Burnout and Garlic Beer, Riga, Latvia

Hmmmm, garlic beer, yummy
Hmmmm, garlic beer, yummy

Zagan the motorhome’s on an island in the Daugava River, 2km from Riga old town in a car park alongside the exhibition centre and university (N56.95399, E24.08127). It costs €6 per 24 hours to stay here, rather cheaper than the nearby camp site, and we found the spot through europebycamper.com’s recommendation. We didn’t stay in the actual spot they suggested though, as the helpful security guard pointed out the motion-sensitive cameras are switched on between 8pm and 8am, so we’d not be able to leave the van during those times! He instead suggested we stay here, which is a short distance away, still covered by his security cameras but no motion-detection on these puppies.

Zagan's Luxurious Car Park in Riga
Zagan’s Luxurious Car Park in Riga

After setting up camp yesterday (which consists of pressing a button for the electric step), we popped Charlie on his lead and headed for the city. Roughly 2km later, I was burned out. Not from the walk, or the icy Baltic blast coming down the Daugava as we crossed the bridge, nah, this was plain old travel burnout. There were no locals to be seen in the old town, just the rumble of trolley suitcases on cobbles, the shout of Stag do’s, the shuffle of tour groups pulled along by a raised umbrella, and touts flogging walking/river/segway/cycle tours.

Everyone did as they should: reach Point A on the map, take out camera or phone, point camera at whatever, take photo, shuffle off to Point B and so on. The film the Truman Show, where unbeknown to him, Jim Carrey’s entire life is a faked TV programme, wouldn’t leave my mind. It felt like I was on a conveyor belt, being rolled along and shown the things I should look at as a tourist, before being punted off back to the airport/car/bus/train ready for the next punter to take my place. I was fed up. Burned out.

There's some cat-dog thing over there, if you can see it in between tour groups
There’s some donkey-chicken thing over there, if you can see it in between tour groups

It happened on past tours too, points at which I felt like what I was doing had little point to it. I wasn’t learning anything new here. Riga was given a thorough going over by cowardly racist extremists last century, same as Vilnius and Warsaw and countless other cities. The locals welcomed the German army in at first, hoping they’d be better than the Soviets, who’d been busily hacking the place apart to suit them. Out of the frying pan and into the fire for these folks, in particular if you were Jewish. The Red Army of course came back with a vengeance, and this time refused to leave for 50-odd years. The depressing history is all-too-familiar.

The Enormous Calling Card of the Soviets
The Enormous Calling Card of the Soviets Commemorating the Russian Revolution

This morning, having talked it through, we had another crack at it, walking Charlie around the wooden buildings on the island, relieved to be alone but for locals, and to find a restaurant menu in Latvian and Russian only.

Refurbished industrial buildings turned into apartments in Riga
Refurbished industrial buildings turned into apartments in Riga
Old wooden buildings in Riga. Most of them were renovated, this one has a view out over the river to the city, so can't have a long wait to be tarted up
Old wooden buildings in Riga. Most of them were renovated, this one has a view out over the river to the city, so can’t have a long wait to be tarted up

Leaving a tired out Charlie to snooze in Zagan, we headed back over the bridge, The World stood steady against the dockside, a luxury floating home to 200 seriously well heeled folks (aboardtheworld.com) which we’ve seen once before in Bordeaux. How much for an apartment? If you gotta ask, you can’t afford it (or have a look here)! The literature for the ship describes life aboard as “the embodiment of a distinctive lifestyle experience”, and they do seem to get up to some fun stuff as they tootle across the world’s oceans.

The World. This is not a cruise ship, it's home to fabulously rich hobos
The World. This is not a cruise ship, it’s home to fabulously rich hobos, the world’s largest privately-owned residential yacht. Min $8m to get a studio, so we’re sticking with Zagan

Our tootsies skipped around the old town, taking us south a few km to the Central Market (Rīgas Centrāltirgus in Latvian). Europe’s largest market, sits under and around five massive buildings, the roofs of which were WW1 German Zeppelin hangers. Reaching the place I was again relieved: hardly a tourist to be seen, except in the mirror, but instead hordes of locals picking over all manner of things.

Riga Central Market
Riga Central Market
One of the old hangers
One of the old hangers
A sight you won't see at an Italian market
Not just food, day-glo clothes made from the roughest of nylon are also available
Wolf pants? €2.50? Get 'em on me! Sadly they didn't have my size
Wolf pants? €2.50? Get ’em on me! Sadly they didn’t have my size
Thought those pants were in bad taste? They were flogging a Waffen SS helmet on this stand...
Thought those pants were in bad taste? They were flogging a Waffen-SS helmet on this stand…

Having fed ourselves on small pastries and pasties (16p each and delicious), done a bit of people watching and failed to find inexpensive chorizo, we headed off back towards the town. On a mission. A mission from Adam, who waved a tenner under our noses for a video of us drinking Garlic Beer and eating Garlic Ice Cream. Cue Peter Kay voiceover: “GARLIC? and BEER?”

