I’m German. I come from the land which produces the greatest bread on this planet. Not only do we produce 300 kinds of bread in 3059 different varieties (as of today – ask http://www.brotkultur.de/ for current updates), we also eat a lot of it – 53kg per Person in a year.
Any German that lives abroad or has spent some time travelling overseas, when asked what they miss most about their home country will tell you it’s the bread. I have been asked this question many times, and most often, bread has been my answer, too.
And for the longest time, this had me believing that we Germans are the nation fondest of bread. Because we do eat it in the morning, for breakfast – with sweet marmalade or Nutella —- ooohh, Nutella, my friend and downfall —- and also in the evening for dinner. Dinner in German is even called Abendbrot – the evening bread. That is generally a more savoury meal with cold cuts and cheeses, some serve tomatoes and cut cucumber. We are also famous for our Brötchen (which means little breads) – they are indeed little breads and are cut not into slices, but halves and to be enjoyed on the weekends for a proper long breakfast with a good conversation or an interesting newspaper.
But – this is supposed to be a travel blog and you are wondering why I am going on about bread. Well, for one thing – I really do like my bread (which tells you I am thoroughly German), especially when it is fresh from the oven and the crust is crunchy and everything tastes just so healthy and delicious – but I am steering of topic again. So, if you think (as I did) that Germans are the most intense bread-lovers, you have clearly never been to Latvia.
Yes – my friends and I took a city trip to Riga, the capital of Latvia and what we found was bread! In every variety, density, colour, with different spices, it was amazing and mind blowing. I have eaten bread in the form of fries: cut into slices and deep fried, with a kind of garlic sauce, chili sauce and mayonnaise. Fabulous! I have shopped at a market, where bread was cut into chips and pieces that looked like cookies or Italian biscotti, I have tasted bread that can only be gotten in the Latvian countryside, as there is a special way to make it and only special bakeries can deliver this. I have learned a lot about bread in those four days… without even thinking about it.
But trying to get away from the bread (thank you for staying with me for so long), Riga is very well worth a trip. Even if you do not like bread at all. Some of the best food I’ve tasted in foreign countries was Latvian. Or at least it was prepared and served here. And if you don’t come for the food – come for the history and the romance of this place. Riga is one of the Baltic jewels. It truly is. The inner city with it’s German, Swedish and Russian influences, it’s Hanseatic history, looks like a place where Disney World may have gotten a lot of ideas for their fairy tale architecture.
Riga is a small city which has a lot to offer. The greatest thing is that you can walk almost everywhere (and if you want to get to the seaside, it is only a tram ride away). It has a river and many little parks and recreational areas to get a rest and see some green. It has grand buildings and a huge market place in the city centre. It has a lot of history (which makes walking tours a lot of fun) and it has great people. Most of them speak English, getting around was really easy. And it has plenty of cafés and small stores where shopping is fun!
While we were there, there was a city festival going on, so there have been food stands everywhere. The riverside was closed off for cars and there were shows left and right, people out enjoying the sunshine, Music and dance. It was just perfect for a city trip. In order to see a bit more and be able to leave the centre, we went on a city bike ride (Riga Explorers) with James, a Londoner who immigrated to Riga for the lifestyle. He showed us around, took us to a river island, for us to see the “old Riga” before it became commercial and tourists discovered its beauty. He took us to the harbor, where the cool kids come to hang out and party on boats and the docks which are becoming posh now and are being used for fancy events and expensive restaurants. It seemed that Riga is slowly integrating with the other European capitals and becoming more and more expensive, so that residents and countrymen cannot afford to live in the city anymore, are moving to the suburbs and the Young and Rich start occupying the pretty and convenient locations in the city centre.
However, for tourists, it is a wonderful place. I highly recommend spending one evening at the Skyline Bar of the Radisson Blu – if you just go and have a cocktail, it is well worth it for the view. We only saw it by night, but it would be stunning in the daytime as well, if the weather is clear and you have an overview of the whole city and its’ surroundings.
As for dinner or party recommendations, there are several rooftop bars (non as high up as the Skyline Bar) and clubs and pubs everywhere. Just go where your fancy takes you. The general crowd we faced was a mixture of young Latvians and tourists, but then again, we went in August, when it was comparatively warm and nice. We spent most nights outside, as with the city festival there were bands playing and restaurants are set up outside. It was just beautiful. And strolling around the city by night also gives you a different kind of appreciation. Buildings which are illuminated just have this special appeal to me. Here’s a short video clip of a band which was playing for tips in front of the Roland statue on Riga’s Town Hall Square.