RIGA - For better or worse, Riga is a city which is quickly becoming known as a sexual mecca, much like Amsterdam or Montreal. In recent years, even some of the more innocent bars in the Old Town have go-go girls offering drinks and shaking their butts on the bar.
Every year for the past 10 years, the varied carnal aspects of Riga have come together for one massive erotic festival, simply titled "Erots."
This year, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the festival. Once there, I was able to gauge the strength of the city's night life beyond the sex tourists who are almost universally considered a growing problem.
What I found there showed me that the worldly pleasures Riga has to offer run deeper than simple sex tourism and gave me hope that the city will one day be able to move on.
The first good sign came before I even made it in the door. The long line of people waiting to get in 's which stretched on for about 100 meters despite the bitter cold 's spoke almost exclusively Latvian and Russian. No drunken tourists, nobody screaming obnoxiously about the sex shows they were about to see.
Once inside, I found that everyone was relatively calm and respectful. Even the drunkest lechers, those who had trouble walking and speaking, kept their cool and treated the scantily clad women with respect and dignity.
I had feared it would be full of horny single men looking for someplace to vent their frustration, as is all too common on a warm night in the Old Town, but most people were there in couples 's calmly watching the shows and browsing through sex toys. I was impressed.
I was left with the optimistic impression that Riga's sex culture is far richer than the horribly overpriced strip clubs make it seem.
Above and beyond
There were two different aspects to the festival, sex toys and sex shows, and both were represented by a variety of local and foreign companies. To my surprise, the locals were able to provide the same quality, if not better, shows and products as the guest superstars and huge European and Russian sex companies could.
Despite the large number of world renowned sex shows the festival attracted, some of the most artistic and intriguing shows came from two local companies 's Dolls and Karels.
Not only could the two shows provide just as much flash and just as many neat sex tricks as the foreign ones, but I also thought they put on a more artistic, more "dance" oriented show. The two companies really showed that they were able to rise above the sleaze which is commonplace in the sex industry and show that stripping is truly a form of art.
The largest sex toy shop at the festival was Kupidons. A local company, it completely blew the foreign competition out of the water. Admittedly Kupidons did not have to deal with transportation fees, but beyond the greater variety of goods it was able to offer was that its paraphernalia seemed to be of a higher quality than the rest.
Not only did it offer basics such as massage oil and handcuffs, there were also oddly shaped dildos and strange hunks of plastic which even my wildest imaginings couldn't come up with a use for. It had enough videos to suit any fetish, and enough toys to keep couples entertained well into the wee hours of the morning.
Now that the festival is over and done with, Riga's carnal companies are slowly settling back into their usual routine. While it is too late for people to go see all the foreign sex shows which made their way to Latvia for a few short nights, the local companies managed to prove that they can do even better than the stars, and that there really is something more to Riga's sex life than first meets the eye. www.kupidonsplus.lvwww.dolls.lvwww.tev.lv