around Riga & Stockholm (short holiday, pt. 3)

as promised, this time i’m going to post the other things we saw and did in Riga & Stockholm other than museums. just a small warning, there are even more pics this time! feel free to skip this post if it’s just too much for you already. 😀

again i’m going to point out that we had 3 days in Riga, and 2 days in Stockholm, but most of them were all rainy, which is why it might seem that we didn’t get to do much (plus we’re quite lazy travelers, we don’t usually put so much in our to-do list because we want to actually have a relaxed time at our destinations). i’m putting the pics into separate sections along with a few background stories for each section.

Riga Parks

i guess the title could be a bit misleading, since it was actually just one BIIIIG park. it’s called the Bastion Hill park (or Bastejkalns park), and it was the closest to our hotel. right next to this park there is the Freedom Monument. we always walked through this park when going to or from the Stockmann supermarket where we bought our daily needs. there are plenty of statues in this park, but i only took a picture of one that seemed rather special for me. 😉 there’s a canal running right in the middle of this park, and surely enough, in the summer there are plenty of boats for rent if you want to have a small water tour along the canal.

another special thing about this park is the lock bridge. the superstition goes something like this: when a couple gets married in Riga, they go to this bridge and put a padlock onto the bridge. the stronger the padlock the better, because it also represents how strong their marriage bond will be. and then, they throw away the key to that padlock to the river (or canal in this case). at the time when i saw this bridge, i had never heard of this thing. but apparently, now that i searched about it, you can find this lock bridge thing elsewhere too. nonetheless, it was a pretty special sight to see, and it just so happened that when we were there in the park, there was a young couple getting married there. 🙂

Riga’s Old Town

since our hotel is right there in the Old Town of Riga, this area is also one that we could not help but to go through every day. the buildings here are surprisingly in very good conditions (at least from the outside), it could be that the people of Riga had done quite a big renovation right after they had their freedom from the Soviet Union.

there are sooooooooo so so many restaurants and shops like you wouldn’t believe, but there they are! there are also traditional markets on the street, where the stuffs are sold from wooden carts/wagons. the one nice thing about these shops (and also those that are outside the Old Town) is that they’re open up to later time in the night than in Finland. there were lots of small shops that were still open till around 10 pm at night in the weekend. that sure was a rare sight, since everything in Finland closes already at 6 pm in the weekend.

i must say that i know nothing about the names of these buildings i took pictures of (like some specific church or whatever). i took pics of them just because they look nice and very different from the view we have here in Finland.

Riga Streets

these pics were taken when we walked outside the Old Town. some areas are as well kept as in the Old Town, but some are unfortunately in quite sad conditions… again i’m only speculating, but they are most likely leftovers from the Soviet Union era.

the first few pics were taken when we took a walk on the second day in Riga. we walked a bit more to the northeast direction from the Freedom Monument and there were actually lots of churches along the way. but since it was around 8 or 9 pm on a Sunday, most museums and churches were no longer open for viewing.

the warehouses in Spīķeri district are worth to see, and it was also my intention, however we only got the time to go there during the last day and decided to look at the Riga Ghetto museum instead. the Spīķeri district is basically old warehouses that have been turned into rather hip & arty places, with all kinds of hip restaurants, (modern) art galleries, and i think also shops with things from new & upcoming Latvian designers. it sounds promising, but i guess i do need longer time to be able to enjoy it (and also better weather!). if you have the chance, do go and visit this area!

