About the best thing going for this hotel is the breakfast. The shower is so small, I had to step out of it to readjust the water temperature. They give you liquid soap, because if you should drop bar soap, you would need the fire department to come rescue you after bending over to try to retrieve it. It is so small they had to shrink the water drops coming from the shower head in order to fit the stall. So this makes breakfast all the more special. Not only is the breakfast rooms airy with room to spread out, the buffet goes on for tables and tables of choices.
We went for breakfast early, but then we had plenty of time to waste until we met up with the tour guide for the ‘free’ walking tour. We putzed around going into this church and that one. Most of the churches in the old city are Lutheran. If you have ever been in a Lutheran church, you know that Luther stripped them bare. There is hardly any decor inside, so it hardly makes it worth venturing in at all. Well, yea, you could pray there, but that is not a touristy thing to do.
Finally, at noon, we were waiting at the meeting spot for the tour. Tour guides of all sorts are roaming the streets like turkey hawks looking for a carcass to chew on. Of course, they charge anywhere from 10 to 20 lats a person. Angeles, our young guide who said his name was the same as the city, but without the Los. He works for tips only, was a welcomed sight. It was only Ron and I and two recently graduated high school students who were doing volunteer work in Lithuania. Angeles immediately told us he was not touring us through the old city, but beyond, where most tours never take you. We were dubious at first, but Angeles proved himself to be smarter in this regard than we were.
He took us over the market halls; there are four of them side by side. They were built and used by the Germans during WWI, for storing zeppelins. Afterward, they converted them to the food halls of today. Each one is dedicated to one form of food: fruits and vegetables, only meat only, another for (phew!) fish, and the last is for cheese and dairy products. We went to some sleazy areas in the city where they buy and sell everything and anything. We were shown Stalin’s birthday cake, an ornate building that was converted to a science university, but is now offices and underutilized. We did a short visit to the Jewish area, where a synagogue was burned to the ground by the Nazis, but only after they had it filled with Jews. Right next to it is a memorial to all who aided the Jews in some way.
Angeles was a disillusioned university student. He was studying navigation and journalism, but could not take the university any longer and quit. He is in the process of searching what is next for him. In the meanwhile, he pointed out interesting and fascinating sites we would never have found on our own. Nothing that Ron had read about Riga even suggested much of anything outside of the old town area. Angeles has perfect English. He told us that it is now mandatory from first grade, but when he was in school, it only started in 3rd grade. In the 6th grade, students have to take a second foreign language.
The tour was scheduled to last 2 hours fifteen minutes, but in reality lasted an extra half hour longer. One of the highlights was the touring of the art nouveau architecture. When our time finally ran thin, Angeles pointed out pockets of the city to see more. After our good byes, we went exploring more architecture on our own. This city is abundantly rich with fabulous styles. I cannot wait to see my pictures.
Angeles had recommended a restaurant for dinner, so we went there. One Latvian specialty is peas cooked with bacon in milk. Ron tried it for an appetizer in spite of Trip Advisor reviews giving it thumbs down. I don’t think they are really peas in the sense of what we know as peas, but shaped like them. These were mostly brown and chewy, though not undercooked. I had sauerkraut, which I was looking forward to, but it was served cold. That was disappointing. Walking back to the hotel, again, the streets were empty.