We’re still a little in the shock zone of getting bus blocked by Bitchface but have now moved on to just laughing about how stupid this situation is. “So we’re just gonna go anywhere”, “Yep, that’s right”, “Where are we gonna stay?”, “Anywhere. There’s got to be a place to stay anywhere”, “Three tickets to anywhere in Latvia?”, “That’s right”, “What the fuck, this is ridiculous”, “It sure is.”
We get up to the Metro ticketing counter and are still convulsing in man giggles at the idea. MacKay gives it a go, “Three tickets to anywhere, please. Is there a nice place near here? Maybe within an hour away?” Unfortunately, the girl behind the glass doesn’t speak a lick of English. “Three tickets. Anywhere in Latvia. One hour away?” She has no idea what we’re asking of her. We’re scanning the map above her for place names that sound interesting. There’s a line forming behind us. Damn, getting tickets to Anywhere is harder than I thought.
A nice guy behind us can see the lady is having trouble understanding and offers to translate, “Where do you guys want to go?”, “We don’t know. What would you recommend? Some place nice within an hour of here”, “You will just get on the train to any place?”, “Yes, do you know a good place? We’ll just go there.” He looks at his girlfriend slightly perplexed but also smiling because it’s just so unusual and silly. “Maybe you will like Jūrmala. It is close. Beachside resort town”, “Yes! Sounds perfect. Your Mala?”, “Yes, Jūrmala”, “Yer mula?”, “Jūrmala”, “Yoor Mala, great. We’ll go there. Thank you so much”, “Yes yes of course”, “We’re not fugitives, I promise”, “Haha no no. It’s ok. Ok.”
We turn back to the ticket lady, “Three tickets to Jūrmala, please.”
Boom! Leaves in ten minutes. Three tickets to anywhere.
Three tickets to anywhere? That’s car five
We hop on the train and set down the backpacks. “Feels good to be going anywhere”, “Feels good to get out of Riga. I think Latvia deserves another evening anyways”, “True. Wonder what Jūrmala has to offer”, “Looks like there’s a nice beach there”, “We’ll find something to get into I’m sure.”
The train ride is dark and the rain is really coming on now. Can’t see much out the windows but we pass through the West side of Riga and out along the coast. We’re looking up crash pads for the night without much luck. Might be one near a stop called Vaivari. Good enough. We get off there.
Wow totally different vibe out here, more rural for sure. Old wooden houses and wide open country-style roads. We cut through a slippery root-strewn path in the woods and it comes out on a side street with some fenced in houses. Just to spite our stupid ‘plan’ the rain decides to open right up. Finally getting to test out that waterproof Tortuga. We set off towards some promising lodging prospects.
Hmmm not much coming up on the Hosdar. Maybe flip on the Bardar instead and see what’s up. Down the wet road a smidge there’s a large place with lights on and a bar. Prospekts 55. Could be apartments above or maybe a hotel. Worth a look. “Wonder if there’s any good Prospekts”, “Har!”
We walk in sopping wet. The place looks like an upscale restaurant. It’s totally empty and a girl comes around the corner to the bar when she hears the door. She immediately looks confused. “This wouldn’t happen to also be a hotel would it?”, “No, no. A restaurant”, “Ah well, good try. You serving drinks?”, “Yes, would you like something?”, “A few beers I suppose. What’s your name?”, “My name is Maggie. Are you guys lost?”, “Funny story…”
Maggie pours us three Valmiermuiza dark lagers and is chuckling at us, “I don’t think you will find a place to stay. This is summer place. Beach resorts”, “Nothing? There has to be something”, “Maybe the Daina is open”, “Ok, we’ll go have a look there”, “It is about 32 minutes walk”, “That’s very precise. Are all Latvians so precise? 32 minutes in the rain. Sounds great.”
Still smiling at our plight, Maggie sets three glasses on the counter and starts pouring a white liquor into them, “Here. This will help keep you warm for the walk”, “32 minutes of warmth?”, “Yes, at least. For free, please”, “Cheers Maggie. Bottoms up!”
“Yowza. Like a licorice vodka. What is it?”, “Allažu ķimelis, traditional Latvian. It is Allasch”, “Allasch?”, “Yes, Allasch”, “Packs a punch. Could we maybe get a few beers from you for the road too?”, “Haha yes, of course. Same?”, “Yep, these’ll do. 32 minutes so… maybe six?” Maggie laughs and sets us up with a six-pack of road rockets. “Thanks Maggie, have a good night!”, “Good luck tonight.”
We get saddled up and back out into the rain. Hasn’t let up. We set a bearing East for the Daina. It’s a nice walk by the woods. We can hear the water somewhere off on our left. There are some massive old mansions out here. “None of these are places to stay?”, “Nope. Doesn’t appear that way. Nice places though”
A little further and we’re on a narrow road with just woods on either side. “You sure this is the right way?”, “Ahhh yeah, I think so. But also, maybe no”, “Doesn’t look too promising”, “No it does not. At least we have beers.”
