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Name: Melissa

About Me

Countries Visited (not including Turnarounds): Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Great Britain, Greece, Iceland, India, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Latvia, Libya, Lithuania, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, Moldova, Monaco, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, North Korea, Philippines, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United States, Vatican City

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London | Perth | Sydney | Melbourne

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Skin by Falter

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Thursday, March 24, 2011
So when I received my March roster last month I saw something I have rarely seen since I became a First Class crew member - 4 consecutive days off. Not only were they 4 days off, they were both buffered by rest days, and the first thing I did was check Trip Advisor for cheap hotels to stay in - I just wanted to get out of Dubai and do something different. A place I had never been before, that I was certain my airline were not going to start flights to anytime soon. The destination was clear - Riga.

I fell in love with Baltic Europe back in 2002 after seeing footage from this documentary being filmed in Tallinn, Estonia. After spending half of my leave there in 2009 I knew that I couldn't give up this job and these benefits without seeing Latvia and Lithuania as well. Hotels in Lithuania were for some reason more expensive (probably some convention happening there) and the weather was colder, so that will have to wait until my next impulse ticket purchase.

Of course I travelled Standby, which for me is a horrible experience, and wish that I had the earning capacity to purchase the firm tickets instead. Business Standby was the best I could do with a month's notice, and the day of departure I checked the loads - they weren't looking good. I then decided to go to the official Lufthansa site and attempt to purchase full fare tickets - First and Business were blocked, but Economy tickets were still for sale - I still had a chance! After a good 2 hours of freaking out, and seeing the ground staff weigh hand luggage in addition to everyone’s checked luggage, I finally caved and volunteered to travel in Economy.

After being reassured that I was definitely reaching Riga, and after a very interesting conversation with the taxi driver, I arrived at my hotel. First time I booked myself a studio apartment, and I was very impressed... They had a dual stove top, which would have been really handy to boil up some Pelmeni for dinner, but they provided everything except some saucepans and fry pans. Nice. So when I got settled I decided to wander around the Old Town to familiarise myself.

House of Blackheads

Statue outside House of Blackheads

Riga Dome/City Hall

Museum of Occupations

Statue outside Museum of Occupations

St Peters Church

Riga Dom/Cathedral

Legend of Riga

Swedbank Building, location of the Skybar

Vansu Bridge

The next day I decided to take a free walking tour around Riga, which I really enjoyed as it was spent as little in the Old town as possible. You got to see a lot of the suburbs, the different districts and especially the gorgeous Art Nouveau the city is notorious for.

Engelis, my tour guide. Very cool, very funny guy.

Old Central Market. home to 5 of the world's 9 Zeppelin hangars Awesome Place.

Haul from the central market. Honey Roulade cake, Laima strawberry cream chocolates, wooden teaspoon, sheepskin foot inserts, sheep's wool foot inserts (the only things that would stop my toes getting frozen in my Wellies) and 4 slices of bread. I saw this and kept wondering why more bakeries don't sell in single portion slices, would stop all my lovely bread from going mouldy when I fly on trips and stop wastage.

Academy of Arts and Sciences

Night market. You can apparently go in here at 3am and buy a sack of potatoes and no one will ask questions.

Random wooden house. It had some significance, but I totally forgot what it was. I think it got burned down 2-3 times and re-built. Because Latvians, being Pagans, love to burn things down.

Wooden Church. Also was burnt down several times. Made of wood so that the Latvians could burn it down in the event of a Napoleonithic invasion so it wouldn’t be used as a fort.

A Snowman! We never get these back home, and definitely not in Dubai.

Holocaust Memorial

Freedom Monument

On my final day I wanted to backtrack a bit from Engelis’ tour and see some things in more depth, plus see what I thought was worth looking at that the tour didn’t cover and what had been recommended to be by others.

A nice use of mosaics

Pilsetas canal, near the Opera House, all iced up. The Daugava was pretty iced up as well, and you could see snow prints on the ice, but considering the temperature was hovering between 2-8 degrees in the middle of the day it looked a little risky to be walking on that ice.

Cool Street Sculptures

Small bridge over the Pilsetas canal. I found it quite cute that they were covered in all sorts of padlocks.

Opera House

Laima Clock. The meeting point for many a bus tour.

Nativity Russian Orthodox Cathedral

My attempt of a creative shot of the Freedom Monument.

Powder Tower

And for the food! Double Coffee goods –

Coffee. That’s strawberry on the bottom BTW. Very tasty, but if you need a caffeine hit this isn’t the place.

Potato cakes with Pork. If there was pork on the menu I’d eat it. I guess being a bit restricted with pork choice in Dubai has given me a craving for it over the past 4 days. The quality of it in Latvia is just amazing. The potato cakes were super-oily though, typical winter food.

Pelmeni XL. Ever since I started operating Moscow layovers I’ve been in love with Pelmeni. I made an attempt at making them a few months but failed spectacularly, particularly with the rolling of the dough, and getting it even (I’ve since discovered that they use a water glass to cut the circles, which is far too easy for a smart girl like me to think of!) and now I just buy them at Spunneys. I also bought 2 packets with me to take back to Dubai, but by the time I reached my apartment one packet had amalgamated into one big meat-dough mass and was totally unusable. The other survivied though, and I've since managed to cook it on board with the Double Beef Consomme and some sour cream from the soup garnish in First Class.

One place that doesn’t have a photo here that I have to write about is the Latgalite Flea Market, which is open every day until 3. It’s the Russian market, and notorious for having a lot of soviet-era nostalgia for sale. It’s also the known place in Riga for selling counterfeit items, (I guess the most notable I saw was an iPhone 3) so if I did take pictures I’d probably get beaten up. The items they have for sale is just unbelievable – Soviet medals, pins, paraphernalia from 1980 Moscow Olympics, Army outfits, including stripes and genuine hats, old passports, pre-WW2 documents, even gas masks! I think it would have to rank as the single most awesome shop I’ve ever been to in my life! But as it’s a flea market it was outdoors, and subject to the elements, so the ground is quite muddy, and I had on my trusty pink wellies on. The most random moment for me what when some very nice men were trying to flog me some gun parts in Russian for 5 Lats. I think if I went through with the purchase it would be a little difficult to explain to airport security what Soviet-made gun parts are doing in my luggage.

It’s not unknown to some of the most passionate readers of this here blog that I dabble in a bit of Lo-Fi photography once in a while, so whilst in this dingy-but-cool market you can understand my elation when I scored one of these...

A rusty Smena 8M. I checked all the functions and it still appears to be in working order, but I think I’ll take it with me to Houston with a soon-to-expire roll of film and just take some test shots. If it does work it’ll be the biggest score, because I paid all of 2 Lats for it, which is only $4.00 USD! On they’re flogging these for £80 refurbished! If I get the film developed and it doesn’t work, or taping it up won’t stop the light leaks, then at least it’ll look cool on the shelf at home in Dubai. Visitors will start asking questions for sure!

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