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Outside the Old Town & to Jurmala

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large_5550_14712881605309.jpgRiga's Central Market is housed in blimp (zeppelin) hangars.
As in Lithuania, I made myself a breakfast of fruit, muesli and kefir. I wandered out to the Central Market housed in blimp (zeppelin) hangars bought from post-war Germany which needed money. I enjoyed the variety of food in there and it gave me an insight into the local cuisine and specialties. Mushrooms are in season now and there was plenty of smoked fish.

Lots of fruit stalls were outside of the buildings and I was tempted by the cherries selling for EUR1.20 per kg. They turned out to be a little soft and sour. I actually didn’t mind it at all. Also, at that price it would have been good for juicing or baking but that wasn’t an option for me at the hostel.

At midday, I joined the free walking tour which convened under the steeple of St John’s. It was a very large crowd and with the other guide being sick, the solo guide did tremendously well.large_5550_14712881517888.jpgInside Riga's Central Market.This walking tour focused on things outside of Old Town. We wandered to the Central Market, the last remaining Soviet-style building around (Stalinist style, fomerly home to the Latvian Academy of Sciences), the Belarus embassy (which was unremarkable but formed the venue of some interesting insight) before finishing at a park.

It wasn’t a picturesque sight-seeing affair but it was very informative. The guide, being a historian with architectural focus gave me some good insight:

1. A lot of old town is recreated rather than simply renovated.

2. Riga isn’t typically Latvian; it was built by the Germans and seemingly everyone else except Latvians. One needs to get out of Riga [Riga-travel-guide-1045008]’s old town as much as possible to see the real Latvia.large_5550_14712881545340.jpgInside Riga's Central Market.Even now, Latvians are nearly a minority in Riga.

3. Generally, he says that Latvians and Latvia’s ethnic Russians (imported as factory workers during the Soviet era, and also their descendents) get along fine. Hairline cracks in the society show up on two dates each year when one group celebrates and the other commiserates.

4. Unlike in Lithuanian guide, the guide here says it is quite easy to distinguish Latvians from ethnic Russians. Perhaps they have more experience as Russians are in far greater proportion than in Lithuania.

5. It is compulsory for the tour guide to show his tour members his license at the beginning of the tour. And the police have the right to ask for his license.large_5550_14712881578604.jpgAt Riga's Central Market.There is a fine if he is not carrying it and after three such incidents, he would lose his license.

We finished the walking tour without getting wet; it had been hot, cold and a little drizzly. The weather seemed OK enough, so I decided to take the train to Jurmala [Jurmala-travel-guide-1309699] 30 minutes away.

Jurmala is a spa town on the Baltic coast. I walked down the pedestrian mall lined with some hotels, restaurants and spas. It started to drizzle heavily enough for me to seek shelter. It did past and I went off the main pedestrian mall to the posh residential areas which took me out to the beach. I noticed lots of expensive Russian-registered vehicles in the area; the spa town is popular with them. The beach was wide, flat and sandy. Unfortunately the water wasn’t as nice.large_5550_14712881631233.jpgFormer Latvian Academy of Sciences Building.While it was clear, it did appear stained and brownish perhaps from rotting leaves from rivers; who knows?

Back in Riga, I had dinner at a branch of Cili Pizza at the railway station. I was famished. I tried the pancake filled with chicken and mushrooms. Interestingly the menu here appears to have been photo-shopped to remove the brown-ness of the pancakes, compared to in Lithuania. I wonder if Latvians prefer their pancakes less cooked. Also, Latvian pricing is slightly higher. I was also parched from all the walking and washed my meal down with a large glass of kvass which was very dark, perhaps flavoured with some berry of other fruit.


Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Latvia

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