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If you think you’ve got what it takes, you should ask for a wake-up call at the hotel where I stayed in Riga.  It was a wake-up call, yes, the phone certainly rang.  It was so much more, though, brothers and sisters.  The phone rang at an inconvenient time, and stopped before I could reach it.  Five minutes later, the door was shuddering from kicks, ham-fists, a battering ram, I don’t know.  It was taking a beating.  I jumped out of the shower, tried to get arrayed enough to open the door, and got there in time for… nothing.  Nobody was there, the crack-troops having displaced to some new staging area.  I mulled over but hadn’t decided what the nature of the attack was.  Someone was overly enthusiastic about their wake-up procedures, or else there was some unrelated calamity awaiting my attention.  Surely it could wait a few minutes.  Shrugging, I turned to rooting around for some clothes.  Unwisely, as it turns out, I had not first called the front-desk.  Having failed to do so, I ensured that there would be a third, final and ultimately successful attack on my room.  This one was done with Special-Forces stealth, an allegedly pre-announced key-card entry but which resulted in no small embarrassment all around.  I was already laughing about it by the time I related the siege to the front-desk folks, and right then and there asked NOT to be woken up the following morning.

I finished reading “Dogs of Riga” by Henning Mankell while still in Estonia prior to getting here.  It is a Cold War novel, albeit about fictional events in the days leading up to the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Make-believe aside, you could

Mankell - The Dogs of Riga

do worse than to read this book as a prelude to a visit.  I liked the mood it put me in, and I let my imagination take me somewhere other than Riga’s present.  I admit, I looked everywhere for signs of Detective Wallender’s haunts as described by the book, without much luck.  “Double Coffee” and other flashy touristy places have shoved aside the harsh austerity that must have been a facet of Wallender’s Riga.  This place does, though, still retain a certain Soviet flavor that Tallinn seems mostly to have rinsed and spit out.  I’ll try to think of a fitting description of Riga for you in the days to come.

I cannot with a straight face call the couple of days’-worth of meetings I had in Riga “work”, but as they were the only events really keeping me in the capital, their conclusion came to me like amnesty to a gun-runner.  I am free to go.  I look forward to telling you about a couple of great destinations in the days to come.  The first will be about Cĕsis (pronounced TSAYsis), a nice town to the east of Riga with its very own castle of the Livonian Knight era from the early 13th century.  The second is out on the Baltic coast, in Liepaja (LeeyaPAHya).  Most-frequented in the summer, Liepaja is a resort town which doubles as the home of Latvia’s Navy.  It also has some decaying coastal forts and defensive works that the Soviets used and which now function as an “Escape from the USSR” adventure game site for fit, crazy tourists.  Stick around.

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