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Riga, Latvia

House of Blackheads

We took a bus from Vilnius to Riga (cheap, about 9 Euro!) that took 4 1/2 hours and arrived around 1:30pm.

Who knew they had windmills in Latvia?

Our first order of business was walking about 10 minutes from the bus station into the Old Town and getting into our Airbnb

After lunch it was time to explore Old Town Riga.  We first saw the Cat House which has 2 cats perched on its turrets.  There is a funny story that the owner was refused entrance to the Guild across the street, so he put the cats with their butts facing the Guild.  They were eventually turned to face outward, though.

Cat House

From there we headed to the Swedish Gate, Riga Castle, then the Three Brothers.  The Three Brothers are 3 houses that are the oldest houses in Riga.  The oldest was built in the 15th century and the newest completed in the 17th century. 

Swedish Gate

Near the Riga Castle

Three Brothers

We then headed back into town to the famous House of Blackheads.  The House of Blackheads was built in the 14th century for unmarried merchants when they came to Riga. 

House of Blackheads

After doing some laundry at the apartment, we headed out to dinner.  This time we found a Latvian restaurant with outdoor seating where we got to try some more new foods.  We started by trying the local liqueur, Black Balzam,which was fairly nasty .  We got an appetizer of black eyed peas with ham, Chuck got the pork knuckle, and I got a local casserole that was just ok.

Black Balzam. Cheers!

Pork knuckle

The next morning we headed out of the Old Town past The Freedom Monument and to the Nativity of Christ Cathedral.  Unfortunately there was a service going on, so we weren’t able to go inside.

Freedom Monument

Nativity of Christ Cathedral

From there, we made the mistake of walking to the Art Nouveau section of town.  We didn’t have a map and were going on my memory and we ended up wandering forever until we found another tourist who gave us directions.  We were pretty over it by that p0int so after a quick look around, we found a taxi dropping off other tourists and took it back to the Airbnb.

Art Nouveau buildings from the early 1900s

That afternoon, we headed to the Central Market, which is Europe’s largest market and is partly housed in old Zeppelin hangars. 

Many choices for salmon roe!

Plenty of bulk spices and seeds

Chuck even tried Kvass, which is a beer-like drink made from dark rye bread, yeast, sugar, raisins, and water.  It’s only lightly alcoholic, less than 1% if I recall.  Not really that tasty, though probably still better than Bud.

Chuck with a glass of Kvass

We then walked south of the market to the Riga Ghetto and Latvian Holocaust museum.  Unfortunately it was randomly closed that day so we weren’t able to tour the museum.

Riga Ghetto

We stopped back by the market for some dessert before heading back to Old Town.

Dessert complete it was time to head out for a drink.  The weather was absolutely gorgeous so we found an outdoor bar in one of the squares for a beer and a cider then we meandered thru the Old Town.

There were so many flowers all over the city. We were surprised as it was mid-September.

For dinner, we went to Folkklubs, which is an underground restaurant.  It was packed, but we managed to snag 2 seats at the bar as someone was leaving.  The place seemed filled with locals and later in the evening there were musicians playing while people did traditional dances.

Cielavina – meringue with nuts layered with chocolate ganache, forrest berry sauce, and whipped cream. Delicious!

The next morning it was time to head back to the bus station for our 4 hour ride to Tallinn, Estonia.