Baltic Postcards – Galerija Istaba

Live Music in Galerija Istaba

Dear All,

The weather in Riga has been great the last week, even though it is raining now. And next to that, we had two visits of friends. It is nice to show our guests around the Riga we know it, and to share what have become great candidates for favorite places – the beach in Jurmala, the view from the Skyline bar, Kronvalda Parks etcetera.

And of course, having people over is a good opportunity to drive/walk around and discover new places of interest. That is how we got to have dinner at Galerija Istaba a few weeks back. This weekend, we visited it again and we like it even more. It’s a restaurant with only a few tables, above a shop where you can buy cool things. The shop closes at the end of the day, but the restaurant part still gives you a good view of it. As a starter you get a ultra fresh salad, with bread and some spreads. For mains, you can choose between different types of meat or fish. I ordered the lamb, while the rest of our party of three had the gambas. There is no menu, and you have no say about how your food is prepared. But when you get it, you know it is only for the better. It all is excellent. Plus, we were extra lucky this visit. In the shop area below, there seemed to be a party of sorts going on, with great live music – jazzy with a parisian tone. It was a great evening and Istaba is really hard on it’s way of becoming our favourite restaurant in town.

Cheers from Riga,

There Goes The Knee, Or We Are All Getting Older

Yesterday I went out to play some football. It must have been about ten years ago I did that for the last time, so I was excited. I expected to be in bad shape and rusty, very rusty, but it went better than I gave myself credit for beforehand. I could still control the ball a couple of times, pass an opponent, hand off the ball to a team mate, and even score a goal or two. Although it was just a bunch of guys kicking the ball around, the match was rather exciting. We got behind, then got ahead again, until we got behind again. In the last 7 minutes we equalized, and pulled in front. At one point, with about a minute and a half on the clock, I got a high ball. I was in between three guys from the other team. But that wouldn’t be a problem. I was going to control the ball, turn, loose the three opponents, pass the ball to a free team mate who would give the final blow.

It didn’t happen like that, of course. I’m not that good, and I aged a bit. So, what actually happened was that when I tried to control the ball, I twisted my left knee so badly I could hear it crack. In the hospital they told me I had torn (or severely strained, which seems more likely) some of my knee ligaments. I am in pain now, have a knee immobilizer, can barely walk and will be back to normal in about 6 weeks. So no running for a while, no football and no participation in the Riga half marathon. And these first days I put an extra strain on my dear, personal, Florence Nightingale, who’s absolutely taking great care of me. But all in all, the feeling of roughly 58 minutes of pure football fun was worth it.

Skirt Day 2010

Spring officially starts around the 20th of March (in the northern hemisphere) and has to do with the tilting of the earth’s axis towards the sun, lengthening the days. It is when nature comes back to life after hibernation. In the Netherlands, though, we had a somewhat literary tradition that marked the ‘real’ first day of spring. Columnist and writer Martin Bril was always the one calling this first day of spring. In his definition, the first day of spring, called skirt day, was that day when as if by some sort of mystical sign, women collectively decided to shed their winter outfits, leave their panty hoses in their drawers and wear skirts for the first time that year. Skirt day, or ‘rokjesdag’ in Dutch, is not about women wearing more revealing clothes, but about the impression that they are tuned in to some message of nature that there is one day that actually marks the start of the sunny weather season. A message men do not know about, until they see it on the streets by the fact that women collectively wear skirts that day. Or maybe, it is about the perception of men. By the way, the phenomenon was also referenced by Dutch beer Wieckse Witte in a commercial.

But things sort of change. Living in a country with a different meteorological rhythm, makes that skirt day is on another day here than in the Netherlands. Above that, the last time that Martin Bril called skirt day was last year in April, 20 days before he passed away. Nevertheless, yesterday was a really beautiful day here in Riga. The weather was great, people were outside in the parks and on the streets. And it really looked like women collectively had shed their winter outfits. So, in honour of Martin Bril, I call yesterday Latvia’s 2010 Rokjesdag.

Baltic Postcards – Touring Around Vilnius

Vilnius View

Dear friends,

B and I walked up the three crosses hill this time. It was a warm walk, because the temperature is really rising in the Baltics now. Yesterday, when we drove down to Vilnius, we could almost see the temperature rise on the on board thermometer. Vilnius is about 300 km south of Riga, and more land inward, so it should not be that surprising. But it was nice anyway. On the top of the three crosses hill, just by the three crosses, we had a bit of a rest after enjoying the great view over Vilnius. If the weather is clear enough, this is certainly a nice thing to do while in Vilnius.

After that, and a lunch, we went for a little drive north. About 26 kilometers from Vilnius, in the direction of Moletai, the geographical center of Europe can be found. A group of scientists from the French National Geographic Institute calculated in 1989 that the center of Europe is at 54º54’N – 25º19’E, which places it close to Vilnius. A stone, the European flags, a compass card and a work of art mark this place, which is now surrounded by a golf course. B and I were the only visitors, but maybe we were so lucky as to just miss the bus loads of tourists. At lunch we saw several of these groups in the center of Vilnius.

When we returned to Riga, it turned out that the weather there had improved as well. Let’s hope it sticks.

Warm regards,