This week our tour of the Baltics continued with a few more days in Riga before we headed off to the Estonian island of Saaremaa. In between leaving Latvia and crossing the border, Stuart squeezed in a visit back to the UK for his daughter’s graduation.
Before he went, we had a wander through the very splendid Riga Central Market.
It spreads across five pavilions in hangars which once housed zeppelins…
….and is a foodie’s paradise…..
..and the fish is so fresh…
..some were still breathing.
Afterwards we had a wander along Alberta and Elisabette streets to admire the flamboyance of the city’s Art Nouveau architecture with its use of whiplash curves, floral designs…
..theatrical masks ….
..and voluptuous women.
The Riga of the late 19th century up to World War I was wealthy from trade and enjoying a building boom hence why s0 many of it’s buildings are decorated in the artistic style in vogue at the time.
In the Riga Art Nouveau Museum, every room is furnished as it was in 1903.
Erica, one of the guides dressed to match her surroundings, showed us around….
…highlighting how everything in the household from the towels in the bathroom …..
….to the rolling pin in the kitchen was ornately decorated.
Talking to Erika about life in Riga today, we got a sense of how vulnerable Latvia feels in the face of Russian aggression.
The arguments Putin used to defend the annexation of the Crimea – that Russia was defending the rights of ethnic Russians – could just as easily be deployed against Latvia where huge numbers of Russians still live. In Riga, for example, about half the population are ethnic Russians who migrated to city when Latvia was under Soviet occupation.
As Stuart was making his way back to the UK, I headed here….
…and from my guide Violetta heard similar concerns.
There’s an English language tour every day at 2 pm at the museum but as there were no other takers, she was my private guide for a walkthrough the history of Latvia including its two occupations by the Soviet Union. ‘They wouldn’t do it again’, chipped in one tourist passing by and overhearing Violetta’s description of events. She looked sceptical at his certainty.
And for the rest of my time in Riga while Stuart was away, I enjoyed walking the city….
.. watching the changing of the guard at the Freedom monument…….
…and tried some Latvian food – raw herring, onion, rye bread and some spuds on the side.
And then Stuart was back and we were once again back in the van and crossing into Estonia.
We headed up the coast and stopped off for a night in the spa town of Parnu….
….though aside from a brisk walk along the river path, we didn’t stay long.
The campsite we were on was expecting a convoy of 20 Italian motorhomes so we could only stay one night which wasn’t a problem as we were headed here….
It’s a 15 euro 30-minute ferry ride to Estonia’s biggest island where…
….we spent a couple of nights on this campsite….
…but finding it a bit too quiet, we headed to the main town of Kuressaare. It wasn’t looking too promising at first…
…and the motorhome stop was a bit like the car park of Croydon B&Q ….
..but there were compensations. At least we were close to some good restaurants.
And we learned one thing this week. When camping always check your boots before putting them on. Stuart felt this wriggling in the toe of his boot…
And finally some van stuff…..when the instruction manual of our inverter said don’t put the red wire in the black hole and vice versa or you’ll blow the thing, they meant it.
It’s a really useful bit of kit for charging laptops when we have no electricity so thanks to a recent wiring up mishap it has been a bit of a nuisance being without it. Stuart picked up a replacement on his trip back and in a nifty bit of DIY, it’s now permanently attached to the van.
We’ve a few more days in Estonia before we head back to Latvia for a music festival. Yes, we will be the oldest swingers in Salagriva….