As we pull into Latvia up the Daugava River, I see ships being loaded with coal, wood, wood chips, containers as well as some conveyor belted product stored in large globe shaped tanks I cannot identify (possibly grain?). I see massive amounts of water being sprayed on coal piles presumably for safety purposes. This goes on for miles and miles – all pretty industrial stuff but essential products for our daily lives. I see what looks like an airport control tower presumably for harbour traffic. Riga is the largest Baltic state city at 750,000. It shows in the massive size of these port facilities.
I hear part of a lecture how each of the Baltic state countries have to treat their Russian minority populations with care. Otherwise they risk a Russian invasion witness Ukraine. Apparently Lithuania came close to being invaded last November.
We walk into the old town on cobble stoned streets. Everything is really well kept and clean. Gorgeous pubs and outdoor cafes dot the feet of art deco buildings. People are extremely well dressed. This could be Paris or London. We walk for 3 hours gazing into churches and stopping at souvenir shops. We here jazz and other music wafting out of windows. It is very sophisticated and beautiful. The currency is the Euro and prices are high eg Riga tee shirt $26CDN vs $12 in Helsinki. We stop at a very upscale McDonald’s for a McCafe tea served in white pots and tea cups – boy has McDonald’s changed at least here we think. I sample a very good blackberry based local wine. We try to see more but soon tire and head back.
I notice gasoline is priced at about $1.90CDN/litre. It was less than a dollar back in Russia. Founded in 1201, Riga is the largest Baltic city today at 750,000 and has prospered in trade ever since it’s founding. Known for it’s old town centre, it’s art nouveau buildings, there is too an ultramodern side across the river we see from the ship. Since declaring independence in 1991, Latvia has enjoyed one of the fastest growing economies of Europe. We don’t see any visible evidence that the Soviets were here.
The morning started off sunny. It clouds over and sprinkles lightly – our first rain. By 4:30 the sun comes out again.
We eat in Toscana, the Italian specialty restaurant with 3 American couples. The end of another great day is here.