Monday, July 21, 2014

Riga: A Busy Week in the Big City

The week in Riga was very busy and full, but much of it involved meeting friends and relatives, so I will not write up a day-by-day account. Instead here I will mention a few of those meetings and events, and will write a couple of separate posts about touristy thing.

To visit some old friends from North America who have lived in Latvia for several years now, Bryan and I ventured a bit outside of Riga to the lovely area near Babites ezers, and enjoyed a fun cook-out and bonfire at their home at the edge of a peaceful forest.
Dinner with K & D (adorable son A barely visible in the right corner)
One evening I met former co-workers from the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia. I spent the summer of 2005 there, doing English language editing and translation. Only one of the three women still works at the Museum, and due to her travels to the United States to record interviews with older Latvians about their life experiences, I've kept in closer touch with her. She was able to corral the other two, and we had a very enjoyable dinner in a good restaurant called Cidonija in Berga Bazars. The waitress we had was amazingly friendly and chipper - very American in many ways - but she will not win any photography awards.
Dinner with I, D, and L
That same night I visited a couple of old Latvian-American friends who moved to Riga about seven years ago; we spent a long time chatting and catching up. They had many interesting stories to share.

Another afternoon I met some diplomat friends for coffee; they are the ones who lived in Cairo when I visited. We even managed to catch an important art exhibit: in conjunction with Riga being Culture Capital for the year, an exhibit of the works of Vija Celmins, the best known Latvian-American and one of the most successful living female artists, was being shown. She is best known for her sea and starry sky paintings, both of which I had seen in Washington and New York. The exhibit was interesting in its range, as included were much older works that were quite different. We did not have time to watch the documentary film about her, which is too bad, as afterward I heard from at least two people that it was well done and quite moving. The exhibit closed in June, thus I am happy I was in Riga to see it. I recently read that 20,000 people - or 1% of Latvia's population - had visited the exhibit.
Coffee with M & M
That same evening another friend and I attended a play at the National Theatre. It was a brand new play, having opened just the night before. Written by a young playwright, the play, Pieaugusie, (The Adults) was performed in the theatre's New Hall. Between the topic (30 year olds remembering their last year of high school) and the space, the experience had an off-off Broadway feel to it. I enjoyed the play, but was not keen on the fact that the space itself was very hot and seemed to lack any type of ventilation. Afterward we enjoyed drinks at the restaurant Fazenda. I forgot to ask the waitress to take our photo, so I have no documentation of having met up with M, but I can assure you it happened and we had lots of fun. We walked back to our respective apartments together, and then even stood on the street continuing our conversation. One of the great things about so many of my Latvian friends is that even if nine years have passed since we've seen another, we somehow manage to pick up almost where we'd left off. M and I could not remember exactly which summer it was that we met while working at Garezers, but once she got home she couldn't sleep until she unearthed that summer's camp high school yearbook. It turns out we met back in 2002!
The National Theatre
Yet another evening found me hosting three of my second cousins and their families in my rental apartment. We had fun reminiscing about previous times we've met (the first time being in 1988, when my mom, younger sis, and I took the train from West Germany to Riga and visited for a week), and comparing life in the United States and Latvia. We also discussed hockey and travel, with me sharing some photos of what real waterfalls look like.
Just the cousins
All of the photos from the evening feature someone with eyes closed or looking the other way!
Either there is a bird overhead or I found something to be quite ridiculous (hence the eye rolling).
On Friday night I helped organize a big get-together for alumni and former employees of Garezers, the Latvian summer camp and cultural center. The event was held at the Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs in Riga's Old Town, and great music was provided by the band "The Repats," of which two members, Karlis and Imanta, are graduates of the Garezers summer high school. They played many covers of rock songs that were popular at Garezers Saturday evening dances, as well as folk songs and other Latvian songs that were sung around campfires. It was a very fun walk down memory lane. The Garezers high school is in its 50th summer this year, and the occasion will be celebrated with a big party in Garezers at the end of July -- I booked my flight to Michigan for that weekend long ago to make sure I'd be part of the celebration.

Just a handful of the 30 or so attendees
Folkklubs Ala poster featuring our party on 23.05
It was wonderful to spend time with so many people in Riga, yet even with all the scheduled social time and running around, there were a number of individuals I was unable to meet. Clearly, one week is just not enough time to catch up with absolutely everyone!


  1. Paldies par labam atminam, Daina! :) Diana, Karlis un Austris

    1. Paldies jums! Bija tik loti jauki jus abus beidzot atkal redzet, un Austri satikt. :-) Un kur tad nu vel Garezera vakars -- milzigs paldies Karlim un Imantai par fenomenalo muziku!!

  2. Man vienmēr sanāk, ka nepietiek laiks satikt visus radus un draugus kuŗus gribētos redzēt... Izskatās, ka tev tomēr laimējās - ļoti aizņemtas dienas! Man žēl, ka netiekam uz GVV lielo jubilēju... gan jau nākamgad, uz Gaŗezera vispārējo 50!

    1. Oh, man vismaz divi - tris draugi palika nesatikti, un vismaz viens radinieks (kaut tad velak izradijas, ka vins taja laika nemaz neesot bijis Riga!). Un diemzel ta nedela bija tada skriesana, ka bija mazliet stresigi! Ja, zel, ka netiekat, bet saprotu jau kapec. :) Nakamgad *obligati* jabut!

  3. You forgot the best part about Babites ezers, well besides the company and dinner, the great road through the forest that the GPS routed us down. Well, ok, the dirt/muddy road through the uninhabited forest, but it was an adventure to say the least. Plus the GPS was right, it got it right to their house no problem.

    1. Ha, yes, and "road" is being too generous! And I forgot to post a photo of the awesome little bonfire we enjoyed after dinner...


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