Visiting Riga

It’s been an eventful 3 years since I undertook my Baltic and Kaliningrad cycling adventure. Who knew then what a privilege travel would be? Who knew then what a precarious new chapter Russia would be introducing to eastern Europe. 

Travel has always been a privilege although many of us might see it as a right. Now with the spread of disease, the consequences of global warming and an unstable political situation, I am more than ever grateful for the limited travel I have managed to do. More than ever I scratch my travel itch through immigrant volunteer work and through books. Books—safe, cheap, environmentally sustainable and no masks or testing required. 

Still I bask in the memory of landing in Riga (about the size of Winnipeg) and embracing the crisp Baltic sunshine and all that incredible history. Riga, Latvia had never been on my travel radar before but it’s a true gem of a city. Perhaps its vibrancy is because democracy and freedom there are only 30 years old. As a former Soviet-occupied country, Riga has a living memory of political oppression.  Unfortunately, in spite of the security in being a NATO country (since 2004), by sharing a border with Belarus and Russia it has a constant reminder of its vulnerable geographical position.

Nevertheless, Latvia thrives. Its KGB museums are not rewriting history like the gulag museum in Perm in the Urals.  Last week I blogged about how the Russians continue to confabulate their own history. In Latvia, they remember the past and they sure don’t want to repeat it. Repression in countries, like repression in people, leads to illness, unhappiness and isolation. 

I’m grateful for the privilege of exploring historical Riga …a beautiful Hanseatic League port. Now it’s a place where NATO troops gather to prepare for another possible takeover. Why can’t the neighbours just mind their own business?

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