Enter into the capital of Latvia – Riga a mere 4 hours and 25 minutes from Tallinn, Estonia via the Lux Express Bus – the luxury bus ride with Internet, drinks, blankets, pillows, A/C and movies for a whopping 21 Euros.
Riga became the capital when Latvia became independent in 1918. Here modern art nouveau meets Soviet practicality on each and every corner. And here is where history meets…well… shopping as after all Riga is commonly known as the Paris of Eastern Europe.
Walking the cobblestone, lantern lit streets on my first evening here under a brightly lit sky due to the full moon, it felt like Paris. The bars, the extravagant stores, the lovely boutique hotels and restaurant row felt very Parisian except for the periodic reminder that it is not Paris when the locals spoke not French but a mix of what sounded like Latvian, some Russian and perhaps even some Finnish and, of course, the not so gentle reminder of stoic and baroque simpleton architecture that grew up throughout the city during the Soviet occupation.
As there was little time following my arrival from Estonia for anything but a good Latvian meal, I headed to the Main Street and found the highly recommended restaurant the Blue Cow in the city centre where I enjoyed the salty Baltic herring mixed with cheese as such is traditional and for a main course went with the pork wrapped beef medallions and potatoes which is also a very common cuisine in the area. Think farming and fishing and given the extremely cold temperatures during the winter you have to imagine the conservation techniques needed as storing food in the Baltics is a must. Dinner cost a pretty Euro for sure at 30€ but I must say it was better than most meals I have been blessed to try throughout my travels in Europe and I had the stomach ache afterward to prove it. And when I say pretty Euro I mean it. Latvians have beautifully designed their Euro coins – one side looks like the rest of Europe’s Euro’s and the other side is Latvian…unique thus far unless I just failed to notice before now.
The same “pretty” Euro spent on dinner is true for the more expensive hotel Wellton Centrom Spa at $106/night. Of course, you can’t get hotels as nice for that kind of money in the US but it is expensive for Eastern Europe.
Will try harder to not waste the “pretty” Euro moving forward so my readers can see how truly affordable it is to see the Paris of Eastern Europe.
That’s all for now. From Latvia with Love.