It is 22:00 hours here at the ever so interesting Hotel Gutenbergs in Riga, Latvia. I am happy again after the bit of a downer that was the ferry over. Felt like the combination of the odd little pastry, wine and rocking and rolling ship contributed to the nausea I already felt when I realized I was basically trapped in one big duty-free/airport lounge kind of vehicle for the next 18 hours. I. Do. Not. Like. Cruise-Ferries. At. All. I. Would Rather Go Up The Congo On A Raft With Chickens And Goats And A Million Small Children And Snakes And Spiders (well maybe not spiders) Than Go On Any One Of The World’s Cruise Ships. There, got that out of my system.
Not there now. Here. Hotel Gutenbergs. I am very very very good at picking off-the-beaten-path hotels with character and most of the conveniences one would ever want. My room is in the section of the hotel that was once a 17th Century warehouse. It’s full of giant beams and the floor slants so noticeably you actually feel like you’re climbing a small hill between the bathroom and the bed. There’s a little bronze book and other old books in the room to keep the Gutenberg theme going.
My late lunch in the rooftop dining room was perfect as well. A dark beer, good rolls and olive oil, a very fishy but ever so good soup and a perfectly delectable berry and cake dessert. My meal for the day.
Spent the rest of the day doing my laundry! The cab from the ship was a super rip-off so I felt the need to punish myself for letting taxi-in-a-new-city fear and confusion overcome me. In fact I was saving my laundry to send out from the hotel in Riga thinking it would be so much less expensive here than in those pricey Scandinavian countries. Not True. After discovering a long-sleeve shirt would cost 10 Euros (about $10.50) to wash, so my whole saved suitcase of dirty clothes might easily reach 100+ Euros, I simply could not bring myself to go there. Obviously if money were the motivating factor in my life I wouldn’t be traipsing around the world—on the other hand there are limits.
Odd the way the cost of things go in various places. My hotel is very reasonable and my elegant lunch was 23 Euros which is well within stateside nice-lunch-with-a-drink prices. Anyway instead of hitting the streets after said nice lunch I watched the Russian English language channel and washed clothes. Of such delights is travel comprised. Actually felt like what I wanted to do today. Scott, you would never permit such a lackadaisical approach to experiencing a new country would you? But have you ever washed clothes while watching Russian TV in Latvia? No. So you can’t possibly know how enlightening it perhaps is can you?
While writing this I will also pursue some information about Latvia and Riga. I’ve been to Estonia (day trip from Helsinki) and Lithuania (dance festival) but have read woefully little about this small slice of the world. Kurt Wallander does pursue some bad guys here in The Dogs of Riga and even meets a new love but I’m afraid I cannot claim any literary background beyond that.
So Wikipedia, here I come. The Balts, settled on the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea, didn’t really become integrated into Europe until the 12th century. They all, including Latvia were, at various times in the next centuries, ruled by Germany, Poland, Sweden, and Russia. Latvian independence was first declared in 1918 as a result of the chaos surrounding World War 1. That would last until 1941, when Russia took over, then for a few years the Germans occupied the country, and at war’s end, Latvia became part of the Soviet Union where it would remain until 1991. In fact the Baltic States, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia regained their independence following 50 or so years under Soviet rule partly through a movement called The Singing Revolution, a very civilized way to revolt certainly. Activists and revolutionaries used a variety of tactics to reach independence but music seems to have been at the heart of the action or at least what cemented the ties between the groups seeking a way out from under Soviet domination. There. Thanks to Wikipedia and me, you know all you’ll ever need to know about Latvian history.
It has been a long and productive day…not productive in terms of gazing in awe at the historical buildings that surround me here in Riga’s Old Town, or walking the streets of a new city, or even sampling odd tidbits of local cuisine or hearing a few bars of Latvian melody emanating from crooked alleys or just sitting in the sun letting the flow of unknown languages fill the air around me. But I got so much damn laundry done.