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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

17 September 2018

Art Nouveau

Party bike

Party bike

3 September

Let me show you the Party Bike. This is a nonsensical thing. Basically, up to ten people sit around a bar on wheels and provide pedal power to move it. The driver steers it. Everyone drinks lots of alcohol. There are special holes cut in the bar to put your drink in so it doesn’t spill as you traverse the cobbled streets. It’s a stupid idea. I expect to see one in every major world city before three years are out. UPDATE: we’ve just seen one in Vilnius, actually in motion and powered by cheerfully drunken tourists.

Art nouveau

Art nouveau

Today was Riga exploration day. We started off in the art nouveau area, north of the old town. Wow. The architects in Riga were really smoking something back in the 1900’s! These facades are magical with invention, detail everywhere. Bonkers. And as we wandered further afield, it was nice to find the odd specimen (emphasis on the “odd”) in other parts of the city too.

Trying to rediscover Tellesviki again, we wandered all the way to Miera Iela. Go on the internet and look it up. You get descriptions like this: “Riga’s burgeoning bohemian quarter, offering travelers a calm, hip respite from the bustle of the city center. This colorful street is lined with charming little cafes and shops, where you can while away a happy afternoon hunting for local treasures…” Bollocks! You can while away a happy half-hour. The whole “quarter” runs for about four blocks and includes maybe four cafes and four shops of any interest. Desperate, desperate tourist-attracting hyperbole. We found the one great designer cafe: good coffee and a splendid kombucha.

Design cafe

Design cafe

We took ourselves to the central market next, which lives inside and outside of five impressively massive old zeppelin hangers. The market is also massive, and my biggest love went to the endless displays of smoked and preserved fish. Stacks of glistening smoked eels, like cords of firewood. Wonderful.

We wandered past the market to Spikeri for lunch. This is a “creative quarter” but alas it has only managed to create one cafe and one bagel place, although to be fair our bagels were delicious! Oh, hey, but lemme pause here to tell you about soft drinks in the Baltic. They’re great. The first thing they have is kvass. This is a dark, rich drink made from fermenting rye bread. The funky yeasty-rye flavour cuts through the sweet fizz and

Fish at the market

Fish at the market

makes for a much better drink than coke. Second, they have great flavoured lemonades with properly tart flavours: rhubarb, quince and the magic yellow sea buckthorn for example. Most of them are really well made, too; the ingredient list on my rhubarb lemonade was: water, rhubarb juice (40%), sugar, carbon dioxide. Nice.

Dinner tonight was at a quiet little place called The Spinster And The Cat. What is it with Latvia and cats? They’re everywhere. We’ve eaten in the Cat Bakery in Sigulda, a Cat Cafe in Krimulda and now a Spinster And Cat in Riga. And that’s without even trying. Look up and you may even see cats on the rooftops!

Cats

Cats

Anyway, back to the Spinster And Cat. Our waiter was a friendly fourth year medical student. Our soups were delicious but huge (I’d seen so many amazing porcini mushrooms in the central market, I had to have mushroom soup), and then our smoked blood sausage was also huge, served with a huge number of potatoes. Simple fayre, but good. And huge. Way too huge. We washed it down with a little glass of Riga’s unique contribution to the world of booze: black balsaam. Well named, it tastes like a jot of thin tar that has been set on fire. Yowch.

Tomorrow we’re off to explore the west of Latvia and see if we can’t track down the unique blue cows of the Livs!

More Art Nouveau

More Art Nouveau


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