Riga is an amazing city. It is a lot bigger than Tallinn. You need to walk around looking up to appreciate it’s charms,as it is full of art-deco buildings, some better preserved than others.
The black Cat Building
We visited the Museum of Occupation to find out more about it’s history. Being invaded 3 times during the second world war, initially by the Russians then the Germans and finally the Russians again. It had to contend with mass deportations and pogroms, the forests were used as killing grounds. Very few Jews survived the German occupation. Stalin’s rule of terror lead to mass deportations, families being split up and sent to Gulags, to be replaced by an influx of Russians.
This beautiful building was used by the Russian Checas for torturing and killing.
Over the last 20 yrs since independence Latvia has done an amazing job rebuilding itself. It is an affluent city with most of the shops in a few fairly tasteful shopping malls and plenty of good cafes and restaurants. It is not for cycling , but a wandering around cafe society city.
The Freedom Monument
We decided to take the train to Duagavpils in the south-eastern part of Latvia so that we could cycle through the national parks in Lithuania. It was a case of carrying the bikes onto the train and putting them between the seats. Five and a half hours and 225km later we arrived in Duagavpils.
We were surprised to find that Latvia was quite different to Estonia. The towns and villages were better cared for with well kept community spaces such as parks and playgrounds. The language was very different. It was also a lot cheaper, a bottle of beer costing 0.5 Lat about 60 pence. There were excellent bakeries selling all manner of delicious cakes.
We expected that it would not be as good for cycling as Estonia had set such a high standard with well signed routes good roads and considerate drivers. Signing for cycle routes proved to be virtually non existent. The roads are very poor to awful. We did get a map of cycle routes which took us onto smaller gravel roads. These often degenerated into sand or corrugations where there had been a lot of traffic, in both cases making the roads unrideable. On top of this cars would still pass you at high speeds leaving you coughing in plumes of dust. You constantly had to be looking behind you watching out for the next car to come hurtling by. If you ventured on the larger roads you were jostling for space with huge lorries buses and Latvian drivers who thought nothing of overtaking the cars coming towards you.
Latvia itself is full of forests, we stopped off at one of the national parks and hired a canoe for the day floating down the river away from the cars and the lorries. Seeing kingfishers, and mergansers, banks lined with trees and sandstone cliffs.
Latvia is a beautiful country but not somewhere that is good for cycle touring. You need a mountain bike and no luggage to cope with the roads and the tracks.