Day 04 : The Baltic Way (North)

Monday 25 August 2014

In the entire trip so far, starting back at the end of April, Riga is only the second town/place en route that I’ve visited previously (the other being the Sunshine Coast, in Australia). I last came to Riga in May 2006, for one night, at the end of my trip from Beijing on the Trans-Mongolian railway. I have to say, I don’t really remember much about it – partly because of the little time I was here and partly because I was knackered having caught an uncomfortable overnight bus from Moscow that crossed the border at 5am.
And, while arriving in the bus station, I thought the view over the river at the railway bridge looked familiar, all the walking around I did this evening was in what felt like completely new territory. That said, last time I predominantly spent time in the Old Town, apart from a wander up to a restaurant somewhere to eat something Latvian (pork ribs, if memory serves), and so far in my time here today, I haven’t touched the Old Town.
This evening’s food, for the record, was at a stir-fry place, where you could choose all aspects of your meal, including what extras to have (like mushrooms, cashew nuts, etc) from a huge list; they then made it for you bespoke. Kind of like a smaller version of what we used to call ‘Mongolian Barbeque’.

My hostel is a little way outside the main drag of the city, in what seems like a quiet area – residential/commercial, but not ‘busy’. It’s a weird hostel; seems like lots of rooms in a kind of rabbit warren, but (unless I’m missing something) no real social area – there’s a couple of small rooms with a computer and a TV, and there’s a smallish kitchen, but nothing designed to encourage people to come together.
I’m in a 6-bed dorm, well it’s more like a 5-bed dorm with a sofa bed as well. It seems quite a nice room actually, and yet again I get a bottom bunk. Sometimes I get to choose, other times the hostel’s already designated, but it may partly depend on how early you get there.

For most of the journey to Riga it was raining, quite heavily. The journey down was in a very luxurious coach (for 25 Euros) , enough legroom to kick a badger, and an at-seat entertainment system with music and movies preloaded, which I didn’t take advantage of because I like to look out the window when I travel, and because I didn’t have any headphones. For most of the 4 hour journey, the view through the raindrops was of pine forest, although at one point we passed the derelict and overgrown border control post – quite eerie.
I was lucky to get the seat; apparently I had the last available one for that lunchtime journey from Tallinn, and the next coach down was about 3 hours later. I suspect there may have been a couple in between, from a dodgier coach company, but I never needed to find out.

I was kind of sad to leave Tallinn, especially as my research had suggested that, although bigger, Riga would have less to offer me. I managed to return to the cheap dumpling place (EAT) this morning though, to satisfy my farewell stodge need; annoyingly it didn’t open until 11am; apart from the tacky touristy places in the Old Town, nor did anywhere else. The Estonians really don’t do mornings, it seems.

No beer today, but today’s dark history exploration involved accidentally coming across the ‘broken line’ memorial to the victims of the ‘Estonia’ ferry disaster in 1994. I’d forgotten about that until today.

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