Sunday, July 24, 2005


We forgot to post about one of the most interesting things from Riga. Just behind the bus station, the city holds its gigantic central market in and around a number of fomer blimp/dirrigible hangers. Inside they have permanent booths set up and then merchants come in and set up their wares. There's one entirely for fish (very reminiscent of Pike Street Market), one for fruits/veggies, a couple for meat, and then a 3-4 that seemed to be mixed. Then all around outside there are stands selling fruits and veggies and clothing and CDs, etc. It's pretty overwhelming.

We came away with a couple of overall impressions.

1) We were astounded at the redunancy of the things being offered. Instead of 20 meat stands selling different cuts, they were all selling the same things, including a couple of parts of pigs that we don't normally see and your choice of organs. Same thing with the 15 fish places and the more than 50 produce places. We had 50 choices of where to buy blueberries, or tomatoes..

2) So that made us think a couple of things: a) it was clear what the local and available produce and products were and what had to be imported from farther (we only found grapes in one stand). Also, despite the fact that there were huge crowds, we had to wonder about the turn rate of the food. If I can buy liver at 14 different spots, how old do you think the liver gets before someone buys it? And how cool is it really kept in these cases? (I wasn't quick enough to catch the picture of someone wheeling a half a pig (comeplete with head, etc) in a wheelbarrel across the floor....I felt like I had my Mom on one shoulder and my neighbor John on the other both counseling me that maybe we would be vegitarians for this market trip....

3) It was a great view into everyday life of these eastern europeans. People brought containers from home to buy amounts of jam, and there was a long line for what must have been the best dairy place to buy milk that was ladled into whatever people brought for containers, including plastic bags! Plus there were little cafes, or places selling amazing looking cakes for not very much money (Brian needed to drag me away from those) or other prepared foods. We ended up buying some delicious meat-filled and cheese-filled blintzes for our picnic lunch.

4) Since I have no idea what I want to do when I get back, I might consider a second (or is it third by now?) career as a spy. I didn't want to be obnoxious taking all these pictures of the food, so I got very good at having the camera on, then casually holding it down along my leg, walking by the display case, and taking the shot while looking the other way. Spy vs. Spy has nothing on me!

Mostly, we really enjoyed this slice of Latvian life, though it was a little overwhelming at times (and we had to get good at dodging and weaving or we would be run over by the crowd).



Anonymous said...

Yea, it's amazing what you can buy in the open markets and the storage options they have. It's definitely different than ours...but it works for them. Bon appetite! :)

Anonymous said...

hey guys... again, it's too bad our paths didn't cross while we were over there...

I don't know how you all feel about it, but the biggest annoyance to me while travelling in europe is have to pay to use the toilet... esp. for us who were on a crusie and only in a country for a few hours... it's a pain to get local currency, and then try to break it down so you can freakin' use a toilet. at least there was someone you could get change from for a 100.