After touring Tallinn, Estonia, I began another Baltic adventure in Riga, Latvia.
Architecturally speaking, Riga is vastly different from the medieval city of Tallinn. Although there are still a few gorgeous Gothic buildings in Riga……the real highlight here is their exceptional collection of Art Nouveau.
In fact, Riga has the largest concentration of Art Nouveau buildings in the world, and its collection is considered to be one of the finest in Europe!
Like this cute old women feeding birds in the street. 🦆Or this cute old man posing for me on a bicycle. 😊On the other hand, just like Estonia, Latvia is one of the least religious countries in the world, and until recently, they had very strong Pagan traditions.
Also, like Estonia, Latvia has a long history of communist occupation, and they only recently became independent in the 20th century.
As such, one of the most popular activities in the Baltics is a Soviet-style shooting experience.
Since I grew up around guns, and thoroughly enjoyed shooting targets as a child, this activity sounded right up my street.
For my shooting experience, I went with the company, King of Shooting. Apparently they’re aimed more at stag parties, but the instructor was pleasantly surprised to see a girl interested in shooting.
Anyway, the company offers numerous shooting packages at their range, which includes round-trip transportation, safety gear, and the option of shooting a variety of unique weapons. For the shooting activity, I went with four British guys from my hostel. We ended up all getting a similar package, which included the Glock, Roni G2-9, AK-47, and the 12 Gauge Shotgun. The AK-47 is an assault rifle developed by the Soviet Union during WWII. Most of the guys hadn’t shot before, so the instructor talked a bit about how to aim each weapon, then let us fire away.
Here’s a short video of some of the guns we fired at the range, including a slow-motion clip of the AK-47, which has a major kickback. Hope you enjoy!
Overall, I had a lot of fun shooting these Soviet weapons, and would highly recommend the activity, especially for girls looking to gain some confidence and improve their aim.
Anyway, after working up an appetite at the range, I decided to visit the local Christmas Market, where they had lots of hearty Latvian specialties.Popular Latvian dishes at the market included tomato-based soups, sauerkraut, potato pancakes, and mulled wine.
I also perused the local grocery store, where I found more Latvian favorites, like biezpiens, which is like a drier cottage cheese, and even pickled pumpkin! Wow!
To drink, the most popular and traditional liquor in Latvia is Black Balsam, considered to have healing properties, since it’s made of over 20 different natural herbs and spices.
Now, aside from these sightseeing activities in Latvia, it was New Year’s Eve, so I had to decide on how I was going to celebrate. 🎉
Ring in the New Year in Riga:
For this, I was really grateful to my hostel, Cinnamon Sally Backpackers Hostel, for organizing a fun and social NYE party. The hostel workers were Latvian locals, and they coordinated games, plus had tons of snacks and drinks, which turned out to be a fun and festive way to ring in the new year.One of the games played at the party was Novuss, a traditional Latvian sport, which reminded me a bit of billiards, but on a smaller scale. Also, we had people at the hostel visiting from all over the world, so when the clock struck midnight in their home country, they had to take a shot of alcohol. My time conversion was 8 a.m. the next morning, so they did cut me a little slack. I told them the only shot I’d be doing at that hour was espresso! Hah! 🤣☕ Anyway, at 11:30 pm everyone headed down to the old city center to watch the fireworks at midnight. A perfect way to ring in the new year! 🎆
Goals for 2018:
Now that we’ve entered into 2018, I thought I’d reflect upon the past year, and share a bit about my plans for the year ahead.Overall, I’m very proud of what I’ve accomplished in 2017. For starters, I traveled to over 20 countries this year, bringing me to a travel milestone of 50 countries traveled in total! I also decided to challenge myself by pursuing a graduate degree, and I devoted more time to visiting my family, which is something I really missed since moving abroad.
As for 2018, aside from my incredibly ambitious travel goals, I plan to invest more time in learning foreign languages, plus I plan to volunteer with at least one charitable organization. Both of these goals are already in the mix, and I’ll talk more about them in the upcoming posts. I’m also interested in hearing what some of your goals are for 2018. 😀
Anyway, that’s all for now. Stay tuned for my trip to Lithuania, the last Baltic country on my list. Until then!