After spending almost a week in Latvia, I think I’m in a position to say that this place is a bit weird. Wait, scratch that, it’s a bat-shit insane country that is incredible to experience for that very reason.
The locals are serious to a fault, which takes a bit of getting used to as an Australian. I’m used to saying G’day to strangers, maybe giving them a bit of a wave. In Latvia, the response to that is to look at me as if I’m either a sex fiend, or a retard – or a mixture of both. Even at shops, I haven’t received a single smile since I got here. And I usually get heaps of smiles, because I’m lovely.
The supermarkets here are fucking bonkers. I headed into a place called Rimi, which is a gigantic warehouse where all the actual food and groceries are hidden behind rows and rows of toys, camping equipment, makeup and other crazy stuff. I guess it makes sense – I’ve often wandered into a shop to buy a six-pack of pies and a box of condoms and thought, “I wish I could also update my wardrobe and purchase a new basketball hoop while I’m here.”
The supermarket also had a massive fish tank right next to the milk – in what bizarre world does that make sense. “Oh, I’ll just check out this massive fuck-off fish before I grab a couple of litres of goat milk and a six-pack of frozen dog paws.”
There’s a definite upside to Latvian supermarkets, though, because their alcohol selection is out of this world. It seems like a quarter of the joint was dedicated to booze, with rows and rows of cheap beer, cheap spirits, and reasonably cheap Aussie wine just waiting to be guzzled. They also sell beer in two-litre plastic bottles – bet the Latvian lovelies would be impressed by that when a fella drags one of those out during a romantic meal!
I spent this arvo exploring a forest on the outskirts of Riga with a lady friend of mine and her dog. The forests here are weirdly quiet and full of people aimlessly wandering around in long coats, looking as if they’d rather be anywhere else in the world. The forests have an eerie, lonely quality to them, even when located in or around populated areas. Abandoned houses stand rotting among the ghost-like trees, and empty beer cans lie everywhere.
We ended up at a small lake that was ringed by tall pine trees and a couple of menacing Soviet-era housing blocks that served as a reminder of Latvia’s troubled past. While Riga is cold and the terrain harsh, the locals don’t spend their Saturdays too diffrerently from Australians. A few beers over a BBQ with mates, or taking the kids to the park to let them have a run around. Maybe drink a litre or two of black balsam, head home to bash the missus, that sorta thing.
Oh well, that’s it for Riga (well, for now, at least) and it’s time to hop on a luxury bus to Tallinn, the mystical capital of Estonia, one country to the north of Latvia. If it’s even half as barmy as Latvia, I’ll have plenty of stories to share. Hell, even if it’s not wacky, I’ll just drink until something funny happens…
Beer of the day:
The cheapest beer in Latvia is some swill called Walter. Going by the taste, I’m assuming there’s some falt bloke called Walter who simply pisses in the cans before they get shipped off to the supermarket, but I’m giving it my beer of the day anyway. Just brush your teeth after downing one, or people will think you’ve been playing drinking games with Todd Carney.
Kebab of the day:
While my lady friend put the kybosh on my plans to have a kebab today, I decided to fight for my right to
party have something resembling a kebab by making fajitas for dinner. They were delicious and if you reckon they don’t count as kebabs then you can go fuck yourself.