Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Riga, Latvia

Took a fifteen hour cruise across the Baltic Sea to Riga, Latvia. Spent one night on the ship and two in the old port.

The first thing you notice is that this is a culture that likes to drink. As you hit Latvian water, there is a sizable liquor store that opens on the ship selling cheap bottles of alcohol. Supposedly in the summer Swedes will even go to Riga and straight home as a two-day "booze cruise." There are two nightclubs on the ship, plus a bar-lounge.

So, compared to Stockholm, food is a bit more expensive. Clothes are considerably more expensive. But alcohol is much much cheaper. And everywhere.

They love beer here, but I think they love shots more. There are shot bars, "welcome shots" at the hostel, and special prices when you buy like five or seven shots for your group. I tried a couple new things. One was some apple-cinnamon shot, and my favorite was Piparu, this really hot pepper liquor.

Here is a much slower paced life. The city is very quiet, people don't rush about like Stockholm. You can visit all the major landmarks in one day. My two days here were quite cold and rainy, which no doubt put a damper on social opportunities.

I'll tell you this much. The culture has trust issues. There is a much greater police presence than Stockholm. Money is always exchanged on a little tray, never hand-to-hand. When you buy something in a store, you put your money on the tray, and you get your change the same way. I was told that when you give someone a knife or scissors, it is always done the same way. Never hand-to-hand.

This may seem silly, but it is another small trust thing. Stockholm and Riga both love candy. So many varieties in so many places. The thing is in Stockholm, there are these bins with the candy just laying there in the open. No wrapper, and no lid. In Riga, the candy is similar, but it is individually wrapped and in bins with lids. There you go.

But here are my first impressions of the women of Latvia. First, Riga lacks the obvious quantity of beautiful women that you see in Stockholm, but there are a few stunners. There is a greater variety of body types, hair styles, etc. I noticed a lot of really tall women. They wear more makeup. More wear glasses. I don't think contacts are normal here at all.

Women seem a bit friendlier than in Stockholm. The catch is that their English is far worse. Those who open up will reward you with intelligence and sarcastic humor. A lot of women I met turned out to be married or engaged, but at least they were sociable.

Anyway, I'd like to be able to say more about the women, but my short stay here was mostly spent intimately with a girl from Germany. :)

A couple more quick things about Riga:

--This is not a city with a sophisticated public transportation system like Stockholm. Cars are a big deal. I even saw a billboard for a 24hr "McDrive."

--Yes, McDonald's is here, but that's it. Even Burger King is in Stockholm. One interesting thing is that the BigMac is the only 2-patty burger on the menu. No double-cheeseburgers and certainly no double-quarter-pounders.

--You can get porno mags in the grocery stores. And there are 1-900 type numbers advertised on television that feature full nudity and girl-on-girl action.

--The symbol of the city is the cat. There are stray cats all over the old port. There always seems to be an old lady nearby trying to lure one in with some food. But the feral cat remains as aloof and withdrawn as the women in Stockholm.

--Pictured here is Riga's Cat House. "The story behind this unique architecture tells of its Latvian owner who was denied membership in the powerful Great Guild; to show his displeasure, he built two cat sculptures on his roof with their backsides facing the Guild and their tails straight up to finish the insult."

There you go.


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