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Geeze, I need to work on my Photoshop composition skills :\ After the first day's dinner, we had a day all to ourselves. Unfortunately, a combination of happenings led to it not being all that productive. We were up by 8:25, eating croissants and juice at a little shop a few doors down and out of the place around 11pm to do some sight seeing. Unfortunately, we were back in the apartment by 2:00 and promises and miscommunications on the possible arrival of our luggage led us to spending the rest of the day waiting around the apartment for it. It's just as well, I was massively dehydrated and didn't come to realize this until around 3:30. I drank about 5 full glasses of water and laid down with my migraine. I spent much of the two hours after that sleeping intermittently and grabbing another glass of water when my stomach stopped feeling full. Finally at 5 pm I had to use the restroom for only the second time of the day though this was a much more healthy semi-clear than the first (I swear this will be the last discussion of such things for this vacation blog XP). I continued to drink 2-3 glasses at a time, when possible through the first half of the next day when the effects of dehydration had been fully quashed. Worst of all, I had failed to remember that my camera battery needs charging (as it drains on its own over time and was dead in the morning) and so only had a partial charge by the time we set out. It would be the last time I made that mistake on this vacation, but for the day I only managed a paltry 87 photos! D: So, I mixed in a few other day's photos that were of the same subjects. Riga, and especially Old Town is an absolutely fantastic mix of old and new: There's also a wonderful air of friendliness and humor in this city: Oh, so that's what cultural appropriation feels like from the other side :V *AHEM* The Freedom Monument. We visited it again towards the end of this day, and observed some sharply dressed guard, whom I grabbed a few shots of with my phone. Though it wasn't until the next day with my Nikon that I was able to get some truly nice (and more comprehensive shots) of The Freedom Monument. And finally, I have a lovely little History of Latvia session for you as well! This is taken verbatim from the Introduction (page 5) of Rīgas Jūgendstila Ēkas : Art Nouveau Buildings in Riga book by Jānis Krastiņš that I purchased from the Riga Art Nouveau. I have been well aware of the general and many specifics of this country, area, and people's history before coming on this vacation but this book's summary of Riga's history (and, in effect much of Latvia's history) is probably the most perfect summary of it that I've read and really sets it out in just the 2nd sentence alone: The old Haseatic city if Riga was founded in 1201. Today it is Latvia's capital, but over the centuries it has been governed by the Germans, Poles, Swedes, and Russians. Riga's history of the Middle Ages is marked by civil strife between the Livonian Order and the city's residents. This strife came to a head towards the end of the 15th century. On several occasions in 1484 Riga's residents defeated the knights of the Livonian Order, but in 1491 the Order once again gained the upper hand. Following the Livonian wars of 1558 to 1582 and the collapse of the Livonian Order, Riga passed into the hands of Poland. In 1621 the Swedes took control of Riga. In 1656, Russian marauders led by Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich Romanov made their appearance in the outskirts of the city, but were driven away. During the Great Northern War of 1700-1721, Poles, Saxons, and Russians in turn laid siege to Riga until finally in 1710 the city was taken by Tsar Peter the Great. The Russian domination lasted for more than 200 years but it was the Germans who dominated Riga's economy until Latvia's declaration of independence on November 18, 1918. In September 1917 the German army entered Riga; in January 1919 the Bolsheviks took control of the city. In May of the same year the Bolsheviks were forced out by the Baltic German Home Guard and the German Iron Division; in July, the combined Latvian and Estonian forces freed Riga from the Germans. On November 11, the Latvians were able to withstand an attack by a German-supported anarchist army led by Pavel Bermondt-Avalov. In August 1920, Latvia signed a peace treated with the Soviet Union. [Doctor's Note: The Freedom Monument was built in 1935] According to the treaty, Russia renounced all claims to Latvia "voluntarily and for ever", but, nevertheless, occupied the country on June 17, 1940. In June 1941 the German army entered Latvia, followed by the Red Army in October 1944. This was the beginning of almost a half-century of Soviet occupation, which only ended with the renewal of Latvia's independence in 1990. Welcome to Latvia!
