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Brian’s Travel Diary

Monday, 26 Mar 2007

Location: Riga, Latvia

MapOld Town Riga is spectacular to walk through. It's clean and narrow cobblestone streets make you feel like you are back in time..well, except for the clean part. With the Black Plague and all it was pretty filthy back then. I was staying at Riga Old Town Hostel & Pub. A pub in the hostel, what a brilliant idea. They served up drinks of Absinth and Latvian Balsams. I don't really know what Balsams is, so I brought back a bottle of it to make sure I really know how it works.

Lativa has a lot of history in the last 60 years, as do the rest of the Baltic countries. Right before WWII Hitler and Stalin secretely signed a non-agression pact between their two countries. However, the Non-agression pact had nothing to do with Germany and the USSR invading other countries, just each others. So the Soviets decided to slowly take over the Latvian government and assimilate them into the USSR. So, of course, in the typical Soviet style the communist purgings began as did the goulags and the deportations to Siberia. This was a big deal to a country of only 1.5 million people and when the Nazis came to kick out the Soviets, they were actually seen as liberators. That is until the Latvians realized they weren't getting their country back. As the Soviets retreated they forced the Latvians to fight the Nazis. Those who did fight against the Nazis were killed after Hitler took control of Latvia. Then again, at the end of the war the Soviets pushed back through Latvia using Latvian soldiers to fight the Nazis, while the Nazis used Latvian soldiers to fight the Soviets. There is an interesting museum called the Museum of Occupation describing the atrocities of the Latvians forced to fight against each other. Brother vs. Brother and Father Vs. Son. Sadly, over a third of the population or 500,000 Latvians were killed in WWII. Not until Regan said "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" did the Latvians finally escape 40 years of occupation. Riga has blossomed in the last 15 years into a beautiful tourist attraction filled with very proud and patriotic Latvians. Economically the Latvian Lat is worth just about as much as the pound! The further west you go the more expensive it gets.

Its too bad I didn't have more time for the rest of Latvia, but I have to get to Norway - the land of "Melk & Honey" according to Ola.