After 3 really intense months full of study, work and moving, I decided to pack my backpack and, together with my boyfriend, make a secret escape away from responsibilities.
The decision was made, so I started looking for a nice and a cheap place to visit. We didn’t have so much time (only one weekend) and we wanted to see some new place, but also rest. We needed a place close to Stockholm (max 1 hour flight) and a place where the accommodation will not take a whole month’s salary to pay :). As I said before, we had recently moved to a new apartment, so our budget was kind of limited.
After going through several options like a weekend in London (too expensive), a train trip to somewhere in Sweden (too expensive), or even Gran Canaria (too long flight), we decided to take a 40-hour cruise with Tallink Silja Line to Riga. This cruise has everything we were looking for: cheap accommodation for 2 nights, good food, and several hours to explore Riga. PERFECT!
Our trip started on Friday at 5 p.m. from Värtahamnen in Stockholm where we boarded the ship. After leaving our things in our cabin, we chose one with window :), it was time to go and take a look at the entertainment plan for the cruise. A huge plus about (most) cruises is that there is something for everyone to do throughout the whole trip. There are different activities such as shopping, life music performances, lotteries, clubs, and special attractions for the youngest travelers like magic shows.
There are several options for meals on the boat. I think that the most popular is lunch or dinner buffet, where you can eat as much as you can and beverages, beer and wine are included for around 33€ per person. However, this time we chose to book a table in one of the restaurants onboard. We chose Grill House, because it is always a good time for a tasty burger, crispy chicken and some power drinks. Dinner for 2 people with one beer and one drink costed us around 50€.
After a not-so-peaceful night – due to the ice-breaking sound when sailing through the Baltic sea in March – we finally reached Riga around 11 a.m. The city welcomed us with a beautiful and sunny weather. We had 6 hours to spend in Riga, so we decided to take a nice walk around the old town and try some local food.
We decided to have lunch in one of the restaurants on the main street in the old town called Fire Wood. We found this place completely by chance. While walking around, a girl working there invited us to try some traditional food and traditional liqueur. She was really friendly and the place looked cozy, so we decided to give it a try. That was a GREAT choice.
We followed the recommendations from our waitress and we got two amazing dishes. My dish (above on the left) was some sort of stew with meat, bacon and vegetables baked in a cream sauce (yummy!) My boyfriend got pork ribs marinated in honey with potatoes and some salad. Both dishes were really tasty and not so healthy 😉
We decided to try the local liqueur for a better digestion process (excuses!) called Black Balsam with blackcurrant flavor. In Riga they make a drink based on this liqueur. They mix it with Coca Cola and lemon juice and it is very tasty! The cost of the whole meal (lunch + drinks) was 35€.
While walking around I noticed two things. One was the motive of cats everywhere, and the second one was that I heard a lot of people speaking Russian around. We could not hear the local language around, and because I am a curious type of person, I asked our waitress before leaving the restaurant why most of people speak Russian instead of Latvian. She told us that after Latvia stopped being part of the Soviet Union, several Russians stayed in the country. In addition, the city was and still is a common summer destination for Russian citizens. According to her half of the inhabitants there have Russian roots.
As I mentioned before, there is a “cat motive” in the city and you can even find plenty of cats around, both real and as art in the city. According to the legend, it all started with a rich merchant called Bloemer, who were angry at Riga’s merchants’ guild because they would not let him join them. He then decided to take revenge on them and built two cats sculptures on the roof of his home (today known as Cat House). The point is that the sculptures are situated in such a way that the cats are showing their tails to the head of the Guild’s windows as a show of disrespect.
An in this way cats became a symbol of Riga. You can find more cat sculptures around the city, different types of souvenirs in every store such as figurines, bags, mugs etc. I even had the pleasure of meeting the Riga Cat next to a souvenir store in the Old Town and have a picture with him 🙂 (down to the right)
After six hours, our time in Riga came to an end and we had to go back to the boat where some more activities were waiting for us. We did not have enough time to visit all the places we wanted in Riga, so I am sure that sooner or later we will come back there to explore some more. Next time maybe by flight to have more time there 😉
Here I would like to say farewell and see you next time on my post about our trip to Montenegro.
See you on a road,