Work is really revving up for Fionn, so last weekend was going to be our last four day weekend for a while. While trying to think up places to go, Fionn suddenly suggested Latvia.
"...Latvia?" was pretty much my first reaction, but he explained he had a friend in college from Latvia who was getting married soon, but since he was working during the wedding it would be cool to fly up and visit the guy and his fiancee on our 4 day weekend. I was excited-I didn't know anything about Latvia and I never thought I'd have a reason to go there, so I was on board with the idea.
A 2 hour flight brought us to Riga, Latvia's capital. We made our way into the historic part of the city (where our hotel was) and tried to make some first impressions. Riga is very pretty, though you can still see some remnants of Soviet influence. Overall though, the city felt very cosmopolitan and slighty Scandinavian.
Fionn's friend Aleksandr met up with us and after we checked into our hotel, he took us to a restaurant he worked at as a teenager and we tried some typical Latvian food. They also had some Russian specialties (Russia is their neighbor) so Fionn was excited to eat all the things he'd grown to like when he lived in Russia. I took Alex's food advice and wasn't disappointed. I liked the kvass, which is this fermented drink that tastes almost like beer but sweet...it's made from rye bread and yeast. Difficult to explain but still good!
After that Alex drove us through the neighborhood he grew up in and showed us his school. Almost everything in that area was built by the Soviets during the Cold War, which gives it that uniform, Soviet look. He also pointed out that next to his school was an identical school, except that one was (and still is!) a school only for Russian children.
We drove back to the Old City where we met Alex's fiancee and saw some more sights, including a beautiful view of the city from a famous church.
After that we split up and Fionn and I wandered around, had some local food, and went to bed early (since we woke up at 3am for our red eye flight!)
The next day, Alex took drove us to a town near the border of Lithuania. Outside the town is this thing called the Aerodium-basically it's this huge engine that can suspend you in the air, kind of like a free fall. Don't get it? Ok, here's pictures! :)
And no, I didn't go because I was wearing contacts and was worried about messing them up. I've got terrible eyes-a lost contact would've meant the end of our trip!
The guys had fun though-they both went really high!
After that we went to the nearby city of Sigulda to see their castle. It was pretty cool, especially the places they'd rebuilt where you could climb around and play with the medieval armor and weapons they had out. That stuff was crazy heavy.
After that we had lunch and then visited where Alex works. After that he invited us to his house for a barbeque with his fiancee's family. It was so nice of them and they were all very friendly, despite the language barrier :)
Sunday we spent the morning walking around and taking pictures. By lunchtime, Alex invited us to come mushroom picking with his fiancee and her two girls. Apparently it's a big tradition in Latvia (even though Fionn was a little skeptical about wild mushrooms). We learned a few things-red ones with spots are BAD, ones that grow on trees are no good, and people are serious about their mushroom picking and getting there first. We brought along their new puppy, Bella, and afterwards we walked along the beach and looked at the Baltic Sea. We ran into their uncle who was parasailing. It was very windy, so I thought he was pretty brave!
After that we shot some air guns (i actually hit a target!) and the guys talked about guy stuff. Then we said goodbye to Alex and thanked him for his amazing hospitality and headed back to our hotel.
Our last day in Latvia we visited the Occupation Museum, bought a few souveniers, and hit up a giant market so Fionn could get his Russian food fix before we left. Then it was back to Bayern!
All in all, very fun trip. If you're looking for somewhere to go, why not Riga?