After this spooky stretch we come to another small strip of places. “So we haven’t eaten anything today”, “Oh yeah, good point”, “That place there looks like it might be open”, “Yep, let’s take a peek.” It has a sort of cabin look to it. Don’t see anyone about but there are still lights on.
Sweet, there are a couple of people in here eating. Looks like they’re still serving. A server gets us seated and we order some beer. Traditional Latvian food, nailed it. Nice spot.
Our tuxedo-shirted server is a tall gentleman named Yurri with a welcoming demeanor. I tell him about a fella I used to work with at Peggy’s Cove who was also name Yurri. An old wiry fella who swore he was in good health because he was always doing pushups in the snow. In his boxers. “Push-ups? In the snow?”, “Yeah, mostly naked. Weird guy now that I think about it. So what would you recommend?”, “What are you looking for?”, “Traditional Latvian. Maybe just pick a few plates. Whatever you’d recommend”, “It is all traditional…” Yurri points out a few things. Borscht, Shashlik, and something called Garni-jarah. “Perfect. We’ll have those.”
The Borscht is perfect for this silly rainy night. Slightly sour taste, so good.
Shashlik turns out to be delicious lamb skewers and… ketchup?
The Garni-jarah is like a… minced meat with pickled onions and eggplant.. thing. It’s also delicious.
Well this worked out. Cheers! Hopefully we’ll get this lucky on a place to crash too.
Yurri tells us he is sorry but the place is closing soon. We finish up and ask him if we can get some beers to go (guess that’s our thing now). He comes back with another six road rockets in a bag. Atta boy.
“Dude, you gotta check out the bathroom”, “Where is it?”, “Not telling. You gotta find it”, “Ahhh sure. Guess I’m on the case…”
I follow some signs out into the garden. No obvious bathroom out here. Hmm wait a sec. Down here? I track a slippy stone stairwell down under a tree. No lights. Find a tiny door. It opens into a small bathroom space under the tree. What the hell? I barely fit in here but MacKay was right. Well worth the experience.
Alright, this mission to Jūrmala is ending up about as random and ridiculous as can be expected. Making gold out of pig shit. Gotta find this Daina Hotel place next. It’s getting late, hopefully it’s still open. Man, this rain won’t quit. We crack the Yurri beers and head back to the street.
Found it! It’s across a field, so instead of walking further down the street we duck under a wire fence and shuffle through an abandoned lot. Can’t see shit, it’s fine, fine, fine. Alright let’s see if this place is open. We get into the foyer and there are barely any lights on. There’s a maze of paintings to walk through before getting to the front desk. Must be an art exhibit of some sort. No one here. Hmmm. Ding ding goes the desk bell. A young guy comes out and asks what’s up. “Any rooms available?”, “Ahh yes sure. Two rooms?”, “Just one room will be fine. One of us can sleep on the floor”, “Ahhh I don’t think we can do that”, MacKay pulls some Jedi Mind Trick shit, “It’s fine, it’s fine. It’s late, you know. Just need a place to crash…” I leave to go check out the art while they sort this out.
Strange collection. It’s all over the place.
The boys sort out the lodging and we take our stuff up the stairs. There are no lights on in the hall and it’s pitch black, “What the fuck?”, “Is this a horror movie?” We hit the phone flashlights and nav to the room. Two beds, bathroom and a balcony. This’ll do. Doesn’t seem like there’s a single other person in this place so we crack out the Bose, crank the tunes, pop another Yurri beer and settle in. Success!
“Damn we’re almost out, be right back”, MacKay returns with three bottles of champagne. It’s terrible. Super sweet. MacKay rushes off to the shitter and pukes a bit. I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised about the quality of Latvian champagne.
After our patio drinks during the day and the accumulation of road rockets we’ve managed to pile a decent buzz on. Not much happening in Jūrmala in the fall though. What to do? “Walk to the Baltic?”, “Oh yeah! It’s right there.”
So we grab what’s left of the beverages and sneak back through the dark hallway, down the steps, through the art maze and out the doors. Still raining. We go down a side street and spot a wooden walkway through the woods. Right direction. Let’s see where it goes. It’s a cool wooden bridge through the woods. Slippery as smeared seal shit. It emerges right out onto a fantastic, long white sand beach. YES!
The Baltic Sea sitting right there. Gotta dip the tootsies in. Cold!
Ah this is great. Some late night beers on the beach in some rando-town in Latvia.
Waaay down the coast, like ten clicks down, there’s something that could be a bar, but it could just as easily be an oil refinery. We briefly debate heading down there but decide it’s probably not the best move.
We take it in for a bit before sneaking back into the hotel to our terrible champagne in the room. We wind things down on the patio shaking our heads at how ludicrous the day turned out. “Three tickets to anywhere in Latvia. That’s so stupid”, ‘Yep. Worked out though. In a weird way.”
“To Bitchface?” Glasses up. “To Bitchface.”