Rīga first impressions

A short stay in Rīga on my way to Tallinn, at the historic and central Metropole, across the road from the train and coach station.

On first sight, I’m really liking Rīga. It feels quite Scandinavian, even though the Latvians are Slavs. The old city centre has been thoroughly pedestrianised and is a great place for strolling around. Some spectacular mediaeval buildings, and a hideous Soviet monstrosity that now houses the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia.

A few random thoughts and things I’ve picked up:

  • Latvian is a very odd looking language: I’ve not seen diacritics on ‘K’s before. Just because I worked out how to do it on Unicode, the sort of letters I’m talking about are the long ‘A’s and other vowels like in Rīga, the softened consonants like ḷ, ṇ and ḳ. I like that, it gives a script character.
  • Fewer than half the population of the large cities are ethnically Latvian
  • Because of that last, you hear a lot of Russian around on the streets, which is pretty much the only reminder of the fact that this used to be part of the Soviet Union (well, that and a grotesque monument to the Red Riflemen – some sort of pro-Communist militia – by the Town Hall)
  • Latvia’s article on Wikipedia has a (short) Scottish language edition
  • When Latvia was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1939, the leader of the time (one of the many Central/East European inter-war strongmen) didn’t even issue a diplomatic protest
  • Rīga has loads of excellent cafés and some very plush-looking shops

I had dinner at a restaurant called Nostalǵija (those accents again) on Kaḷḳu iela, which served up a beer, a pot of tea (because I couldn’t pronounce the word for kasza correctly) and a local speciality which was essentially meat pierogi in rosół with mushrooms. Very tasty and an absolute steal at under a tenner.