Bus from Estonia to Riga, Latvia
I took the LuxExpress bus from Viljandi, Estonia to Riga, Latvia via Pärnu. The bus was spacious, modern and calmly driven. Its a short trip to Pärnu from Viljandi, around an hour. Thanks to the large windows you can enjoy the flat but otherwise colourful autumn landscape. Green spruce, brown harvested fields, grey bales and leaves with touches of yellow and red. Black and white birch trees. Very pleasant.
In Pärnu I changed busses. A 30 minute break. Enough time to stretch the legs and grab lunch. The next LuxExpress bus, the lounge version, was a little upgrade from the one pictured above. More modern but just as spacious as the normal variety. There’s a free coffee machine onboard, free WiFi, charging ports and a working toilet. Pärnu to Riga took about 2.5 hours. I recommend it.
Tree House is a cheap hostel in Riga
Tree House Hostel in Riga is cheap. I paid about 17€ for a dorm that slept 6 of us. I admit some reservations about hostels, however, it was a logical choice on this occasion. Although I’d prefer to “stay somewhere nice” this short stay didn’t seem to warrant an expensive hotel.
Meeting travellers in Riga
In Folkklubs, a crowded basement tavern, I met these two. French co-founder of a dance collective based in Paris and an Italian yacht chef. Over a few Valmiermuiža beers we shared some stories. The Frenchie describes some techniques around the “right way” to make Croissants. The butter needs to be beaten into a thin layer, placed on top of the pastry and then folded into it repeatedly. “Mother yeast” is a key ingredient, it needs to be maintained and aged. The older the better, but not too old, they both agree on 3 weeks. There’s varying opinions about eggs. Whole egg wash is common as yoke-only will make the Croissant dark.
The Italian voiced recommendations too. On the topic of Bolognese sauce, the Italian approach to this seemingly simple recipe is nuanced. There’s rules to follow. Firstly, garlic is not permitted. Instead, it begins with onion, carrot (preferably grated otherwise finely chopped) and celery. The onion, carrot and celery trio even have a name – “mirepoix” in French or “soffritto”. It’s a thing. Of course mince meat is added with oil to the pan but not just any. The meat needs to be a mix of both beef and pork. The fatter the better. The Frenchie interjects, explaining the role of fat goes to releasing certain flavours from the mirepoix and other herbs to the sauce. The Italian continues once the meat is cooked, but not dry, tomato sauce should then be added. Plain passata. The sauce should be double the amount of meat. Bay leaf is then added along with salt and pepper to taste. The sauce should be left to cook for as long as possible. An hour minimum. Herbs need to be fresh, oregano works well. Lastly in accordance with tradition, a small amount of butter would also be added towards the end. Bay leaves are removed prior to serving.
5K Morning Run, Riga Air Quality
I slept well at Tree House Hostel, surprisingly given the amount of snoring. I even managed an early morning 5K run but wouldn’t recommend it. The air quality of Riga is pretty ordinary compared to that of Estonia or Scandinavia. On my run I encountered a lot of traffic and construction. Latvia didn’t get the memo about Cigarettes. The smell of cigarettes is awful. It’s everywhere. After walking around for a few hours yesterday I got a headache and just wanted to gag. What’s with the cigarettes, Latvia?
Caffeine Café in Riga
Caffeine Café is one of my favourite franchise cafés. It’s American owned but has a strong presence in the Baltics for some reason. There’s a few of them in Riga alone but you can also order delivery via Wolt. Get €5 in credits to your new account here: https://get.wolt.com/PGBC
Nirvana Restaurant in Riga
About 1 kilometre from Riga CBD is Nirvana restaurant. I took a Bolt Scooter to get there quickly. Nirvana restaurant offers much needed healthy vegan food. A welcome change from the usual modern Baltic cuisine of burgers and beers. The staff speak both English and Latvian. Service is professionally attentive. The waiter made an effort to explain the menu too.
Nirvana was a little crowded when I got there. Ayurvedic expert, member of the Indian-Latvia chamber of commerce and fellow migrant – Sohan offered me a seat. Like old friends I had the pleasure hearing his views on Ukraine, the Baltics and and other topics. My meal with coffee cost me 9.50€.
Getting to Riga Airport
Maybe I’m lazy. I can’t be bothered learning local public transport in a foreign country for a short stay. I don’t want to chase transport cards or pay with cash so I took a Bolt to the Airport instead of the bus. In our 20 minute ride Tatjana told me how much better the Baltics are than Germany in terms of bureaucracy. It took her 9 months to buy an apartment near Berlin. 9 months. In the Baltics, purchasing basically requires an appointment with a Notary. Everything should be concluded within 2 weeks. Interesting conversation along the way. The car was very clean and new. Gone are the days of leather jackets, black Mercedes-Benzs and “metre not working”. It took 20 minutes and 12.10€ to get from Riga Central to Riga International Airport (RIX) with Bolt.
Riga International Airport (RIX)
RIX Airport has enough shops, cafés, restaurants and bars to keep you busy. It’s a small amount which has implemented various modern practices to get passengers through security to gates as quickly as possible. In my case I could check in online and scan my digital pass to get through security. The queues were actively monitored to keep people moving forward. The average time taken to pass security is displayed on a large monitor and updated in real-time. The only downside to RIX is a lack of seating and charging points.
I’m flying Latvia’s national carrier, AirBaltic, a budget airline that serves many destinations. In my opinion it offers better value for money than other Europe budget airlines like e.g., RyanAir.
Total Cost for Riga: 86.05€
- Bus Viljandi to Riga: 18€
- Hostel: 19€
- Beers: 20€
- Coffee: 5.35€
- Bolt Scooter: 2.10€
- Lunch: 9.50€
- Bolt to Airport: 12.10€
Next stop: Vienna!