Czechs apparently cannot distinguish Latvia from Lithuania. Tsk tsk. But can we really blame them? I mean, do I really know the difference between the two? I've decided to make one of my travel tasks finding out some easy and memorable ways to distinguish Estonia's southern Baltic sisters from one another. Estonia doesn't seem to have this problem, probably because it doesn't start with an "L" and the Estonian language is quite different from Latvian and Lithuanian (which are both Baltic languages). Here's a map of Latvia for reference:
The capital city Riga is one thing that is unique to Latvia. It's the biggest city in the Baltics and also has a reputation as a party city. I've been in Riga since Thursday night, so almost 3 days. My reaction was lukewarm at first, but I'm warming up to the city. Perhaps my initially lukewarm reception was in part because I transitioned to true backpacker mode here, that is, staying in a hostel with 8-10 beds in a room and absolutely NO privacy. But these are good places to meet other travelers and be social.
Among the interesting things here in Riga is one of the largest indoor markets in Europe. The roof of the building was recycled from old Zeppelin hangars from western Latvia. It's HUGE!
A lot more Russians live here than in Estonia, and there seems to be less national pride than in Estonia. They chronicle their complicated history of Soviet and German occupation in the Occupation Museum behind this very Soviet-looking statue:
And yes, the night life. It's actually a bit hard to not go out. The popular beer is Cēsu (the diacritic over the"e" means that you pronounce the vowel longer). There is also a local liquor called balzams, which is very strong and sort of tastes like cough syrup. I'm sticking with the Cēsu: