Posted by: bkropf | May 6, 2008

What Happens to Old Fish?

The drive to Riga, Latvia, from Estonia was beautiful.  We passed through many small towns while the sun shown brightly.
Getting into Riga the city was fairly unimpressive.  It had the stereotypical giant TV tower that seems to be a feature in the capital cities of the Baltic countries.  It was really easy to find our hostel, The Argonaut.  The hostel staff was nice and everything was clean however I didn’t like the fact there seemed to be a bunch of Stag parties staying there.  From doing some reading it seems as though Riga has gotten a reputation for having many British and Italian men swarming about.  They get cheap flights to the Latvian capital and come to drink, pick up locals and cause problems (in my opinion).  It gave the city a slimy feel having all these creepy guys yelling and running all over.
Tyler and I went to a neat place to eat called John Lemons.  We both got a wrap and it was really really good.
I had alot more written here but it got deleted when I tried to post it.  Additionally, when I was rereading the whole section I was so bored I figured no one else would want to read it. So I’m just going to hit some highlights of Riga.
Like I said before I didn’t really like Riga and we had about 6-7 days scheduled there.  It seemed like Riga was alot like a copy of Tallinn and Vilnius but just not as nice.  After doing all the KGB museums, Independence museums, TV towers, Wall tours and such, I didn’t really feel like doing them all again, just because it was Riga.  With all my extra time, I decided to watch some movies at this huge Coca-Cola Plaza across the street.  During my time there I watched 21, (I liked it, I’ll give it 6.5/10) Leatherheads (7.5/10) and Ironman (8/10).  What I especially liked about Leatherheads was the good Americana portrayed by the film.  It seems like most culture exported from the US is pretty lame but this movie showed many of the good sides to US Culture.
In the hostel, you are supposed to keep key cards with you at all times to get into your room, if you happen to leave it in the room when you get up to go the bathroom, you are locked out.  One night I thought I left my key in the room and was locked out.  I was so worried and had visions of sleeping on the ground in the hall all night.  I got up the nerve to tap on the door to our room and eventually a guy let me in.  I felt so bad.  In the morning I realized I hadn’t been locked out at all, the I had left the key on the sink in the bathroom, what a dork!
We did meet a CSer girl while we were in Riga.  I really liked her, the only downside was she was a little quiet.  Quiet isn’t bad, just makes things a little harder sometimes.  She met us a couple nights and gave us a tour of the city. We grabbed coffee another night.  She took us to her university cafeteria one night and I had to laugh because it reminded me of the SNL skit with Chris Farley when he played the lunch lady.  The lady put such a huge pile of broccoli on my plate it started to overflow.  The gout took a beating that night! 
On Sunday we went to church at a place Tyler had been to on a previous visit to Riga.  We had an interpreter which was really nice.  I had to feel sorry for the people in front of us who had to hear the whole sermon repeatedly whispered in our ear.  The sermon was really good, it was nice to be able to go to church after missing so many Sundays.  One interesting point the pastor made: he compared Satan to Soviet Communism.  He said under communism there was alot of manipulation of truth, withholding of the truth, short-sightedness and oppression like you get from Satan.  I had never heard that analogy back in the States.  I guess the guy can make those claims given he has lived under communism.
The highlight of our eating experience in Riga was Lido.  It was the second largest restaurant in Europe.  It didn’t feel especially huge compared to many restaurants in the States but the food was really good and it had a nice atmosphere.  Outside was a little amusement park for kids. The funniest part of that for me was when we saw a bunch of young people in costumes talking and joking around behind a building.  Suddenly some music started and they had to jump on stage and started bouncing and blowing kisses.  You could clearly see their faces in the costumes and tell they hated their job!
We went to a huge market one day.  My theory in traveling is, if you don’t have anything exciting to do, go to a market!!! They always have the craziest stuff being sold. This particular market had a ton of fish.  I can never figure out what vendors do with all the old fish they don’t sell.  It would creep me out to buy some fish there.
Another funny thing about Europe is the passengers on planes. They all clap when planes land. So far I have flown twice in Europe and both times there has been a hearty applause when the plane lands. Should I be more relieved when the plane lands safely, I always kindof just took that for granted.
We also just recently got to Ireland and I got burnt pretty badly.  Who would have thought the weather would be so nice?  It is absolutely perfect yesterday and today.  One frustrating thing about Ireland is the language barrier. In Bosnia if you can’t understand someone speaking you find someone who knows English.  Here everyone knows English so there is no other option when I can’t understand the words coming out of their mouth.  I’m about ready to whip out my hand signs to try to get some communicating accomplished!

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