Kade kneels next to a stream formed by the San Francisco Glacier, about two hours outside Santiago, Chile.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Riga, Latvia

I arrived in Riga, Latvia after taking the overnight train.  On the train I shared a sleeper cabin with a guy named Alec, whose hometown was Riga.  Over the course of the evening, and during dinner, we had some good conversation.  The following morning, when I arrived in Riga, he said he'd show me around the city.  First, we stopped off at a café near the train station.  I got a breakfast item and something to drink.  From there, I simply followed Alec around the town, where I saw lovely architecture and walked on brick paved squares.  Not long after, Alec left, and I was my own.  Much like Estonia and Finland, I had done little research on Latvia, and was mainly seeing it as a "passing thru point" on my way to Prague, where I would meet Uncle Jim.  As a result, I pretty much stayed - for the day - near the beautiful river winding through Riga.  I could see this beautiful suspension bridge. There was a hotel where I would hang out, reading a USA Today.  There was also a McDonalds nearby, and I went there to read and pass time.  I was waiting to catch the overnight train to Lithuania.  I did get out a bit and walk down some cobblestone streets.  I do remember eyeing a coffee shop and bakery and seeing that there were no tables where patrons would sit down.  Instead, there was a counter near the window and there a few high tables in bakery, but no chairs.  People would order their baked goods and coffee, eat standing up, likely next to strangers, and then they'd be out the door, coffee in hand.  I remember thinking the concept was cool.  The aroma coming from the bakery was heavenly and the flow of people in and out the door was fascinating.  Because of language issues and fears of having to go in there on my own and likely being the only foreigner, I just did some viewing and kept on walking.  In retrospect, I'm very thankful I met Alec on the train and that I let him give me a walking tour of Riga.  Otherwise, I doubt could say I did anything.  Again, I chalk up my lack of adventure in the early stages of this Eastern Europe trip to youth and inexperience, and just being alone.  When you're traveling with another person you're more apt to take chances and explore more.  Nowadays, as a more seasoned and confident traveler, solo traveling is something I appreciate more, and it's an experience I find enriching.  Life is funny like that!  Nonetheless, I am a "better person" for having passed through these countries - like Estonia and Latvia - on my own, and it's an accomplishment I'm proud of.


w/ Alec

Here I am in a popular square in Riga's old town, wearing the blue jacket I bought in Tallinn. 
To see the square today, go to the 1:32 mark in the video above that introduces you to Riga.
Click here for more Riga architecture.  And here's one of the orthodox churches I saw.
And here's an up-to-date view of Riga's old town and the suspension bridge viewing angle I had.
Alec and I kept in touch a bit.  He called me once at the bank, once I had gotten back to America and had started working.  I was working in the savings department when the call came through.  Can't remember Alec's last name, and have no way of contacting him now, even on Facebook.

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