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Saga Sapphire blog - Captains' blogs

19th July, 2014

Riga, the capital of Latvia, was our next destination and we came alongside a river berth very close to the old town. I had the pleasure of receiving two lovely young ladies who were representing the port authority in order to exchange maiden call plaques, I remarked on the excellent English being spoken and one explained she had been educated at Exeter University before going on to London. Small world.

The tours went off not only to see the city but also to Sigulda, the ‘Latvian Switzerland’, and the spa resort of Jurmala with its open air museum which, apparently, has the largest collection of ropes in Latvia. I have to say that what caught my eye in the excursion brochure were not ropes, but the Latvian beer tasting. Time and work were not permitting however, and I just took a quick stroll into the old town around lunchtime.

As I arrived near the central square I could hear a choir. They were gathered around in one corner and their singing of, I presume, Latvian songs was quite lovely. Many locals and tourists who had stopped to listen applauded after each song. Nearby, in the narrow cobbled streets, there seemed to be numerous little cafes, all protruding into the street and with flowers decorating their temporary summer table extensions. A particular national drink is Riga Black Balsam, a concoction created in the 18th century from twenty four different ingredients; I seem to remember that I tried it once and didn’t like at least twenty three of them. I concentrated on taking a few photographs, mainly of church spires of which there were many and then strolled back. The difference in architecture once leaving the old town is noticeable and it is quite apparent that, since becoming independent from the Soviet Union, Latvia is embracing all that is 21st century.

Our pilot on departure was very chatty and when I commented that the river was very busy and the fact that Latvia seemed to be exporting a great deal of cargo, such as coal, chemicals and grain, he remarked that none of it was from Latvia, but being transhipped from Russia. Rather interesting I thought, no doubt they have to ‘keep in’ with their neighbours

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