Thursday 20 June 2013

Home to Russia: Part 4

This leg is about travelling from Vilnius (Lithuania) to Riga (Latvia). Unfortunately the railway system is not very helpful when it comes to travel between these two capital cities. I did find a route via Daugavpils that would take about 13 hours and require an overnight stay in Daugavpils! And to add insult to injury my onward train from Riga to St Petersburg goes via Daugavpils.

From Trans-Europe 2013
The bus looks a much better option. I book a seat on Lux Express and once again cannot resist the small delta for a first class ticket. Spacious, relaxing, toilet, coffee, snacks, WiFi... whats not to like. An the scheduled journey time is only 4½ hours for the roughly 300km trip. We arrive 30 minutes ahead of schedule.

A wise choice if I say so myself!

72 hours in Riga

The longest stay of the trip so far. I'm staying at Hotel Irina which is right opposite the Riga Central Station and a few minutes walk from all the main tourist attractions. I quickly find that I like this city, while it has obvious tourist attractions they are set amid an interesting lively city that is full of local people going about their business and enjoying the open spaces. The Old Town of Riga may be a World Heritage Site but it isn't a tourist ghetto.

Like many cities in Europe there are a lot of historic places of worship from many denominations. Riga is no exception, in the Old Town alone there must be a dozen or more half a dozen of which are particularly dramatic.

The Old Town isn't just building and squares, there is a lot of green space, perhaps a mile long with Riga City Canal flowing through the various parks. Very relaxing and well maintained.

From Trans-Europe 2013
You do not have to venture far to see a less manicured, but none the less interesting, view of Riga. Just venture south of the railway tracks...     here you can see the unloved Soviet era building, the Latvian Academy of Sciences (Latvijas Zinātņu Akadēmija), reminiscent of the similarly unloved Palace of Culture and Science (Pałac Kultury i Nauki) in Warsaw.

On the other hand there is the vast, bustling Central Market (Centrāltirgus), a mixture of outside stalls and 5 huge buildings built from reclaimed zeppelin hangars.

The largest of these is solely a meat market! That is not to say that there isn't meat being sold in the other hangers, there is, but this one is HUGE!

I managed a second breakfast in one of the halls (sounds like something a hobbit might say), a coffee and a swet something or other cost the princely sum of 0.45Lat (~50p). A small fraction of what you need to pay north of the railway tracks.

Across the Daugava river more signs of modernity are clear to see with the slender Radio and TV Tower looking slightly south and the dramatic National Library just across the river from the Railway Station.

Trans-Europe 2013

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