Europebycamper lay down the challenge. We accept. Bring on the garlic
Europebycamper.com lay down the challenge. We accept. Bring on the garlic

And the result? Oh man, we just ate a serious shed load of garlic. Five bulbs. At least. We must be honking to hell and back.

Hmmmm, garlic beer, yummy
Hmmmm, garlic beer, yummy
Everyone loves garlic ice cream, don't they?
Everyone loves garlic ice cream, don’t they?

As well as the beer and ice cream, we knocked back roast garlic, garlic bread, garlic mushrooms, garlic feta cheese, garlic in a garlic sauce, garlic in olives, garlic garlic, and garlic garlic garlic. Weirdly, it all tasted pretty good, although the whiff of garlic beer isn’t one I’m planning on sniffing up any time soon. Video below, as you can see, we had a load of fun, and know we need to do more stuff like that to keep this travelling malarkey fresh and garlicy.

More photos from today. The sun shines, we’ve enjoyed ourselves and tomorrow is another day in which we plan to pamper ourselves on Europe’s best campsite. Hey, The Lobsters visited every country in Europe, so if they say it’s (probably) the best, it’s (probably) the best. We’re going to BBQ some stuff too. And shower. And drink some more beer. And maybe go for a run. But probably not eat garlic. No, no more garlic.

The story goes this cat's owner wasn't allowed entry to a guild, so pointed it's butt end at the guild building opposite, until they let him in on condition he turn it around...
The story goes this cat’s owner wasn’t allowed entry to a guild, so pointed it’s butt end at the guild building opposite, until they let him in on condition he turn it around…
Riga port
Riga port
Riga cake-biscuit-thing. Not much resembling the picture on the box
Riga cake-biscuit-thing. Not much resembling the picture on the box
Granite Soviet-era monuments remain in Riga
Granite Soviet-era monuments remain in Riga
Latvia's Freedom Monument - something they've not had a great deal of around here
Latvia’s Freedom Monument – something they’ve not had a great deal of around here
Charlie faces down the locals - he's not big on diplomacy our dog
Charlie faces down the locals – he’s not big on diplomacy our dog
Russian Orthodox church. In Soviet years it was turned into an observatory. Now people again cross themselves at the door, or bow to the building as they pass
Russian Orthodox church. In Soviet years it was turned into an planetarium and restaurant. Now people again cross themselves at the door, or bow to the building as they pass
Only 56% of Latvians speak Latvian at home. Russian is widespread
Only 56% of Latvians speak Latvian at home. Russian is widespread
It's all done in the best possible taste!
It’s all done in the best possible taste!
The Latvian paralympic team. The horse rider chap looks as proud as punch, good for him.
The Latvian paralympic team. The horse rider chap looks as proud as punch, good for him.
Into the garlic pub we go! I asked the young waitress how Latvia was doing. She said she'd been away for two years, and it seems everyone her age has left Riga. The populations of all of the Baltic states has been dropping since the USSR broke up
Into the garlic pub we go! I asked the young waitress how Latvia was doing. She said she’d been away for two years, and it seems everyone her age has left Riga. The populations of all of the Baltic states has been dropping since the USSR broke up
Garlic tapas meal
Garlic tapas, garlic bread and garlic beer – anyone got any polos?
Famous clock in Riga
Astronomical clock on the rebuilt house of the blackheads
Choose your poison!
Choose your poison!
Top of the Freedom Monument
Top of the Freedom Monument

Cheers, Jay

 

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9 Comments

    • Enjoyed it Adam, just us in there later on so we got the low down on all things garlic! Need any garlic ice cream making? We’re the pair to do it fella, we have the recipe. :-) cheers, Jay

  1. In my opinion the best time to visit Riga is in the dead of winter – I was there over one new year, where there were no tourists, but lots of snow and lots of enthusiastic locals using the deep snow as ice buckets for champagne and launching grounds for fireworks. It was amazing. And a health and safety nightmare. But amazing.

    I can recommend Riga Black Balsam poured over icecream…

    • Sounds pretty cracking, will need to go back another time when I’m a bit less travelled-out! Hope your family’s all good, Jay

  2. Still following you!

    I was really interested to see that The World Residence was there. An old friend of mine is the general manager of the hotel on there, Thomas Legner. Sadly not close enough a friend to be able to put me up for a few nights!

    • Blimey, I bet Thomas has a few stories he could tell! I looked up the cost to rent a studio for a few days **wince**, would need another mortgage… Cheers! Jay

  3. Warning, this is a J comment!

    Think you have discovered real travel over the last few years and now have hit the wall, you need to add something more to your lives to go alongside future travel. We once found ourselves 60 miles from the Grand Canyon but turned away and drove in the opposite direction as we couldn’t face another ‘sight’, still haven’t been there.
    The traditional visit to ‘sights’ as listed by wise others in guides is only a small part of any country, the locals, people who are native are the real country and most will be happy to spend some time telling you how they live and how it really is, often more interesting than the guide book version.
    I know you’ll both get to where is best for you in the future but isn’t it a shock when the truth actually dawns that you have gone beyond regular tourism?

    Very much the best to you both and total admiration for your honesty.

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