Oh where to being? With almost two and a half weeks of vacation, blogging about it to share pics seems like quite the task! But, I'll try not to drone on like I have in my other posts, but instead hit the highlights. A minor point: I tend to be rather private in certain ways, so don't expect names (I'll tend to stick to titles or some kind of nickname) or photos of the family (though I might show up in some from time to time.) I'll probably keep details on those bits light altogether, I'm not sure. So where did we leave off from the travelogue post? It was 1:23pm Eastern European time when we discovered our luggage had been lost. We were in Latvia with the clothes on our back and whatever we had in our carry-ons. The Riga Airport is not as large as Amsterdam's but was a fair bit bigger than Dayton's airport. Decor was an interesting functional modernist style: (Some photos will be blurry and lower-quality. These are generally ones taken with my phone) One of the more remarkable (though, on reflection, rather obvious) bit about the trip to Latvia was how most the folks general appearance felt almost familiar; there was a certain something that made it feel like they looked more like us than most people do. I felt like I fit right in with the complete strangers shuffling past us on the Air Baltic flight. Descending from the clouds to see the rich green-hued forests was an unforgettable, shivering moment; it felt like I'd come back home. The benches were none too comfortable in the baggage claim area XP We met with the Priest my Dad had connected up with online. When he had started planning this trip, he drafted a letter (translated with the help of one of his more locally-adjacent cousins) and sent it out to various people who shared our last name. Those who responded found the details he'd provided a striking match and the first spark connecting back was made as they traded back a few photos we'd never seen before of our Grandparents. In the correspondences, they brought up a Priest who traveled to America from time to time that was the Godfather to one of their sons. It turned out that my Dad had met the Priest once before with his parent several years ago. And so, the priest (and our newfound cousin, the Godson) agreed to meet us at the airport and help translate for the first meeting with the long lost relatives. The Priest and the Godson drive us to the first of three apartments we had arranged to live in on the trip. The section of Riga outskirts the airport is situated on has an almost stereotypical Dreary-Eastern-European feel to, heightened by the rainy overcast. But, like the overcast, this feeling soon parted and gave way to the beautiful, modern European city that is much of Riga. It was almost like a tease, showing us what our culture has established in our minds and then taking it away saying "Haha, nah just kidding; here's the real world!" But, of course, as is true of the real world, Riga is a complicated layering of old and new, good and bad. Much of the most beautiful and picturesque parts are concentrated in the section called "Old Town". A sector in the heart of the city dotted with the government building and a vast array of more touristy areas (and beautiful architecture). But Old Town, like our culturally-ingrained expectations, isn't quite true reality. It's almost like a massive tourist theme park, in a way. It has all the elements of true reality of life in Lativa and certain aspects cranked up to 11 with a hearty concentration of more tourist-oriented faculties. That's not to say it's a bad thing, in fact it was a wonderful experience. But, we'll get into that more in another Blog post I'm sure. We arrived in our apartment space, which was being utilized and sold out like hotel rooms, just on the outskirts of Old Town with all the best attractions and interesting locals within comfortable walking distance. The apartment space was a fantastic deal, much cheaper than nearby hotels or anything situated completely within Old Town. But, being old government housing from the 1940s it didn't exactly give the best first impression... Did I mention it was a fantastic price? Ok, so the inner stairwell and immediate surroundings were a bit run down, but the actual apartment wasn't that bad. It was no Hilton, to be sure, but comfortable enough (and a fantastic price!) This was the bedroom I shared, one of 3. (The entrance to it is seen as the blue-green area in the first photo.) Although the incredible snoring of my family members (including those in an adjoining room) eventually forced me to flee to couch in the living room. The bathroom shower was rather nice. Although the shower head eventually broke off and had to be replaced. And the neighbor below let us know his ceiling above his shower had started leaking the day before our last day there (thankfully, he was also checking out the next morning, before we would have to shower). It also had a neat little sauna and a dryer (but no washer, as we soon found to be a common theme in Europe, along with a lack of air conditioning.) There was only about 2-3 hours to rest in the apartment, before the Priest was to come back and take us to the dinner with the first of our long-lost relatives. Lacking luggage, we had to stick to the clothes we wore on the plane (or in some cases, had stuffed in our carry ons). By luck, I had some underwear and t-shirts and clean jeans I had worn the day before the trip, so I wasn't completely stuck in the clothes we'd just spend 18 hours flying and shuffling about in. At least we each got to take a shower! Dinnertime arrived and we traveled to the restaurant. It was a rather ritzy looking place. My dress was well out of place, even in the bathroom: The restaurant had a formal dinner-party style to its meal, consisting of only two choices on the main course, after drinks and appetizers and bread. After the dinner was small dessert and then a drink. Unlike typical restaurant all but the choice of drink and main course were per-determined. Everything tasted wonderful and looked beautiful. There were toasts and short speeches, translated into English, Latvian, and Russian to fit for each of the languages spoken. Conversation was a bit awkward and slow-paced, but never-the-less it was nice to learn about them and what they do and see their reactions to our own info. In particular, I learned I have a relation who works for a Russian games company! One curiosity occurred when informing them of our own professions. They each were polite and smiled in response to translated explanations of my older sibling and my work in different kinds of software. But, there was an electrified, and very positive response when they heard that my younger sibling was working as an assistant chef. At the end, a sort of palette-cleanser drink was provided; a local specialty called Riga Black Balsam. I don't drink, so I didn't have any of it, but I'm told the flavor is herb-y and very bitter but not in a bad way. It also has 45% alcohol content. I decided the bitter bottle would make the perfect gift to brink back for my co-workers >X3c Our parents had prepared some cookies as simple gifts to give the relatives and children (though it turned out they didn't bring their children). However, it turned out that the relatives had also brought gifts; rather more impressive calendars and trinkets. We saved face by saying the rest of the gifts we'd brought were in our luggage and only had the carry-on full of cookies that we were afraid might break if we checked them. Thank goodness the airlines had lost our luggage! After the meal, we visited the Freedom Statue (a prominent landmark just down the street) to take some family photos and returned to the apartment. All told, from the moment we got up for our first flight, to the time we were back in the apartment, I had not slept at all. It had been over 24 hours before I finally fell asleep at the end of it. It was an amazing start to what would turn out to be an amazing vacation. One that I hope to continue to relay in blog posts and images again soon!
