17 Oct 2007

Down and out in Riga

Posted by walterheck

The next morning we got up at 7:00. We had a quick breakfast and I packed my bag. I notice that I am getting faster and faster at packing that thing. I know exactly what goes where and how. Actually, I woke up a little later than 7, so I had to skip shower which was not a real problem since I wouldn’t feel comfortable in taking a shower in a bathroom without a door anyway. Instead I just figured I would take one later that day in Riga.

I left the apartment together with Krista. We got on a bus as her school was in the same direction as my bus stop at the end of town. We said goodbye on the bus and she told me where to go for a good hitchhiking spot. I was so grateful for her saving me from sleeping in a hostel this night!

As it was still halfdark I figured it might be a bit early to start hitchhiking, so I looked to see if the same coffee place from last night was still open so I could sit there and look for a place to sleep in Riga (I still had no couch). Unfortunately it was closed so I decided to start hitchhiking anyway.

I took the bus she had told me to get and looked for the football stadium she had told me to look for. It took a long time before I saw a football field with some benches next to it and figured this would be my stop. The name of the stop also sounded like the name she had told me. When I got off the bus I saw that this was indeed the right place to be. As it was still dark, I walked a little and made my sign for Riga. After a while it started to rain, which if it doesn’t come in too large portions can be a good thing for a hitchhiker.

After a while I was picked up by a Latvian truck driver driving from Finland all the way to Kaunas in Lithuania. This was exactly the direction I was going in a few days later and for a moment I was tempted to stay in this truck all the way there. Then I however realized that I was not doing some race to get as far as possible as quickly as possible, I am here to actually see the countries I am in 🙂

When we neared the border to Latvia I was a little confused as communicating with the driver was hard and he stopped at a place before the border. I had never crossed a guarded border before, and definitely not while hitchhiking in a truck. Confused I got out and followed the truck driver who entered a building. I couldn’t find him inside so I quickly went to the toilet (I thought that might be where he was) but he wasn’t there. I waited back outside and when he returned it turned out that he had just been exchanging money at the exchange office (the building didn’t have sign on it indicating it was here and from the inside it was just a bunch of corridors, very strange).

We proceeded to the real border and the driver gave the border guard my passport along with all the papers for him and his truck. Everything was fine and we were let into Latvia, yay! This is the 16th country I have visited in my life. The counter is going up!

The driver took me almost all the way to Riga but dropped me about 15 km before as he wasn’t going all the way there. I got out and realized I was staning along the Baltic highway where cars drive really fast and there is no goo spot to start hitchhiking. Luckily there was a bus stop, so I started there. I actually wanted to take a bus, but I didn’t have any Latvian money. Before starting to hitchhike again I went into a small shop on the other side of the highway but as I had no Latvian money on me and they didn’t accept Estonian money, I couldn’t buy anything. It was only 10:50 and I was already almost in Riga. I love hitchhiking in these countries!

I got a ride pretty fast from a nice woman who turned out to be a film director. She was not working at the moment however as she had just had a baby 5 months ago. She was on her way to see her old colleagues for a few hours in Riga. She told me some general things about Latvia and when we got to the place she worked at (right in the center of the city!) she showed me where to find an ATM and told me some general directions for the city center. I got some money (again, I guessed the amount as I had forgotten to check the exchange rate again 🙁 ) from the ATM and then went looking for a place with wireless internet.

Within minutes I saw a double coffee (this is a chain of coffee places in the Baltics) and hoped there would be wifi there. Unfortunately there was only paid wifi, but there was no way to pay by credit card and my Estonian phone number did not allow me to send a message to a special number like this one. I got a bite to eat and a glass of milk as I had only little breakfast. While waiting I wrote some blog posts. After eating I left the place as the pressure of finding a couch for the night was getting bigger and bigger and time was running out.

