A Travellerspoint blog

Latvia

Day 13

Riga to Daugavpils

sunny 4 °C
View Anniversary expedition on nanny0gg's travel map.

Another disturbed night for Keith due to lovely Latvian beer which makes my snoring worse ( so I’m told...I wouldn’t know, I’m asleep!). We’d walked past the Latvian Railways Museum yesterday, so as we only had half a day left before the train to Daugavpils ( a staging post for one of the few trains to Vilnius), it seemed a good place to visit. It was brilliant...lots of lovely old trains, many of the Soviet built...looking like something from “Dr. Zhivago” plus some interesting indoor exhibits. Lovely place to visit...and with sunshine, the photos look good.
Big Russian Locomotive (4-10-0)

Big Russian Locomotive (4-10-0)


Keith ‘driving’ train

Keith ‘driving’ train


Having collected our bags from the hotel and got to the station, found the platform and train, we were off on the busy fast train to Daugavpils. We were booked into a 4* hotels ( for €36 for both of us...which says it all)...but it was only a short walk from the station. The town seemed so dead on a Friday night apart from gangs of bored teenagers, we were glad to get in and settle. Probably not a place to put on a scenic tour of Latvia, but necessary in the big scheme of the trip!
I can’t explain why ( and Keith thinks I’m mad) but I really didn’t enjoy Latvia! There were great things to see, but I found the people so unfriendly...even their appearance was hostile - with the exception of the staff in Thursday night’s restaurant. I think it is that they are predominantly Russians but without the pre-World Cup training that made them at least appear more friendly. The taxi drivers were dour (and that’s being charitable) and fellow train passengers scowled most of the time -not just as us, but at their compatriots. Russian peasant faces predominate...think of Yeltsin and Brezhnev and that’s the standard male physiognomy. I just felt very uncomfortable both in Riga and Daugavpils. However, I’m now in Lithuania writing this and already feel more comfortable. It’s just gut feelings, but it matters!

Posted by nanny0gg 04:45 Archived in Latvia Comments (0)

Day 12

Riga

overcast 5 °C

The main problem with Riga is that it isn’t Tallinn, and having visited Tallinn first, Riga just doesn’t feel as good to me. The city is really big and very crowded...so everywhere you go you feels as if you are surrounded : Now this doesn’t bother me too much, but if you really hate being amongst a lot of people, then you really moan...and he did! However, there’s plenty to see so we managed another 7+ miles of walking ( plus a tram ride) in the course of the day.
First, though, we decided to locate the main rail station ready for Friday ...and after a lot of searching and confusion, finally found it hidden under and behind a shopping mall. It was next to the huge market, so we wandered round that too. Pomegranates seem to be the thing to buy...every stall had huge boxes of very large ones that were being snapped up ( why? They taste weird to me...all those pips).
Freedom Monument

Freedom Monument


We walked on and saw the impressively large Freedom Monument then following the little canal visited the lovely Art Deco quarter with its deco and Jugendstil architecture. On our way, I was delighted to see a window display promoting my favourite writer...specifically the range of “Tiffany Aching” books.
Book display

Book display


Next we headed into the Old Town and enjoyed a bit of sunshine after a very grey day before braving a tram to return to the hotel...which although big, in spite of first impressions is quite luxurious and very comfortable. Because some of the Old Town is reconstruction, it is difficult to tell the very old from the more recent. However it is quite colourful and vibrant.
88B16409-10F2-4E39-8596-DDF0E3811F21.jpeg
It will be interesting to see how Vilnius compares but as it’s so difficult to reach by rail ( trains only at weekends!) first we go to Latvia’s second city, Daugavpils in order to get to Vilnius on Saturday..

Posted by nanny0gg 22:46 Archived in Latvia Comments (0)

Day 11

Tallinn to Riga

overcast 6 °C

Interesting travel today: We took the LuxeExpress coach from Tallinn to Riga and very good it was too...and a lot quicker than the train where we’d have had a 3 hour wait for a connection in Valga. The bus takes 4hrs 25mins ( and was early) and by upgrading to business class you get bigger seats with loads of legroom...plus free Wi-Fi, free tea and coffee and a good loo on board. Everyone also has an airline style screen to get music, games, films and internet too and in the business class we also got a free chocolate bar and bottle of water (Wow!). I’ve never liked coaches, but this seemed a better option than going by rail...and so it proved. It was interesting to see some of the countryside too. All in all a good way to travel.

In the bus

In the bus


First impression of Riga was that it looks poorer and more Soviet than Tallinn. This was reinforced on arrival at our 4* hotel, which although clean, comfortable and very luxurious in outward appearance if lobby area just looks a little bit run down compared with the Tallinn equivalent...a more utilitarian decor adds to the feel.
However, finding a charming restaurant nearby with great food and staff made a huge difference to the way I viewed the place. The beer was excellent too...but then most of them have been. When we started out we had a few nights when food was what we could get due to travel rather than having time to find a restaurant. On the Swiss run train into Hamburg, we opted for a beer with our meal as it was cheaper than anything else, so now it’s become our mission to drink the local beer where possible with our evening meal. We’ve had quite a variety so far. It seems like a good plan as we are more often in France or Spain where wine is the norm so this makes a change. I really liked the local Latvian brew last night as it was very rich and almost sweet with a nutty flavour.

Posted by nanny0gg 00:53 Archived in Latvia Comments (0)

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