Riga’s Central Market

every city or town in Europe has one, whether it’s called central market or market hall. this one was built inside an old hangar, so of course my husband insisted on seeing it.

it turned out that the “market” isn’t just inside the old hangar… but also outside and all around it. basically, it’s almost as big as Jakarta’s Blok M, and it actually looks like it too. 😀 got pretty nostalgic just because of that, though i can’t say the same thing about the prices. the things surprisingly cost more here than, say, the Dappermarkt in Amsterdam. weird, huh? though the quality of the things actually look pretty much the same. inside the hangar, the products cost around 50 cents more, but otherwise, the “collection” itself is pretty much the same whether the booth is located outdoor or indoor. and as to what it is exactly that they sell? pretty much everything and anything, from fresh meat, vegetables, milk, cheese, to clothes, bags, sandals, toys, etc.

i didn’t take pics of the market outdoor, because i wanted to keep my purse safe. it was so crowded, i could barely keep an eye on it (and still see the booths at the same time!). i didn’t get any good findings here, since all the clothes i kind of liked costed around 15-20€ and i figured i could get similar item for the same price from Finland as well. there was just nothing that special that i felt like i had to get. we did end up getting some stuffs just because we felt a tiny bit sorry for the seller (an old lady).

Foods in Riga

ahh, now this is the most fun part! as i said earlier, i wanted to try local food, and in the end i did not get to try local food, but instead found a new favourite and ate Russian foods (well, that is almost local, i guess).

the first four pics are from my new fave: Wok to Walk. if you have it in your country, lucky you, but we don’t have it in Finland (though we do have Singaporean wok restaurant that’s reeeeaaallly good too). the system is a bit like Subway, where you get to choose what kind of noodle/rice you want as the base, and the side dishes (meat/veggies/mushrooms), and the sauce. then, if you eat it at the restaurant, you can choose whether to eat it from a plate or from a box. they ask for your name at the cashier (think Starbucks), and will call you by name when your order is done.

we saw an ad of this place in one of the tourist maps, and thought that it was just one of those fake Asian restaurants. but when we were walking in hunger (and rain) on the first night, we smelled something really good and came upon this restaurant! so we went in, and decided to try it. it was Saturday night, so the place was rather deserted, but so what! we did our orders (i took Udon noodles with shrimps & squids, and hot Asia sauce–the hottest sauce there was!), and took a seat at a windowsill. yes, we literally sat on a windowsill with a small round table in the middle, just enough to hold our foods.

the chefs were loudly talking to each other, shouting above the sizzling of the woks, and i felt just like at home, as in ‘Jakarta’ home. the interior of the restaurant was also meant to look ‘humble’ and street vendor-like, very down to earth and warm.

they wrote & pronounced my name correctly (what a big difference with Starbucks!), and we happily ate our noodles while looking outside the window at the rainy night and people walking by. very nostalgic and wonderful feeling, and the price? about 11-12€ in total for both of our meals combined. it wasn’t of course that kind of BIG portion, but it was enough even for us who love to eat!

we liked the place so much we ended up eating there again on the third day just before we left Riga… it was again rainy, but this time it was lunchtime on a Monday, so it was jam packed full of people, tourists and locals (students & executives) alike. i really wish this restaurant would come to Finland one day, preferably soon!

the rest of the pics are from the Russian restaurant called Uncle Vanya, or Tēvocis Vaņa. about 2 days before going to Riga, i quickly searched for any good restaurant we could try while we were there, and found this at the number 8 from the list of best restaurants in Riga in Trip Advisor. it was very close to our hotel, but whenever we passed it by, it looked rather empty, so we waited until the second day to try it.

and it was lucky for us that we did! we went there at around 3 pm, so it wasn’t a rush hour anymore. we easily got our seats, though not long afterwards there were many customers coming in.

as we were looking at the menu, the waiter served us appetizers, on the house, which consisted of black breads (kind of like Finnish limppu) with green butter (obviously mixed with some herbs, which explains the colour). hmm!! very yummy! we then said our orders to the waiter.

not long after we gave our orders, the waiter came back again bringing something in jars… one for each of us. then he said to us that they were 3 meat pâtés, compliments from the chef. wow! we certainly didn’t expect this! the jar looked rather suspicious, it was as if there was fog inside… we opened them, and there actually was smoke in the jar, not going anywhere until we poked the pâté with our spoons. only then did the smoke start to evaporate! cool! 😀 it was reaaaally good, and the bread slices you see in the pic were actually very thin and crispy, very very good indeed!

