Baltics: Latvia and Lithuania

Kaunas, Lithuania was quiet. I wasn’t expecting much, and it was a good place to break the journey from Warsaw to Riga, but the city was empty. We were the only people in our entire hostel. They didn’t even have staff and we checked in with a lock box. It was weird to be alone in an empty building. The streets were empty too, but I attribute that to the rain.

Our hostel in Riga was much more fun. They had a great happy hour at 6pm for us old souls, and then the young at heart went out and partied until 2, 3 and 4am. I know because they woke us up every hour as they excitedly recounted the night to one another.

Our first night we had dinner in a lively cellar restaurant and we sat next to one of the voices from the Muppets. For an hour he excitedly re-enacted the latest Marvel movie for his companions whom we determined to be his parents once we heard their matching voices and enthusiasm. Of course it was all in Latvian, so we can’t be sure of the exact context, but I think my guess is close.

Our second night we dined at a Latvian cafeteria and enjoyed the live band playing covers of American rock and country songs. Riga is a fun city.

As we crossed the city on our third day, we came across a barricade of 300 police officers of whom one hundred were wearing full riot gear. There was only crowd of 150 non-police at the time. A second perimeter had vans parked at street corners and filled with police. The adjacent park had police with German Shepherds standing ready. Every instinct in me screamed to get out of there and not get caught in a foreign protest-turned-riot. Nothing was happening yet, but that level of precaution implied the authorities were expecting something to go down. I pulled Aaron away and we asked the museum staff down the road what was happening. They said it was a contentious remembrance day that honored Latvians who had fought in the German Legion in WWII. Three opposing groups were expected to participate and clash. In over-simplified ideologies: pro Nazi, anti Nazi, and to murky the waters, Pro Russia. We kept our distance.

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