Sunshine and Lunch in Riga

After an uneventful (the best kind) bus ride from Tallinn, I arrived in Riga before lunchtime. The bus station was located in an industrial-looking area, but just across the way I could see the beginnings of the Old Town. After crossing a huge boulevard using underground tunnels, I managed to blindly pick the right road and find my hostel.

Unlike the Estonian hostel, this one was modern with simple decor and an almost minimalist design. I liked it. It was also really clean, and the room was spacious. After settling in, I picked up a map from reception and got online to check out the town. As usual, I did just enough research to get from the bus station to my hostel. After that, I planned to wing it from there.

After about an hour, I decided to head out to see the city. With the sun shining and a brisk wind blowing, it was a perfect day to explore a new city on foot. As I wandered through the cobblestone streets of the Old Town, I was amazed at how the old buildings towered above me, even after being bombed during World War II. The work to reconstruct the damaged buildings and keep the old style is incredible.

I also enjoyed the mix of green spaces throughout the city, which provided a nice retreat from the bustling tourist crowds. Although Riga is no London in terms of tourist foot traffic, it still seems to get its fair share of people around the shops. I have also heard that Riga is a mean place to party, if you’re into that kinda thing.

Taking a dining suggestion off my map, I had lunch at a small cafeteria-like restaurant serving authentic Latvian food. Don’t ask me what I ended up eating. It was one of those point and smile situations. I was charged by the amount of food selected so it was a pretty cheap meal in the end. The place seemed to be very local with lots of working people on their lunch breaks. I think I was just about the only foreigner in the place. Interestingly enough, practically everyone had a glass of milk with their lunch. Is this a thing in Latvia?

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Filed under Accommodation, Attraction, Latvia

Tallinn to Riga on Lux Express

The bus ride from Tallinn to Riga on Lux Express  was a quick four-and-a-half hour trip in a modern, air-conditioned bus. It was kitted out with power points to charge your electronics and even had free wifi, although it was spotty for me.

I was surprised at the high quality of the bus, because the fare was extremely cheap when compared to train prices. The bus driver made announcements in several languages, including English, making it easy to understand what was going on. Also, the roads were in really good condition so it was smooth riding all the way to Riga.

The only negative aspect about traveling this way was the fullness of the bus. However, who can really blame people for using this transportation to get from city to city? With these prices, it made travel between countries very easy and affordable.

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Filed under Estonia, Latvia, Transportation

Drunk Estonian Escort

The morning I left Estonia was quiet and serene despite all the revelry (or possibly due to it) that I heard through the windows the previous night. My bags were packed so I didn’t have much else to do but leave my key at the front desk. No one was there to accept it at such an early hour.

I left the building and exited the walled city via Viru Gate as I walked to the bus station. My bus to Riga, Latvia wasn’t for a couple of hours, but I wanted to go early in case I got lost on the way to the station.

About 10 minutes into my journey, I came across an Estonia bloke walking in the other direction. I suppose I must’ve looked odd to him as I was humping my backpacks – one on the front and one on the back – at 7 a.m. on a Sunday. He stopped me and asked if I was ok, which I thought was nice of him. His English wasn’t great but definitely understandable. It might have been even better had he not still been drunk from the night before. Ah, but to each his own.

When I mentioned going to the bus station, he said he knew where it was and would walk me there. My solo traveler radar immediately perked up and started pinging. No one else was around at this hour. I had only seen a couple of cars pass by and no people other than this guy. But, he seemed harmless for the most part so I just continued walking.

He asked about my travels and I told him I was spending the summer in Europe. He asked how I liked Tallinn and said there were so many Russians living here now. Not one to get into anything political, I just nodded in understanding and continued toward the bus depot.

Once we arrived, I expected he’d be on his way but he came inside and waited with me for about 30 minutes. We chatted on and off, and then it happened. The inevitable bow chica wow wow solicitation for which my solo traveler’s radar had been on alert for the past hour.

If this had taken place en route to the bus station in the middle of nowhere, I would definitely feel uncomfortable. But at a relatively modern and bustling bus station, it just felt like any other drunk guy trying to pick up a girl. It wasn’t aggressive or offensive. It was what it was. And after my gentle rebuff, he bid me a good trip and weaved his way out of the depot.

These are interesting times, and I’m learning new things every day. My Estonian escort turned out to be somewhat of an escort himself. But, as I rode out of the city toward Riga, I just laughed to myself. Ah, the unpredictable joys of life on the road.

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Filed under Estonia, Transportation