food market and helped us find local specialties. We loved the hemp seed butter so much that we bought more of it to take it home with us!

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Mix of strawberries and rasberries. Kinda spongy in your mouth.
Seabuckthornberries. Not sure about spelling :P
Amazing craft beer with catnip and juniper
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Pickled everything. We tried pickled carrots that were amazing, pickeld tomatos that are my new favourite thing and pickled fresh cucumber that tasted weird. What an experience! Besides those we had carrot-rye-bread with hemp seed butter, homemade cheeses, ham and chocolate & curd dessert bites and a juice made of rye.

In my opinion, Riga was like a bigger Tallinn, but didn’t feel as old as Tallinn does. That’s because the old town seemed more German-influenced and the buildings were more art nouveau than medieval architecture. That doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t have enjoyed the city. Everything was beautiful, city was clean, people were nice and we didn’t get bored. I think it was a perfect weekend destination, but maybe not a place where I have to return. The best thing of the weekend was getting to spend time with my husband and just be together with no distractions. That was exactly what we needed after a rather busy summer.

So happy anniversary for us, and let the next year be just as happy as this one has been! <3

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