I had a wonderful trip to Riga, Latvia last weekend. I went with Jenn and Betty, some of my best traveling companions ever. We flew in early Friday morning and had a van waiting to take us to our hostel – Friendly Franks! I never stayed in hostels before this year, and I don’t know why not, because they are awesome! We walked in the door and the lady said, “Welcome to Friendly Franks, would you like a free beer?” Then she gave us maps and told us all about things we could do in the city and all the events the hostel had going on.
Our room was a six person dorm with a bathroom across the hall. The whole place was spotless, and there was no one else in our room, or bathroom. Oh yeah, and did I mention it was 8 euro/per night?
Right away we decided to go to the beach and we split a cab (the same one, actually) with 4 Finnish guys that turned out to be hilarious. We split up upon arrival at the beach (on the Baltic Sea) and ended up running into them again and learning all about Finland. We also learned that they were there on a “stag night” because one of them was getting married. We then learned that this seems to be the most popular reason to come to Riga, and large groups of drunk men in costumes are ubiquitousThe beach was lovely, and we were very surprised as we walked around to discover that Riga seems to closely resemble…wait for it…America! There were old wooden houses that looked like they belonged in New Orleans with giant SUVs parked in front. I never found out what was up with that, but it was sure interesting to see!
After enjoying the pristine white sand and semi-frigid temps, we showered and went out for Traditional Latvian food. We ate buffet style and I have absolutely no idea what I ate, and it was unspectacular, but interesting. All the waitstaff was in traditional dress, which looked very similar to Bavarian style.
We wandered around the old town a lot that night and it was just beautiful. The whole place is a UNESCO world heritage sights and there are lots of cool things to see in a small area, so it’s very manageable. It’s also one of the Art Nouveau centers of the world, so I was constantly looking up and enjoying the architecture.
The next day we toured the town and saw lots more of it, and even climbed (okay, and elevator was the only option) to the top of the spire in the church and got to look out over everything. We also took a boat tour and I went for a run, so I got to see some of the outskirts of town as well. In general, it was beautiful and not at all what I expected. It was clean, modern, and lovely. The people were very friendly and no one made any attempt to rip us off, at all, which all the guidebooks (and hostel employees) warned us of.
We left early on Sunday to come back, and overall had a very fun, inexpensive, easy weekend in Riga!