23.32 Måndag, 11 Februari, 2013
This past weekend, I went on a cruise to Rīga, the capital of Latvia (Lettland in Swedish; Latvija in Latvian), with a group of several other exchange students, mostly from KTH. The cruise left from Stockholm on Friday afternoon, then we had about six hours to spend in Rīga on Saturday, and we returned to Stockholm on Sunday morning. The beginning of the trip was a little rough (literally), and many of the people in our group, including myself, were feeling seasick a few hours after we left Stockholm. However, after taking some seasickness medicine and sitting down for a while, we were fine for the rest of the weekend.
The cruise we took was through a company called Tallink, which is primarily a ferry service between the major cities on the Baltic Sea. Because of this, there were two decks on the ship for cars and trucks, and many of the passengers were only going one way. Also, some people were doing the cruise in the reverse direction, going from Rīga to Stockholm and back. The ship was fairly small for a cruise ship, but it was big enough, considering that we were only on it for two nights.
The Silja Festival in Stockholm
Latvia is located on the eastern side of the Baltic Sea (Östersjön in Swedish), about 18 hours southeast of Stockholm by boat. It is one of the three “Baltic states,” the other two being Estonia to the north and Lithuania to the south. The language of Latvia is Latvian. Despite being a member of the European Union, the currency of Latvia is the Lats, although the country is planning to switch to the Euro at the beginning of next year.
The Flag of Latvia
Map of Latvia
Throughout the last century, Latvia has been occupied by the Soviets and the Germans several times, and consequently only about 60% of the people in Latvia are actually ethnically Latvian – there are many Russians living in Latvia. In fact, Latvia has only been independent from Russia (again) since 1991, and several of the buildings in the city have actually been rebuilt because they were destroyed during the World Wars. The city of Rīga is located along the River Daugava, a few kilometers inland from the river’s mouth in the Gulf of Rīga. The area along the river on the outskirts of the city is very industrial, and in many areas outside central Rīga, the architecture is very Soviet-style. However, I still found the city to be very nice, and there seemed to be quite a bit of activity for a Saturday in the middle of winter.
Entering the River Daugava
When we got to Rīga, we first went to a restaurant called Lido, which served a variety of Eastern European food, and was relatively cheap (compared to restaurants in Sweden) and very good – we ate a lot of food there, although I’m not sure what most of the stuff I ate was called!
My meal at Lido, which cost 5,55 Ls – You can’t get this much food so cheaply in Stockholm
After eating lunch, we walked around the central part of the city, the Old Town (Vecriga in Latvian), for a while. We also went to the top of the tower of the St. Peter’s Church to get a good view of the city.
A canal surrounding the Old Town
Brīvības Piemineklis – The Freedom Monument
View of the Dome Cathedral with the Daugava in the background
View of Rīga facing upstream – the Central Market is the five large hangars
Towards the end of the day, we walked through a large food market called the Central Market (Rīgas Centrāltirgus in Latvian), which is one of the largest and oldest food markets in Europe. The market is housed in a series of five large buildings that are former zeppelin hangers from Germany’s occupation of Latvia during World War I (the market is much older than the buildings, though). Inside the market were rows and rows of vendors selling practically any type of meat, fish, fruit, or vegetable you can imagine.
The meat pavilion in the Central Market
In the evening, after we left Rīga, we mostly just hung out at the nightclub on the ship, and in the morning, I woke up early so that I could watch our approach to Stockholm through the Stockholm Archipelago (Stockholms Skärgården), which is a large area just east of Stockholm consisting of about 30,000 islands and where many Swedes have summer houses.
Islands in Stockholms Skärgården
You can see the rest of my photos on Facebook. And guess what? Since the cruise only cost me $16, I’ll probably go on another one! 😉