Riga. (For the help of German customs officers it is the capital city of a country you have invaded more times than a Bush has landed troops in the Middle East.)
There are moments when the daunting prospect of Russia looms like a particularly ugly and imposing apartment block. In being asked about the trip, leading up to departure, I always answered that I didn’t know what was planned which was true enough but now the only real known part was behind me. These nervous feelings were hardly quashed by my first experience with Russo-like officiousness which occurred in the very first experience being the local bus into town from the airport. The conductor, a true stereotype of a short, shapelessly round old woman dressed in unflattering trousers and shirt covered with an apron; perches on a stool halfway down the bus from where she is expected to manage the ticketing process. This is not as easy as it sounds as, even through this is the one bus from the airport into the city and so totally full with people and baggage from the outset, it was also expected to make frequent stops along the way. The little conductor lady would then yell at the entering passengers for the 0.40 lat fare and attempt to pass them a ticket from the book pinned to her uniform. All of this was taking place in front of my nose wedged as I was between the stool, my bag, four other bags and half a dozen people; Arny and Rdoc had managed a seat. Oh yeah, the bag. Thanks to the Dutch girl with the Indian sized suitcase who pissed off the conductor by handing over a 20 lat note for which there wasn’t enough change and so a baggage charge was created to facilitate the transaction and which was then enforced on all of us surrounding the incident.
Milda the Freedom Monument at night.
It’s a good sign about a hostel when you walk in the front door and there are about twenty crates of empty bottles filling the entrance way. Then you work out how they make their money when the bar charge 2 lats a beer when a bed for the night costs 5. Apparently the building is historically listed which fits mainly if you consider historical to mean falling down. This action also fits with the actual historic feature being the staircase, I’ve seen walls that were less vertical. [read on]