What a wonderful day!
I knew it was going to be a wonderful day as soon as we woke up and saw the sun shining in the middle of a light blue sky and the weather forecast was calling for temperatures to be in the mid-eighties.
Today our port-of-call is Riga, Latvia. Riga is the capital of Latvia and has a population of over 700,000. Riga is also on UNESCO’s World Cultural and Natural Heritage list.
We were up early, grabbed a quick breakfast and down to the pier for our ‘Taste of Riga’ tour of the city enjoying foods and beverages unique to the region.
We were blessed with a very friendly and knowledgeable tour guide. On our way into town we she explained that the area had just celebrated the summer solstice and so we would not be seeing many people in the town.
Evidently, the residents go out into the country to celebrate and then sleep the next day. Well, today is the day they would be sleeping. She was quick to add that there would be some people in town to take care of visiting tourists.
It was very interesting to us all that as we arrived at the entrance to the city the bus was pulled over and they conducted a breathalyzer test on the driver. If he had been found to be intoxicated they would have taken him off and a new bus driver would have been assigned to our tour.
We started at the Central Market. The five halls at the market were once used as zeppelin hangars. As we arrived we noticed that there were a few stands open and a few people milling about. We walked to a large tented table and what a treat for the eyes.
There on the table was a display of cheeses, breads, pork, fish, candy, cheese cake, cabbage, pickles, and non-alcoholic beer for us to sample. As we sampled the foods the servers explained what each food was. Everything we tasted was delicious.
Our next stop was at the Town Hall Square with the beautiful architecture of the House of the Blackheads, City Hall, Roland Statue and others. Many of these buildings had to be reconstructed after WWII.
From the square we wound our way in Old Town down medieval streets and alleys on our way to a pub for beer and snacks. We passed beautiful art nouveau buildings along the way. We eventually arrived at Dome Square and the Riga Cathedral and the Museum of Foreign Art.
We continued our walk stopping by a group of buildings call the Three Brothers. According to our guide these buildings are the oldest medieval dwellings in Riga and, according to legend; these buildings were built by three men of one family. Standing in the front of one of the buildings was a musical group who entertained us with a very nice rendition of America the Beautiful. I thought that was very nice.
Then it was on to the Alus Arsenāls pub. The pub was in the basement. We had to descend down a narrow staircase with a very low ceiling. I was a little worried about Randy, Doug and Sue as they are all very tall. We were invited into a long, narrow room with a table set with a variety of beers and appetizers.
Oh my, what a spread. Each place was set with four full glasses of different beers and plates with cheeses, fish, toasted brown bread and a garlic cheese spread. One thing I have come to love while traveling around Norway and the Baltic States is the different breads I have tried. They are earthy, crusted breads with wonderful flavors. The last beer, a red one, was a ginger beer. Randy and I did not like that one.
Then we were on our way past the parliament building to Livu Square. This square was just charming with cobblestone streets, beautiful architecture, many outdoor cafes and a grassy area where the flowers are planted in waves. I learned that the area was once a river which the city was named after and the flower beds are planted in waves to remind people of the lost river. I loved the stone face sculpture along the path and the story of the cat atop a building in the square. The building is called The Cat House. The story was very funny.
We continued our walk finally arriving at our last tasting destination, the Black Magic Bar. The front of the bar was actually a bakery and candy store that smelled wonderful. We continued walking to the back room filled with a variety of stuffed chairs and couches, candles and low tables set with glasses filled with black current juice, Riga Black Balzam and a plate of candied nuts.
We were given a short presentation about the history of the drinks we were about to enjoy. We learned that Riga Black Balzam is a dark and stringent liqueur made of 24 herbs and has remained unchanged for 250 years. The liqueur was indeed strong but I loved it. The black current juice was delicious as well.
The speaker also talked a little about the candy that is sold in the store and as she was talking she opened a small box and a beautiful paper butterfly suddenly flew out of the box much to the delight of all those in the room. I loved it. I loved the candy too!
From the bar we made our way back to the bus and returned to the ship. The entire ride all I could think about was how wonderful our day had been. Everything about this tour was wonderful, the town was beautiful and the food absolutely delicious.
By the time we made it back to the cabin we had just a little time before drinks and dinner. After eating and drinking so many wonderful things earlier I was not really very hungry and decided to order an appetizer for dinner. I love the Thai-Style Chicken Salad with green curry-coconut chicken strips, glass noodles and crisp greens and that was just plenty.
During dinner Vilma and the others shared their experiences in Riga. They obviously had a wonderful time too.
Although tired, Randy and I were anxious to attend tonight’s headliner show. Tonight the headliner was an ABBA tribute group called ABBAMAX. We were both glad we attended the show; they were wonderful. I clapped my hands, tapped my feet and sang along to my favorite ABBA songs. I thought this was a treat to see as our next port-of-call is Stockholm, Sweden.
After the show Randy and I made our way down to the photo shop to pick up our last pictures and found the shop closed. Evidently, it would take quite a while before we would, once again, be in international waters and so the shops could not open. We were told to come back at 10 PM which then turned into 11 PM.
What to do, what to do as we waited. We decided to take a walk on the deck and watch the sunset and spotted Mickey and Betty. We stood for quite a while watching the sun slowly settle behind the horizon filling the sky with bright hues of yellow and red. All of a sudden the wind picked up and it was cold. Betty and I retreated inside the door to stay warm. We left Betty and Mickey and continued our walk around the ship.
A little later we walked over to the Centrum and found a 70’s Disco Street Party in full swing. There were crew members in the Centrum, decks 5 and 6 and some even in elevators dancing to many 70’s hits. The Centrum was full to capacity with partying passengers. And, of course, what would a 70’s party be with the Village People? They were there too. At the end of the show balloons fell from high above. The show was fun, fun, fun!
We were up on deck 5 looking down on the festivities. I decided to walk over to another railing to get a better view and ran into Betty and Mickey again. Mickey was sporting a large, plastic, ring with blinking lights that the crew threw into the audience every so often. Very funny.
We watched the show for a while and then returned to the photo shop, picked up our pictures and retired to our cabin.
Today was a wonderful day, one that will bring a smile to my face every time I think of all the beautiful things we saw and the delicious regional food and beverages we enjoyed.
Tomorrow we dock in last port-of-call Stockholm, Sweden.