Day 153, 154, 155 & 156
Riga for us was meant to be the party capital of the Europe. Being told that the clubs were hot and the girls hotter we were very excited to get there. However upon arriving we found the place to be very different. Our hostel was relatively empty, the streets were quiet and we could not find a single club that was open on any night. I'm not sure if it was because it is getting cold or something but Riga was dead. Yet the place was not a complete disappointment. Rather than the nightlife we focussed on the the days, our hostel made sure the time we spent there was jam packed.
Getting to Riga from Krakow was easier said than done. Leaving Krakow it was first a 4 hour train back to Warsaw, a 2 hour stopover, a 10 hour bus to Vilinius, Lithuania and then finally a 4 hour bus to Riga. With no food stops along the way by the time we got into town we were absolutely starving and ready to crash. Yet fate would have it that we had arrived before check in and would have to kill a couple of hours in town.
We explored the old town mainly by ourselves and followed a tour guide around the new. As always there were the same old churches and statues on both sides of town. The only difference from other cities, which we found hilarious, was that rather than having a cross on top of each church, chickens were placed. We went past a holocaust memorial which was excellently made, listing everybody who died in the war on a wall surrounded by barbed wire. Both the regular markets and the more shady "black market" were visited yet neither was what we imagined. The regular market seemed to be just heaps of people selling food in a massive hall. The black market, a bunch of people selling anything (and I mean anything) they could get their hands on. Our guide took us past a movie theatre that was decked out like an Opera and a memorial to people who had died trying to save Jews in the War. We also visited a whole bunch of famous parks, one of which had a giant climbable hill in the middle as well as the cliche bridge of locks.
Our hostel was absolutely fantastic keeping us busy both day and night. Instead of Riga being the nightclub capital as we had hoped, our hostel showed us a different side to it and made it our Adrenaline capital. With bungee jumping, skydiving, kayaking, gun shooting, bobsledding and dog sledding on offer we knew we were going to have some fun. Whilst we would have loved to do them all, time and money restricted us. We settled on both Bobsledding and shooting as they were two things we couldn't do anywhere else.
Starting with Bobsledding we headed out of town to one of 16 bobsledding courses in the world. Despite this being quite pricey, hearing that it was one of the only places in the world that allows tourists to go down the track we knew we had to do it. After meeting members of the Latvian Olympic team they gave us some quick instructions and before we knew it we were sitting in the bobsled with a driver. They gave us a push and soon we were hurtling down down the course reaching speeds of 100km/h over the 1km track. Whilst we thought it was a bit slow at the beginning and we had wasted our money, after going round a couple corners we felt the G forces kick in and knew we had made the right decision. It was the most intense 50 seconds ever and was definitely worth the long drive out there. Whilst it did hurt going round the corners as we had no idea to expect I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Our next day activity was something we never knew we could do. We were going shooting. Piling into the hostel van once more we had a bit of a drive out to the firing range located at the most unlikely of places. Upon arriving at a school oval we were led into a door under a grandstand and down several flights of stairs. There in front of us was a firing range. Whilst the nerves were high as none of us had done anything like this before, our instructor was not one to mess around and got straight into it. We picked our targets, lined up and got ready to fire. Going through a Glock pistol, AK 47 and a pump action shotgun we all got a chance to fire at targets 15m away. It was one of the most amazing thrills we have had on this trip. Who knew that we would ever get the chance to pull the trigger on bad boys like these... And we weren't too bad either. We all were pretty good with our accuracy, even with the shotgun which was very difficult to handle. I'm so glad we had the chance to do something like that and next time I'm back in Riga I'm doing it again.
As we didn't go out much at night due to the total non existence of life after 8pm, we joined in on all the group activities the hostel had to offer. Our first night was movie night which suited us perfectly. Having very little sleep the night before we were happy to do nothing more than watch a movie an crash early. Night two was Tom the magician, a guy the hostel brings in each week to do tricks that impress the drunken crowd. He was brilliant at what he did and hysterical whilst he did it. Kudos Tom, you certainly impressed us. Our final night was trivia night an event we thought we had in the bag. And with a beer as the grand prize we buckled down and gave it our all. After the first four rounds, Latvian history, geography, more geography and music we were flying coming in second by just a couple of points. However in the last round, which ironically happened to be beer nationalities we completely bombed out, coming in at a depressing last place.
After some of the events we did try to head out with the few friends we had made in the hostel. Yet as I have said a fee times there was absolutely nothing going on and we ended up roaming the streets, jumping in leaf piles and playing on playgrounds.
That pretty much sums up Riga for us. We did adrenaline pumping sports during the day, played out our hostel during the night and snuck in some sightseeing in between. It was a really fun place yet would probably have been better during the summer. In saying that, Riga, I will be back.
Next stop Stockholm
Ooh. One thing I forgotten to mention that Wazzy so kindly reminded me of was that we had our first encounter with European Snow. Whilst ambling through the streets one night we found a random little patch of snow in the middle of a main walkway. We are not sure if someone brought it in or whether it just snowed in a very random place but we got to have some fun sliding around on some Ice. Here's
hoping the snow is not in short supply when we start to head up north.