Visit: 11th-12th November 2017
Riga, capital of Latvia, was the destination of our only full-size lads trip in 2017. Earlier this year I travelled with Nowell to Hamburg and with Ross to Le Havre, but since there were only two of us each time they don’t really count. This time around we had Nowell, Ross, Chirag and – having not joined us since the trip to Germany in 2012 – David.
It was mid-afternoon and already going dark by the time we checked in to the hotel, so that left little to do but our favourite activity – drinking, eating and then drinking some more. The hotel featured a smoking room, which would probably not be allowed in Britain today and felt like a portal into the distant past.
The next morning we stepped out to explore the city. Riga was put on the UNESCO list as a result of its Hanseatic history – much like Bergen, and several other cities in the region.
The Latvians are a patriotic people, judging by the number of flags that fly in the streets. They achieved independence from the Soviet Union in 1990 as the era of Communism came to a close. One of the highlights of our Saturday sightseeing was the tower of St Peter’s Church, which gives a good view of the cityscape and the Daugava River.
We later walked out from the centre to find Albert Street, which is known for its collection of Art Nouveau buildings. Many of these were designed by Russian architect Mikhail Eisenstein – father of the film director, Sergei.
Being located on the North European Plain has meant Latvia was often subject to the machinations of its powerful neigbouring empires. In the 17th century Riga was a significant town in the Swedish Empire, which covered much of Scandinavia and the Baltics. The Germans and the Soviets both controlled it in the 20th century, but nowadays it is a proudly independent member of the European Union.