after two free appetizers, the waiter finally brought our real appetizer, one we actually paid for. 😀 we both ordered borsch soup, and so it was served from a humongous bowl (!!), poured by the waiter to each of our bowl, and then we each also got a slice of bread and a cup of sour cream/smetana. in case you don’t know what borsch soup is, it’s beetroot soup with pieces of meat, and the sour cream is meant to be poured into the soup. this was my first time eating borsch soup, and i nearly died and went straight to heaven from the deliciousness. it’s THAT good.

for the main dish, my husband went for the safe option of beef stroganoff (well, he did say it was VERY good, probably best he had ever tasted), while i opted for a more exotic choice: cooked veal tongue. i mean, as an Indonesian, i can tell you that i LOVE eating cow’s tongue dishes, but i certainly never tried it in any other country’s way than the Indonesian way! and if it was possible, it was even BETTER than the borsch soup. very tender (since it’s from a veal), just perfectly seasoned, and worked very well with the horseradish sauce it was served with. cow’s tongue had never tasted better than this!

after the main course, though we felt almost so full, we decided to still order desserts. chocolate pies were our choices, and though the name hinted “pie”, it was actually kind of like chocolate fondant, where it’s shaped like chocolate cake but with chocolate melt in the inside. and they were just perfect! the chocolate melt was perfectly warm in contrast to the cold vanilla ice cream, and the texture of the cake itself was also just perfect. this restaurant’s chef really knew what he (or she) was doing, plus, we were again given compliments in the form of blackcurrant shot drinks, one for each. that’s 3 free numbers we were given in one seating, how generous of them! and though i generally don’t like alcoholic drinks, i drank it out of respect and because, hell, i was on holiday! i suppose it was good, though i really can’t tell, since i know nothing about alcohol/shots. 😀

in the middle of our eating, i suddenly got nervous to see the bill because i didn’t have that much cash with me at the time, but i really shouldn’t have. the total damage turned out to be around 50€, which–compared to the prices of similar restaurants in Finland–is quite reasonable. this was for a 3 course meal with a bonus of 2 extra appetizers and shot drinks, and perfect taste all round. the atmosphere was also very comfortable and homey, you get the feeling of visiting an old friend’s house or even dining at your own home, but with a waiter serving you instead! well worth the money! i highly recommend this restaurant if you want a more special place to eat at or just curious to try authentic Russian foods.

Sightseeing in Stockholm

i’ve now been to Stockholm around 5 times, and almost each and every time we also went to the Old Town. i think i’ve pretty much taken pics of it before this trip, the only thing different this time was that we went to the Royal Palace area, and also to the seaside.

when i said we went to the Royal Palace area, i meant that we didn’t actually go inside the palace. to do so we needed to pay admission fees, and since we weren’t in Riga anymore, the fees are quite pricey and they only work for separate sections of the palace. different section needs different ticket, and since we were already going back in the afternoon, we decided to do it some other time. we did go to the free-pass areas, and i managed to take a few pictures.

then we continued walking to the seaside because my husband wanted to show me some steamboats. from there, we could see the old town buildings from a literally different point of view. we went past Birger Jarl, an old cruise ship that has now turned into a floating hostel ever since it stopped sailing in 2013. there’s still the small bridge by which passengers could get into the ship (nowadays used for hostel customers to enter the ship). i think it would be nice to stay there one day.

so this is the end of my “short  holiday” post series (not so short if you count it by the many pictures and words!). all in all, i had such a great time, and like i said before, it really felt like luck was on our side the whole time (except for the weather), as we got so many delightful surprises from here and there. it was an unforgettable experience, and i personally highly recommend Riga as your next holiday destination!

thanks to all of you who have patiently followed my stories, have a great weekend! ❤