I don't really know where to start with my post about Latvia; except with the fact that it's one of the magical places that I've ever had the pleasure of visiting. You all know that Krakow is the place that holds one of the biggest chunks of my heart, and admittedly it probably always will, but Latvia is creeping in there and definitely beginning to stake it's claim over the parts of my heart that Krakow previously occupied. Admittedly, the snow helped (because doesn't everywhere seem much more magical in the snow?), but there's just something about Latvia that has me planning my second trip even though I'm barely back from my first one.
I could start with the malls, or the incredibly intricate churches, or the cool restaurants, or the houe with cats on it built by a bitter man unable to join a guild that he applied for - but truthfully I just want to start with the feel. The thing about Latvia is it made me feel like I hadn't before - there's something about standing under the freedom statue, staring at a completely frozen canal and watching tiny children in snowsuits feed troves of ducks that just feels special; the country has this air of somewhere that I want to be.
There's something around every corner in Riga, from tattoo and make up shops, to beautifully painted stairs, to art nouveau buildings and amazing grafitti. It's a city that really took me by storm, and I found myself loving the bustling, modern new town every bit as much as the cobbled, beautiful, peaceful old town. For a country shrouded in such oppression and such awful history - the Latvians have created something beautiful and (not all but) most of it's citizens are so quick to welcome you in to see it.
I'll admit that I was dubious - going to a country that I knew little about other than the fact that I know that they don't recognise gay marriage; but I felt safe, welcomed and happy. I walked through the zoo, took photos of historical buildings, inspected art from the times of the Occupation of Latvia and, as cheesy as it sounds, I felt a part of a country growing into itself. I fell in love with Riga, and Latvia, and snow or not, I absolutely can't wait to go back.
Suggestions of where to go on my next jaunt are much appreciated!