Today Tuesday 2 August we headed for Riga, Latvia’s capital. (Latvija in the local language) We were lucky and caught an earlier ferry to the Estonian mainland, so we were about 45 minute ahead of our schedule.
It was a nice drive from Virtsu through deciduous forest down the west coast of Estonia, past the city of Parnu, to the Latvian border at a small town called Ikla. We reached the border at about noon, and then it was only about 150km or so to Riga.
The roads are good, although it takes a while to get used to the dodgy overtaking is 2 lane roads with many overtaking cars and trucks heading towards you partly on the wrong side of the road! But there is a system and it works and I soon got used to it...just move a bit further to the right and make room for the approaching overtaking cars.
alt We found our Hotel easily, checked in and went for a walk into the old town of Riga. We saw the large Freedom Monument...and a loud-mouthed Australian doing handstands & cartwheels in front of the military guards. Idiot Australian tourist...straight out insulting.
It started to rain which was a good excuse for lunch. We then found a small tourist train that took you round the old town with a multi language commentary, so on we got on it for 5 Euro. A quick way to see major attractions without needless walking. Very nice buildings in the old town & in much better repair than I had anticipated alt Wednesday 3rd August; this morning we walked to the Riga central markets. Surprisingly, they are by far the biggest in Europe..and they are definitely very very big. Inside and out in 5 aircraft hanger like buildings you will find everything you need, and a fair bit of stuff you won’t ever need.
The Fish and Meat sections were really good; a lot of smoked fish, salmon and caviar plus other fish I didn’t recognise.
All of the meat, fish and produce was priced very low...for example chicken breast less than NZ$5 per kg, berries NZ$1.50 per kg, and Pork Fillet NZ$4.00 per kg. And best of all, not a Polystyrene Meat Tray and plastic wrap in sight...Hallelujah!
In the meat section, I was watching a Butcher slice up pork steak to about 2cm thick with an axe, took a photo of him, and he called to me to come and have a go. The axe must have weighed was really heavy. He found a lump of scrap meat, but I was hopeless; I swung the axe, and I either missed the meat completely or cut a piece 10cm thick.
alt alt We then then took the car and drove out to Riga Airport to the Riga Aircraft Museum, and then on to Jurmala which is a beach resort on the Baltic Sea.

The Riga Aircraft Museum is really a graveyard of old Russian aircraft. Many helicopters, fixed wing aircraft and fighter jets that were never seen the west. There was a Tupolov swing-wing bomber and an Tupolov passenger jet, but we couldn’t get close to those two. The Mil6 helicopter was enormous. Interesting to spend an hour wandering around, that's for sure.
alt alt Jurmala (pronounced yoor-muh-lah) is about 30km south west of Riga and is a line of towns spreading for about 30km along the Baltic coast. It was the resort of choice during the Soviet era, and still is to an extent; a brochure at our hotel said Russian tourists comprise 35% of total tourists to Riga and Jurmala.
The area has a lot of hotels, but the amazing wooden beach house and the modern apartments are worth looking at. There is a 2km pedestrian street that was nice for a stroll, and the beach was quite crowded.Temperature signs said water temperature 17, air temperature 22. It is apparently the holiday area for Russian oligarchs’ and their trophy wives; we got dressed in our best clothes in case we had to compete, but we didn’t see any oligarchs or trophy wives at all. There were plenty of Russian number plated BMW X5’s and X6’s which seem to be the transport of choice for Russian (& Latvian) hoons, so they must have been there somewhere.
alt alt

Tonight we ate at a traditional Latvian Restaurant "Pie Kristapa Kunga" which I think loosely translates to "at Lord Christophers". Extraordinarily good beer, wine, mains and dessert..all for € 38.00 or about NZ$62. With bonus live entertainment with Latvian music and folk dancing. A great experience, completely unplanned.

Thursday 4th; today we drove from Riga Latvia to Klaipeda in Lithuania, a total of about 340km.
We left Riga at 0900 in drizzly rain. Major street works are going on, and we got in a navigation closed loop trying to exit the recalculates for every closed street and I could have spent the day driving in circles. It’s definitely best to ignore the SatNav, and follow the diversions and road number signs.

Our first stop was at Runsdale Pils (Palace) still in Latvia. It rained quite heavily for most of the 80km, but cleared up enough for us to visit the palace, but unfortunately not the gardens. Runsdale palace is another 1700’s/ 18th Century ostentatious monument built for Royalty, but is in amazing condition.
During the Soviet times, it was partly restored, and the gardens were rebuilt in the mid 1970’s and then the palace restoration itself was completed later. We did the ‘long tour’ of all the major rooms, plus the display area showing how the palace was built. Amazing architecture, decor, paintings, pottery, and furniture. Every item in every room is carefully labelled and described in Lithuanian, Russian and English. It continued to rain, so we didn’t do the gardens, but we did visit a 4 room display that showed every plant in the gardens, with paintings of each plant dating from the 1700’s. Well worth the visit; it's the equal of any of the more famous palaces in Western Europe, but seems it is little known outside the Baltics.
alt alt

So it's goodbye to Latvia, another great country. Latvia is very proud to have been voted the greenest country in the world in 2014.
If the lack of rubbish is anything to go by, they definitely deserve it. A very clean & tidy country, and its great to see rubbish bins at every park bench and every bus stop.

Recomended for you...

Card image cap

Lietuvos Republika {Lithuania - our Baltic travels Part 3}

Tuesday 4 August, We crossed the Latvia/Lithuania border (Lietuvos Republika in local language) on the A8/A12 road…

Card image cap

Eesti {Estonia, our Baltic travels, Part 1}

We took the Viking Line ferry Viking XPRS from Helsinki to Tallinn, the Capital of Estonia (Eesti in the…