10"must do" things when in Riga

  • 2004-07-22
1 Rent a paddle boat in Canal Park and see if you can make it to the Daugava River, then to the Baltic Sea, and finally to the shores of Sweden. When you return the boat several weeks later, explain to the irate old woman in charge of the boats that you "took a wrong turn somewhere along the way."
2 Challenge one of the chain-smoking, beer-drinking, chess-playing old men who hang out at Verman Park every day to a game of chess. Unless you happen to be an extremely gifted player, however, do not stake more than 1 lat on the game. Should you lose, try your luck at checkers.
3 See how quickly you can become famous. It's not especially hard in a small country like Latvia. Reality TV shows are a tried and tested route. Failing that, wait for a prince to come to town, and then gently strike him across the cheek with a carnation. Just be sure to have a good lawyer for back up.
4 Go to a Narvesen store and ask for a "karsts suns" in Latvian. Although you would be literally asking for a hot dog, the sales woman will be sure to look at you in utter confusion. Hot dogs, incidentally, are a food without any nutritional value whatsoever, so if you do eat one, be sure to have a carrot for back up.
5 Do the "trolley bus thing." This entails stuffing your pockets full of 20-santimi coins, and randomly taking trolley buses all around the city. Riga is a big place, and the suburbs tend to blend into each other unless you know your Rimi from your Mego, so you may well get lost. But that's the whole point.
6 Sit at an outdoor cafe in a popular Old Town spot. Prominently display a copy of "The Lonely Planet Guide to the Balkans." See how many indignant glances you attract from passers-by. See how the waiter "accidentally" spills your cappuccino all over your lap.
7 Every country needs its myths and legends to help distinguish it from its neighbors. Circulate a rumor that the apple which struck Newton on the head while he sat lost in contemplation beneath a tree was imported from Latvia. If no one believes you, due to the obvious flaw in this idea, try claiming that a vital ingredient in the football that Beckham hoofed into the stands during a penalty kick against Portugal came from Latvia.
8 Take a cruise on the Daugava River. Just as the ship is gathering speed and chugging along a good rate of knots, go to the starboard, hold out your hands, and scream at the top of your voice: "I'm on top of the world!" This activity is recommended for two persons.
9 Rent a horse and carriage just to hear the wonderfully romantic sound of a horse and carriage trotting along the cobblestone streets of the Old Town. Clip-clop, clip-clop - or something like that. True, we don't have a clue where you might obtain the said transportation, but it's surely out there, if you've the will, and an impressively colored credit card.
10 Launch a new magazine about Riga. There's already Riga Now, Riga This Week, Riga In Your Pocket, etc, but no doubt there's space for another one. Give it a catchy title that really pins Riga down in the time/space continuum, like: "Riga Right Here, Right Now, Precisely At This Very Moment." You won't make any money from it, but hey, at least you'll be able to show off the fact that you're a magazine proprietor when you're mingling at parties.