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GETTING TO KNOW THIS UNKNOWN LAND OF NORTHERN EUROPE RIGA, Latvia Situated in the cusp of the Baltic Sea an area on earth which has not marked its presence noticed specially for Indians since their idea has always hovered with Switzerland as Europe‌.Latvia with Riga is a part of New Europe (to mark it distinct from Michael Pallin’s idea of New Europe) which laid dormant for years due to their resilient nature. A true jewel from landscapic north of Europe, as much, and as like its Amber deposits rushed in 2000 BC. Lativa today, is a new country with a short past making it a wise and quaint part of Europe to travel to, without that burden of arrogance which one may see in the West Europe and that neglected care of the East Europe. Of its communist and struggled separation from the Soviet times, its newly acquired EU status is a good start to make it qualify for a tourism gig since people there speak good english and are just setting it fine to welcome new


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guests. Although still not yet as a popular tourist destination, it is a good pick for those who want to understand and feel Europe as a continent and not only from the eyes of Yash Chopra and Shahrukh Khan ! Largely quiet population they need to be befriended..and as you travel in those towns don’t be surprised if they come to understand the idea of being an Indian as someone who exists as a mythical figure‌.a hangover which many are overcoming. Baltics as in true sense delivers that folkloric part of Europe. If you have a need for one, then these silent small towns are a good venue to feel in Europe and be more relaxed compared to the demanding trails of Paris or Milan which demands something which I have accounted as social pressure leading into a slight inferiority complex while you walk into their alleys and streets. This tight and inhibitive nature goes for a toss as people are more near to their natural self rather than their pretentious selves in the Baltics.

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///// FIRST THING TO KNOW ///// Latvia intends to set itself for tourism as ‘Best Enjoyed Slowly’ a tourism drive which will prepare you to relax with this travel. Enjoy some series of short films to get to know it first at The Latvian Tourism portal : http://www.latvia.travel/film/en

/// HOW TO GET STARTED /// Your first point of contact should be the official site of the city tourism : LIVE RIGA - a lively, colorful and widely informative tourism portal to crack those unsettling apprehensions still hovering in your mind for Riga !

/// HOW TO REACH /// While some national airlines will bet to take you there, I will think to recommend this new fresh and young flyer : Air Baltic - an airline to trust for connectivity, Riga as a base, it connects to almost every other city in the region and nearby. One can trust their airport transfer

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shuttles too, which can be seen quite often within the town besides a handsome genuine baggage allowance for the price ! For other connectivities, the best is to grab a look at the Riga International Airport.

/// RIGA AT FIRST SIGHT TO ME /// Although at the onset, Riga did not impress with its city center with a daunting shopping mall much to leave the Pushkin feel of the town a little unfriendly. But over time I have come to an agreement to convince myself this being due to the late arrival to Riga from Vilnius, Lithuania. On the trip with the very efficient Lux Express bus which could offer you a ticket as low as 3 euro for inter-country/ intercity transfers‌I am fully convinced to recommend their Simple Express service which is a decent, clean on-time and very immaculately run experience covering the important towns of the Baltics almost to everyone’s convenience connecting Europe to Russia - spanning from Warsaw - Vilnius - Riga - Tallinn - St. Petersburg. On top trust them to offer electric

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plug points even in this incredibly priced offers to move up your ipod or notebooks to listen to your perfect music while brisking through the landscape - a MUST DO experience. Put in your most loved inspiration music and sift through the trip….I chose Iris Peg from Niladri Kumar, Priority by Desert Rain track since I was escaping from the Milanese rush into the roots of more natural and my own Indian sounds….in need for some inspiration for the next year to come. Although later while I recount, a part of the reason that Riga seemed haunting in the beginning had been with the reason that the hostel accommodation I had reserved (although being low priced) was below standards of normal expected service. So, get your bookings right to avoid such unpleasant feelings where your neighbourhood although being in a beautiful old city center could leave you feel a bit insecure. With a humble glare this can be YOUR RIGA….(to love) in snippets.

///// RIGA - THE TOWN /////

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One has to realize that Riga lives with two hearts - old called Vecriga and a new one. Although the new part will not impress due to its old hanging communist feel, there are certainly some few works of architecture which speak a lot because of their grandeur at display with its Art Nouveau taste. I guess, the weather was there to make a strong decision from me to venture out in the hailingly wet snowy outdoors for those 36 hours in Riga. But a part of that resilience I had succumbed to earlier with the unhappy accommodation‌it convinced me that there must be some energy in this little dark town ! And that was accrued a little outside Vecriga, in specific to 2 zones, one on the east side of the river Daugava, where Vecriga attaches itself on the banks, while the other on the west, Kalncinema Iela. The little creative entrepreneurial street of Miera Iela (Iela, meaning street‌you’ll soon get to get a hang of it!) has some of the very young creative initiatives popping into lighten up the dead space of the city in an otherwise redundant quarter of the town housing only the Latvian chocolate company

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Laima which is now a Baltic chocolatier giant. Perhaps something original Rigan to take home as gifts!

