A couple of weekends ago, I traveled with two friends to Latvia's capital city, Riga (pronounced 'Reega'). As you may recall from history or geography classes, Latvia is one of the 3 Baltic states (the others being Lithuania and Estonia). It's safe to say, many people (including myself) do not know much about these northern countries. I was aware of their history of occupation by the Soviets and Germans, but not much more. This little knowledge, combined with the cheap flights offered by RyanAir, is one of the reasons I picked Riga for a visit.
-Top Left Image:Christmas market in front of Dome cathedral
Riga is a small, charming city; and, visiting close to the Christmas holiday made it even more so. We frequented the two Christmas markets, visited the Occupation Museum, and simply went from cafe, to bar, to restaurant, because it was SO cold (mind you, this is a place where people wear furs not only for fashion) and the food was excellent!
This city boasts a number of awesome bars and restaurants, including an authentic medieval place, almost entirely lit by candlelight. This place was a great find on one of the freezing nights. The candlelight, intimacy and warm medieval honey drink warmed me to the bone. It wasn't too cheesy either - highly recommend it if you're in the city.
One of the funniest and most notable things about the city is the tendency for bar and restaurant staff to dress in costume according to the theme of the place. You could expect this in, say, a medieval restaurant as I just mentioned; however, we observed this in 3 out of 4 places. For instance, at a trendy student bar called Cuba, employees were wearing sun dresses and flip-flops; in another trendy bar decorated completely in hospital/medical theme, staff dressed in medical outfits (with the women in short nurse attire, uh-hem); and, in a homey place serving up hearty Latvian food, staff wore what must have been traditional Latvian clothing.
Keep in mind, this is not a super touristy location, especially in mid-December, so this trend cannot be attributed simply to tourism. Regardless of the reason, it's pretty hilarious and entertaining.
Given that we were only visiting for a weekend, we didn't get the chance to travel outside of Riga. However, there is apparently a nice coastal resort town quite close to Riga, which you could visit in better weather - Jurmala, a place formally favored by high-level Communist party officials.
Anyhow, it was a pleasant weekend. I only took a couple of photos - mostly of the Christmas market area. For more photos, click here!