Bittersweet Riga

Bittersweet Riga

The Wanderer travel blog


I'm just a big ball of sleep deprived, overworked stress, but the bumpy streets of Riga are keeping me calm. I finished my visit to Vilnius on a high, with the biggest radio station, LRT, interviewing me and letting me plug my book to the whole of Lithuania. It's a really amazing place, that has been rightly named by Lonely Planet as Europe's 8th best travel destination in 2018.

I checked out of my hostel in Vilnius and ran around trying to pay my fine. One bank was shut, another said I'd have to open an account with them, but directed me half a kilometre to the post office. I strolled up to the desk, where the woman instructed me to walk all the way to the other side of the giant hall and press a button for a ticket. I got the ticket and the screen instantly lit up telling me to go back to the woman who made me walk to the ticket machine. I had a bus to catch and really didn't have time for this. Anyway, I paid the €8 Euros and left.

I walked the 10 minutes to the bus station. I originally wanted to take the plane from Vilnius to Riga, but four hours on a coach is a much better idea. There's no check in or security, there's free WiFi, free coffee, plug sockets and a ton of leg space. I felt comfortable and happy for the whole four hours, almost thinking it went by too quickly. I got a bit of work done and enjoyed the views of the Baltic countryside.

Arriving in Riga was a strange experience. I've been dreaming of this place for a couple of years and really being here was weird. The streets feel like they haven't been updated since 1547 and every corner is a new colourful church or amber covered market stall. None of my friends seem to know what Riga is or which country it's in, but I'm surprised it isn't a more famous destination. Having said that, I've barely heard a non-English word since I arrived.

I really like this place, so on my first night I wandered outside in search of entertainment. At 9:30pm, in the centre of the Old Town, everywhere was almost empty. I went to a bar called "I Love You", where Frank Turner played in 2008. I wanted to see some of the many stories I've read about that place for myself. It was an quaint, if empty, little pub. I decided to look for somewhere a little more lively and eventually found a live band covering the same Queen song Frank covered in 2008, fittingly to the situation entitled "I Want to Break Free". They were okay, but the bar was slightly lacking in atmosphere.

I went home, looking forward to taking most of the next day off. The next day came and I continued to wander from the Old Town to the new. It was kind of boring. Nothing really happened. The park and river is really nice though. Then, as I was searching for hostels for the weekend, my landlord emailed to tell me that I owed him £400. I spent all night arguing my case, before heading to the bar for a much needed cold one. This allowed me to finally find a really awesome bar, where the barman was friendly and offered me discounts, while calling a taxi for a couple who had a few too many.

So today has been spent entirely dealing with the landlord, telling him that I don't owe him a thing. Strangely enough, at the peak of my monetary worries, I was assigned an article for a Buddhist website on how to deal with financial stress. It was like I was writing to myself, from a wiser part of my brain. As I finished that off, I came to an agreement with the landlord and let him keep £100 of my £200 deposit. Not a bad deal from 400, but pretty bad considering I don't really owe anything. But anyway, it's only money and I'll survive. I'm just glad it's over.

It's weird being in such a calm and magical place at such a stressful time. It's like meeting the perfect woman the day before she moves to Cornwall. I'm now in a position where I'm actually homeless. I'm not complaining (or comparing myself to actual rough sleepers) because it's out of choice, but soon I'm going to have to find somewhere more permanent to call home and I'm going to have to deal with landlords, deposits and contract laws again. Travel, while we do it to relax, is actually quite stressful and it's not good to have other life stresses to deal with on top. Everything from picking the right time to shower  to getting your five a day, becomes much more difficult than it needs to be. Not to mention finding a reliable WiFi connection and a suitable place to work.

Riga, it's not your fault, but it's been a bit depressing and chaotic. At least the war museum is free. All in all, this is one of my favourite places I've ever been, but my time spent here has been uneventful at best, stressful and expensive at worse. In the midst of the landlord fiasco (debacle? Fiasco.), a German and a Latvian from my room started to fight over a chair and I had to intervene and deal with the fact that I have to sleep in the same room as these two crazy people.

Now, though, the weather is in the mid-twenties (77 farenheit), I'm on a reasonably comfortable bed, with the window open and a gentle breeze gliding across my body. A busker outside appropriately sings "Blowing in the Wind" and I'm on one of the finest looking streets I've ever stayed on. I'm even staying here for free, using loyalty points as currency. Riga, I Love You. It's not you, it's me.


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BSmyth June 8th, 2018

Dang awesome story! That's incredible you got to pitch your book on a radio station in Lithuania! haha thats crazy... Sorry about the low times though!

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