I walked around a bit more in the beautiful Riga and after a while I found another double coffee. I checked for wifi connections on my phone and found a couple outside, so I went inside. Unfortunately the walls of the building were apparently blocking the signal, since there was none inside. Because I had already gotten the laptop out, I had to order something and decided a cup of tea would be cheap. Unfortunately the waitress brought me a whole pot of tea (selling tactics?), so I drank a few cups and then left that place.

I walked around some more looking for a wireless connection, now getting pretty anxious to find one soon. I walked past an irish pub and noticed the wifi sticker on the window. I went inside and ordered a Latvian beer. Then I set up my laptop only to find out that it was the same paid network that I had run into in the first double coffee. This time, I asked the guy at the next table if he would send the text message for me and I would give him one lat for it. He agreed and I finally had a connection. I immediately started sending out text messages through skype and from my Estonian sim, not knowing yet that I could not receive messages on this number. A lot of people contacted for nothing as would turn out later!

I also added one guy on skype as his profile showed him to be online and just as my hour of access was finishing, he responded. I quickly asked the bartender to do the same for me as the other guy had done and got another hour of access. I talked for a bit with the skype guy and he gave me the number for a friend of his who would be able to help me. I called the guy and he asked me to call back after six and he would help me. I was very happy as I thought I had a place to sleep.

I wrapped things up at the Irish pub and walked around the city for another hour before sitting down at stockmann’s (a big expensive department store) in the restaurant on the top floor, figuring that would be a safe place to take out my laptop. I took it out and pretended I was working while actually falling asleep. I dozed until it was six (almost 45 minutes without ordering or being bothered, yay 🙂 ) and called the guy back. He now told me that he was too busy and that I would have to find a place to sleep by myself. Fuck! I didn’t see that one coming! I was frustrated, depressed and felt sick (had been feeling sick for a few days now, probably traveling catching up with me).

I was absolutely in no mood for people or much hassle anymore, so I decided to go to the hostel at the back of the central train station. My first night in a hostel had finally arrived! As I was walking to the hostel I felt insecure because of the dark area with dark alleys that were almost deserted (during the day this was a busy market place, now it was just creepy). I found the hostel and when I entered I saw only shabby people who were drunk and quarreling. It turned out this was not the hostel but the public cheap restaurant below it. I went up one floor and there it was much nicer.

I sat down at the desk and booked a room. It turned out to be 13€ per person per night and because I felt so sick I booked a double room (no single rooms available) paying for both the beds to make sure I had the room for myself. It felt a bit posh (as far as you can be posh in a hostel 😉 ), but I really needed some privacy and was not up for anyone stumbling into my room in the middle of the night.

I went up to the room and unexpectedly it looked very clean and nice! I dropped my bags and fell into the bed. I tried to sleep but was too depressed still. I decided to take a nice hour long shower and just sit down, thinking about things as they were going right now. After an hour I felt a lot better (although still pretty sick) and got out of the shower. I did some things that had to be done: I prepared my laundry (figuring there had to be some laundry room in the hostel), I looked for a wifi network (found one but it was secured) and I reorganized my backpack. I went downstairs to the restaurant but it was already closed. I didn’t really mind as I felt like shit anyway. I bought some drinks at the front desk of the hostel and asked the guy for the wireless passcode. He gave me one that he said might be the one I needed.

I went back to my room and tried the password. It didn’t work. I decided to watch some shows on my laptop and after that I went to bed. I was very tired form an eventful day. For the first time I felt a little bit happy to not be couchsurfing as that means you have to stay up and pay attention to people. That is usually fine, but tonight I was more happy here in the hostel.

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3 Responses to “Down and out in Riga”

  1. Gast,

    De IT headlines vandaag:

    “Dexcom, eigenaar van onder meer Dynabyte, Dixons en T for telecom, neemt Coolblue over. ”

    Dat je het even weet…



  2. He Swa,

    Leef je nog wel?

    Zie je bij de Blokkah




  3. Heey waar blijven je nieuwe avonturen?
    Vol verwachting klopt ons hart….