International TravelThings I LoveThings You Should Know

EASTERN EUROPE & RUSSIA (PART 3) — RIGA & KLAIPEDA

IMG_0392

Did you know that some countries require an International Driving Permit (IDP) in order to rent a car? I apparently skipped over that part when I booked our car with Hertz. Ooopsie.

Per the previous post from this trip, we rented a car in Tallinn for the drive to Riga and beyond.  I found out about the IDP when we were at the Hertz office.  Certainly we cannot be the first people to overlook this minor detail. My thinking was we would apply on the spot, like we did when we suddenly needed a Visa last year (see post). Nope; they require a hard copy of the document even if it could be obtained. Of course, maybe — just maybe — they will reluctantly rent the car IF we sign a waiver and pay an extra 20 Euros per day and assume all liability. Remember the advice from that last post?? Don’t take “no” for an answer.

Had this been my first driving experience in a foreign country, I might have thought twice. But this is about the 20th country so what the heck. I will be extra careful!

Springtime in Riga

The drive from Tallinn to Riga is about 4 hours on very decent roads. We were in a brand new Toyota Land Cruiser with built-in GPS so it was a comfortable and easy drive. Our hotel is in the old part of Riga, a city of some 700,000. Right away we got a sense that this was going to be better than Tallinn with a lot to see. I had booked us for dinner at Vincent’s — rated the #1 restaurant in Riga; deservedly so. This is a serious establishment with serious food, service and excellent presentations. The reputation is well deserved and should have a Michelin star.

Dessert at Vincent’s in Riga

We hired a guide for half of one day who took us on a walking tour through the center of the old town; the Riga Synagogue — the only one that survived here as the others were burned down in 1941, some with congregants still inside; and on to the Central Market, and Holocaust Memorial.  A cousin on my mom’s side had emailed me of my family’s history in Riga so it was especially touching to be there.  Fortunately they were long gone prior to the war.  While the effects of the war and Communism are apparent in historical details, the city is bustling and thriving in the freedom obtain barely 25+ years ago.

Last surviving synagogue in Riga — hundreds of thousands murdered in the war.
Riga Synagogue with shamas (guide); photo notwithstanding, he was hilarious.
Holocaust Memorial; Riga
Central Market in Riga

 

View from 26th floor of the tower — slightly higher than the Eiffel.

The second and last terrific dinner in Riga was at Biblioteka No. 1, which setting is — you guessed it — a library.  Stocked bookshelves surround the tables with big windows looking out on a park-like setting.  The food was delicious!  Traveling companion Julie is a major fish lover and swore by the freshness of the sturgeon, gravlax and pike perch, among others.  My ox cheek was fabulous and the composed dessert of mango and pinapple flavors with sculpted meringue == wow.  See below!

Beautiful setting in the park
Pike Perch
Dinner in Riga at Biblioteka
Dessert — mango, pineapple, meringue at Biblioteka

I routed us for an overnight in the coastal town of Klaipeda which was fine, but not much to report about.  Julie enjoyed the small Jewish sites there.  It is a stopping point for the cruise ships who offer day tours to Vilnius and other parts not too far away.  Separate from experiencing a lot of the Latvia/Lithuanian area, there wasn’t much to see.  But big things awaited us as we continued on to our next destination:  Vilnius.

Inventive doorhangers; best I can say about the hotel in Klaipeda