(Riga vil altid være i mit hjerte !)
I fall in love with Riga from my very first trip there May 2002.I was there for an exhibition over the the weekend, but it sure changed my preference for travel in many years forward - now I can count more than 60 visits to Riga and some of the surrounding cities (Jurmala, Cesis, Sigulda, Jelgava).At my first visit and at many visits in the following years, Riga was not developed to the stage you see today.Back then the inner part of Riga " Vecriga" or Old Town was not nearly started with any renovation and the number of e.g. outside "Beergardens" or Cafe´s was less than 5 ! In the main walking street "Kalku Iela" you only saw one Cafe (in poor condition) and one beergarden - the Cafe has now been renovated to a small Coffee House with outside tables and the Beergarden next to this at the corner of Livu has grown to a major place and got company of many other Beergardens. My first impression of Riga was this is an old pre-russian sub-citywhere everyone try their best to get their life working, but still have time to go out for fun also in normal weekdays.There is still not many cities where you see the centre crowded at nights in weekdays, so for a lone traveller there was always company to find and enjoy the evenings with.I soon found out that Riga was divided by 2 half of people - the Latvians and the Russians - they didn´t talk together and still today they don´t mix together. I meet both types and beside the criminal-looking russian types, they were all very friendly and helpfull (that was before Ryan-Air and Stags) - I soon got both Russian and Latvian friends that gave me so many nice and good experiences. My friends showed me all parts of Riga and took me home and sometimes to private gettogethers - so I saw both the tourist points of Riga and all the backsides - there was a lot of old not cared buildings and you still see them in some areas.Everything was cheaper than home and still much are cheaper in Riga - you can go out at restaurants or shop to much lower prices. The only thing I didn´t find cheaper was brand clothes - you can find very cheap clothes at the market and in Center area, but not the brands.At my first visit in Riga I was also out dinning at Lido in Krasta area...a very large restaurant with outside facilities also for children and end of week live entertaintment downstairs - the restaurant offer all varities of Latvian and russian food and this are displayed and cooked in open area so you can go look and choose the best looking food...my favorite place I still have to visit every time I come to Riga..can´t live without.Before I came to Riga I was a little affraid about my safety because of the unknow russian connection, but from my second step and until now I have never experienced any dangerous or bad - and I have been around a lot also on my own hand (but never looked to much like a tourist..blend with the people) - I have been at not so nice places without any trouble, but I will say that it looks to have changed and I will strongly recommend that you not try visit these places ! (I will not dare anymore)The women...yes they look gourgerous even for a dane normally surrounded with long legged blond girls - the Latvian girls with their long black hair and the russians with coloured blond hair have much more woman attitudes than any scandinavian girls. They will never go out or just downstairs for a quick shopping without first dress up and carefull do their make-up..something all west-european girls could learn from..then they are master in highheels shoes...I am surpriced how they get around in the old city with toppings - even in winther time !I have had some girlsfriends too - both russian and latvian - and it have been so warm and good relationships...unfortunately the right mix never came, maybe because I couldn´t find work there to stay and in other cases she was not ready to move to Denmark..but thanks Marina, Dana, Eva and Vicha and to all my friends there.Riga has changed during the years - the fast changes was when Riga first hosted Icehocky Championship and then the European Songcontest..a lot of changes was made in Old Town, so Riga looks more new and attractive than before.Riga has a lot to offer...not ony nightlife...there are so many old building renovated or not - more restaurants than people - sightseeings - you have to visit Jurmala 30 min. outside of Riga - culture and art is also major - pick up one of the free pocket books "Riga this week" and you will find something for every taste. For me it will always be a mix of the metropolitan atmosphere almost like a mini "Paris" and the friendlyness of the locals...in all my travel I have never met more open and helpfull people !(But I sure understand why they seem to have changed for most newbie tourists) Take care there and care about the city and their inhibitants.