Sunday, September 9, 2012

Latvia at Last: Riga

I made it to Riga in one piece – one jet-lagged, dehydrated, and sleep-deprived piece.

The Albert Hotel is nice. I don’t believe there is any connection to its namesake Albert Einstein beyond the quotes on the wall and the slightly atomic patterned carpets, but it’s comfortable with a good breakfast, great views, and a fantastic bathtub. It isn’t in Old Town, but I’ve found that Riga is one of the most walkable cities I’ve ever explored. (I still have blisters, though.)

The first evening I was here, I did nothing but eat in the hotel restaurant and read a book in the bath before an early bedtime. The second day, I found a sim card for my phone, explored the area around the hotel, and watched the BBC in my hotel room. Also, I read a book in the bath. Today, I took a walking tour of Old Town, went to the Central Market, and checked out the Galerija Centrs shopping mall. Oh, and I plan on reading a book in the bath. With a glass of wine. I live dangerously.

Everyone I’ve with whom I’ve spoken about this city has almost nothing but good things to say. The architecture is varied and gorgeous (to my certainly untrained eye). The people are nice. The food is tasty. The one complaint I’ve heard from multiple people is that the price of clothing is too high. Maybe that’s changing. I found several very nicely priced shops for people my age. An H&M is also going into Galerija Centrs on the 15th of this month. (My friend Laura is going to be jealous that she isn’t here for that!)

I’d like to add one drawback to this lovely city: pigeons. I hate pigeons. I hate birds in general (except chickens, the most superior bird). I especially hate European city pigeons that aren’t afraid of people and congregate in public squares. They lie in wait for tourists, watch with their beady eyes, and then fly en masse just as the unsuspecting tourist turns the corner. I don’t know if I believe in God, but I certainly believe that Satan is in pigeons.

Tuesday I have an orientation with the embassy about the Fulbright program. It should be helpful. On Wednesday, I head to Rezekne. I’m nervous and excited about the next leg of the trip. I’m half-afraid they’ll meet me, find out that I’m not all that good at what I’ve been sent here to do, and send me back to Texas. (A small part of me, when I think about the long months ahead without seeing my family, hopes that they send me back. I’m more homesick than I thought I’d be. I’m attributing that to the rough trip over and exhaustion, so I hope it goes away once I get started doing whatever teaching I’ll be doing.)

Yesterday I spoke to Inta on the phone and said that the temperature in Riga currently is what we have in College Station for Christmas some years. She said that she hopes I don’t see -30 Celsius (-22 Fahrenheit). I almost passed out. 

I've taken some photos, but I haven't dug my little cord thingy out of my suitcase yet. So no photos. I'll figure that out when I get settled in Rezekne. I know you're all dying to see my very non-amateur photography.

This post is brought to you by Gogol Bordello's Wanderlust King.

- V


  1. Hang in there. That first month will be the hardest in terms of adjustments.