Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Riga in the snow

One of the cities I never expected to end up familiar with and actually sometimes yearning to be in is Riga, capital of Latvia, in the Baltics.

Close friends will become familiar with Riga themselves this summer as we're having something of an occasion there a month from now.. my marriage to a wonderful woman who has already given me the gift of love for her country.

Riga is a wonderfully calm, composed, civilised, respectful place where thankfully an Englishman is a rarity - apart from all those drunk ones puking in Rifleman Square - with a fantastic Old Town and clanking trams that make me laugh whenever I see them because they're just so basic yet so functional .. even in snow this deep. Believe me, this is deep snow: up to your knees, - 6 degrees during the day.

Imagine any form of public transport venturing out in the UK in weather like this, yet the buses, trains, trams .. everything just keeps on running to the minute. I love the warm-up tram that goes round defrosting the rails. The secret on the roads is snow tyres, that's what every Latvian has. They're compulsory from October onwards, when the snow starts to fall. If you've ever got into a car in Latvia in the snow, you'll know that snow tyres are a MUST,

But I had to laugh when I heard stories that opportunistic Latvians were flogging snow tyres this winter to English for up to £450 a set. Good thinking lads! We've no idea what snow tyres are, let alone where to get them.

Having had an introduction to Riga in the summer, I really wanted to see the place in the snow. Walking through the park to the Opera House to see Coppelia was as magical as I'd expected. Jumping the drifts by the side of the road and landing in a puddle a foot deep wasn't quite so, but then I knew the risks: getting out of town and heading into the country was the kind of journey that would have been cancelled had it been say, Manchester to Matlock, but the Riga to Talsi bus just ploughed on past fields with snowdrifts as high as the windows, reuniting me with my loved one, Daiga (below left).

We had to go to Talsi in the snow and sub-zero temperatures of January to book the civic office in town for our wedding but also to produce not only documents stating there was no reason why I as an Englishman couldn't get married there but also  to show ourselves, to fix the date in the book. Which we did, and everyone in Talsi was really nice.

In the summer we'll have our wedding pictures here - see the shot being framed??? - before heading back to the Laumas Dabas Parks for a party.

We chose Talsi honey cake as our wedding cake, having sampled a piece in the cafe across the road.
 It's like layers of pastry shaped into a circle, soaked in honey and then sealed into a tin: you buy it for a function like a wedding not by the slice but by the kilo.
 We're buying quite a few kilos.. Mr RyanAir will see a bit of this passing through his security points on the way home through Ken Dodd International after August 6.
 And for readers in Talsi, here is the cafe where we chose our wedding cake.

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