Riga

Tandem FTW!

We had a really nice time in Riga, Latvia. We spent two nights at a fantastic hotel in the old town and had a day and a half to explore the city, of which we spent our full day on rental bikes! That allowed us to see a lot more of the city, which was really nice because Riga has more to see than just the old town. It was an interesting contrast to Tallinn, which seemed to either consist of Old Town or suburbs. Riga actually has several well defined and distinct neighborhoods that were fun to cycle through.

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, I don't have any standout stories about Riga. There were no car-rentals gone awry, no themed dinners, and no disappointing beaches. We had a really nice afternoon and evening exploring the old town area, culminating in drinks and dinner at an outdoor restaurant listening to live music. The next morning we rented bikes and hit up the recommended, and recommended to avoid, sites. The former consists of a couple of streets of fantastic Art Nouveau buildings, worthy of their own photo gallery:

View from the top

We also went through the a neighborhood called Latgale (anyone who read through the wikipedia entries on Old Livonia will get the reference), now more commonly referred to as the Moscow District because of the high concentration of ethnic Russians. Indeed, Riga is 42% ethnic Russian, which is apparently a source of friction within local government. Walter and I went up the Soviet-era Academy of Sciences building and got a birds-eye view of the town and then we rode our bikes around the Moscow district taking in all the...ahem...scenery.

A common theme throughout Riga, as in Tallinn and presumably in Vilnius, is the hardships endured in the changeover from Soviets to Germans to Soviets before and during World War 2, as well as the fight for freedom in the early 90's. Riga is filled with beautiful monuments to the period, and in fact beautiful monuments in general. All in all Riga was a really nice city to visit and in many ways we preferred it to Tallinn. If only there were more good dining options in the Old Town area (most high quality restaurants were a ~15 minute walk outside of Old Town) it would have been perfect!