/// RIGA NATURAL or NATURAL RIGA /// But there shall be one feeling taking place by the end of your trip to Riga….its love for things - all NATURAL. Perhaps a latest fad, but you will get to see Latvia’s love with things natural and its affliction towards Natural products.

/// A KIND PROPOSAL TO GET A BIRD’S EYE VIEW /// The new Rigan landmark monument - The Riga Radio and Television Tower which allows you to visit it, till the observation deck at 97 meters above Zakusala - the city’s highest viewing point open to public, could do for those who are into typical voyeur experiences. But what I had reserved this journey for………has essentially to do……… to get to know the Baltics into their skin deep. And in that feel, I accorded Riga to fill me with its CREATIVITY, a new series of

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desired experiences that I have started exploring with the last 3 years of traveling career. Thus, I am sure not to fail the readers of the touch of Riga, as and when, they spend their 36 hours in the town as “Those 36 Creative hours in Riga”.

/// WHAT IS IT I AM TALKING ABOUT /// I sensed this city with its creative soul in hand and since unlike its quite an urban theme to swim with, my trail besides the suggested tourist trails meanders with specific interests in mind. I had learnt that its the new touch of creativity which is at the moment to be discovered and thus I started to hop in the town for those clues which will make me get convinced that what I heard was right ! If I can confirm that I consider my 36 hours well spent ! Forwarding here, one can find those results seen, spotted, perceived and best regarded…

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// The 3 most creative places to learn from // 1. The very young Arthus, a 22 year young old chap running his passionate first entrepreneurial Vintage store, ZESTORE, with all love and flair that may give any 35 year new entrepreneur a run for its feel and touch !

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2. RIIJA - Riga’s very own Concept Store, stocking the best of barn styles linen clothes, household objects and locally made products imbibing Latvian soul and feel. Much japanese but much latvian. 3. Tasa - A colorful creative laboratory where you can also buy their creations as and when made, with wool.

/// The ORIGINAL NATURAL dig in Riga /// Pienene : The local manufacture from Latvia stocking best of local cosmetics produced naturally, also bright space for a cafe. The store from toys to daily consumables all locally from their network of 16 manufacturers. At Kungu Iela 3/9.

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/// YOUR MUST TRY CAFE /// Cafe Miera, run by a young MBA graduate with her mom in an ambience of class and elegance. The interiors are white and carry a lot of attitude for that break while hopping in Miera Iela (At No. 9)

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/// YOUR BEST SOUVENIR DRINK /// Black Rigan Balsam - traditional Latvian drink - The award winning, very herbal and very aromatic Liquer made and exported to over 30 countries- , made in Vodka base by Litvijas Balzama .

/// YOUR TRUSTWORTHY EATERY JOINT /// Cili Pica 1822 - Their chain restaurant serving good quality food in nice

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ambience, also found in Vilnius. The Baltic version of Pizza hut, I would come to say.

/// THAT UPCOMING DESIGN DISTRICT /// Kalnciema iela quarter, is Riga’s very own design district, set amidst traditional wooden house preserved and well kept (UNESCO’s credit), still in use as either business offices, studios, the district maybe a little bus ride from Vecriga, but can assure you with a satiating experience…rest you can entertain at their Wine shop or the restaurant. But one thing which you may not wish to miss….are their Saturday day fairs - a bazaar of all good and nice from Riga !

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/// 10 YOUNG KITTY GIFTS FROM LATIVA /// (must picks for your bags)

Your dose of the Young creative brands making ideas click from the Latvian soil, selected for your quick dropping (in the order from Essentials to purchasable) :

1. ORIGINALLY CREATIVE -The unmissable

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glance which will make your brains go weak at your heart - The very original Couple underwears - Same fabric, same touch for the couple to wear on those weekend togetherness. Find them on Fl*sh you&me

2. ORIGINALLY AUTHENTIC - Brushes from boar hairs - soft and eco-friendly from Wild Good

3. AUTHENTICALLY DIVINE - Your Spa stuff has to come only from Pienspa, if you want an original take on those things.

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4. If you fancied some fragranced ambience and you remembered some candles to set your mood high and fine… Natural and made from Soy Wax…..Try Munio’s creations, nicely packed and lovably great gift items.

5. Cared Handmade soaps and many other offerings especially for ladies from Zanete Auzina

6. Or if you imagined sometime some scented leaves….check Muhamors, the very own gift specialists.

7. Something for your souvenir collection, authentically Latvian, great priced and lovably wearable, get some from www.niceplace.lv

8. For some Latvian fabric prints and household items, see Mans Maiss

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36 naturally Creative hours in Riga