Monday, November 24, 2008

From Our Moscow Bureau

Yesterday I didn't know where Riga was! However, with a 7-hour layover there while traveling between Tel Aviv and Moscow I can't be blamed for wanting to know more about a city than what is offered in its airport. I grabbed some of the local currency, hailed a taxi, and headed into the heart of Riga. Riga is the capital Latvia. It has a population of around one million and I'd say a fair number were milling about when I got out of my taxi.

The driver dropped me off in a medieval looking city center complete with cobblestone streets, old churches, and tons of bars. No sooner had I gotten out of the car than some kid ran up and gave me a miniature Latvian flag (he was running around with a hand full of them, giving them to everyone on the street). I noticed a stage set up in the distance next to a huge monument where tons of people were watching two soldiers who were doing some sort of ceremonious march. When the soldiers were done the people came and laid flowers at the monument where the soldiers stood like wooden indians.

The crowd started to disperse when I heard a man and woman whispering in English. I asked them what was going on and they told me that Latvia was celebrating 90 years of independence. Latvia's Independence Day! (I guess they include the years that they were part of the USSR in their independence?)

The nice couple said that I was just in time for the parade. But first, they led me to a Latvian restaurant where I ate cabbage rolls stuffed with pork. After being in countries for the past month that didn't appreciate the deliciousness of the pig, the pork rich Latvian cuisine was a welcomed delight.

Then I headed down to the Daugava River to watch the shortest parade I'd ever seen. The whole thing lasted fifteen minutes and ten of those minutes were of the United Nations Forces alone.

Despite the short parade, the Rigans (if that's what they call themselves) were having a big time. I too had a blast! A fifteen-minute parade in freezing weather beats seven hours in an airport any day.

~The Moscow Correspondent

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