This list is a comparison with the UK. So please don’t have a go at me if you have lots in your country of residence. The list is in no particular order, just as they enter my mind.
- STORKS – You see them everywhere, even at the fringes of Riga. Driving to work this morning I noticed all the storks had gone, and the countryside could have been anywhere. It’s the storks that define the Latvian countryside.
- VERY ATTRACTIVE WOMEN – For a small country Latvia has more than it’s fair share of beautiful women. The only problem is I keep getting in trouble when I look. I try to remind Inta of something my mum used to say, “I’ll start to worry when your dad steps looking.” The implication being that dad would have a mistress. I don’t think Inta buys this explanation.
- SAD BUILDINGS – Riga has lots of lovely interesting buildings that desperately need renovating. It’s not that they are unloved, it’s just down to the economics of a fledgling democracy.
- CAKES – It’s a bit like being in France. Every supermarket has a huge range of probably very fattening but delicious cakes. As Latvians start to lead a more westernised existence, perhaps health problems could be on the way.
- LAKES AND FORESTS – I don’t know the exact figure but I suspect half Latvia’s land mass must be Lakes or forests. So if you are travelling have your costume and towel on standby and a nice wicker basket so you can go foraging.
- CYCLISTS ON PAVEMENTS/SIDEWALKS – This is a pet hate of mine. Pavements are for pedestrians not for any other form of transport. Mixing cyclist and pedestrians is just a disaster waiting to happen.
- FLOWER SELLERS – I deliberately haven’t called them florists because they just sell flowers. In the centre of Riga there is a row of them who seen to be open from dawn to late night. Inta said they used to be open 24/7, don’t know if they still are. The giving of flowers is a major part of Latvian culture. I was privileged to be invited to a Latvian students graduation. I have never seen so many flowers at one time. Every student, male and female, had arms full of them.
- BAD DRIVING – Enough has been said on this issue
- LADAS – Yes you will still see quite a few around Riga, some renovated and some falling apart.
- COBBLED ROADS – They may look very pretty, but I hate to think what they are doing to my car suspension.
- BEACHES – The whole of the Latvia coastline is a beach.
- NON-ASPHALT ROADS – Lots of these in the countryside so be prepared to wash your car regularly.
I’d be interested to hear from Latvians about additions to the list.