...Is stunning! Riga, Latvia is known as the Art Nouveau capitol of the world for its numerous fine examples of the architectural style. Old town, near where we stayed for the first stretch of the vacation, contains a number of examples but the finest examples are further into the newer sections of the city near the National Art Museum and the Art Nouveau museum. I still haven't decided how I want to do these blog posts, but I had a few images prepared already so I figured I'd post them up. I will probably have to do it over comments since this thing only lets me do 10 MB per post. It's either that or Imgur. I do have a few imgur images setup already, though: ...Apparently the forum is A-OK with those linked images coming in as embedded!
Flight's actually tomorrow, but I'm packed and already over at my parents so I figure "why not start the blog travelogue?" As before, I don't know if I will be able to keep it up but let's see! If not, I'll switch to note-taking and update post-fact. The trip is to Latvia (and a little of France.) The flight over is in three parts: one small 'n short one first, then a 4-hour layover in Detroit (*snap* KEVLAR! I knew I forgot to pack something!), and then it's off to Amsterdam on an 8 hour flight, finally ending with a 2 hour flight to Riga. I'm lucky to have a window seat on the first flight. I might be even luckier on the International flight because the seat next to my aisle seat is currently empty! With wifi, power sockets, and an upgrade for legroom, I stand to have comfortable flight with plenty of time to watch LPs, play Stellaris, and just maybe the privacy to do some posting in peace! Tune in tomorrow for more updates! (should be plenty of time for it in Detroit XP ) 8:00 am Up and at them! grab a quick shower, get dressed and get going. 8:10 We are immediately side tracked when my younger sib's glasses break and we can't find his backup pair. 8:21 I just realized we forgot to budget time for at least 15 minutes of older sib criticizing our dress! 8:33 We finally found the glasses case. They were in the napkin holder, underneath the napkins... We finish moving luggage into the van. 8:50 The garage door won't close via keypad. We hide a door opener for tge lady who will be taking care of things. 9:00 We head off to pick up mom, get out and help finish up. 9:45 Time to head off to older sib before driving to the airport. 11:00 Arrival at the airport. My checked bag is 47 lbs and I land a sweet TSA precheck! 11:15 new title 11:45 Dad realized he forgot his laptop. He was planning on doing some work on the plane. I guess I know where I get it from. We have no wifi and the network sucks out here. Still, we're all in high spirits. 1:10 pm boarding. My window seat has a lovely view... of the wing We take off at 1:35. I will never get tired of seeing clouds from the other side. I settle into my Otter book for the short flight. 2:00 We start our descent. So much farm land to see! 2:30 We get off and there's no wifi. Detroit has a pretty terminal, all steel and concrete and grey. Then there was an uderground tunnel and it turns psychedelic. Shame I didn't pack my glowsticks. On the other end of the tunnel we reach the main terminal even more massive and has a big red elevated team running indoors. It's no O'Hare, but its very impressive in its own right. I settle in for a bit of Stellaris. 3:50 A Void Cloud nearly wiped out my first and only fleet. I probably shouldn't have chosen the 'weak' trait. 4:00 We wander off to our now-moved gate and stop off at a PF Chang's for a small snack. Plenty of time left in delightful Detroit. I broke down and use some data. 5:21 Time to leave work and head home for the day! Wait... Still plenty of time to twiddle my thumbs. 4 books, a laptop with tons of vids and games and I spend most my time on my phone with the forum and Discord. Go figure. 5:30 They announced a delay due to cleaning and prep but simultaneously announce they expect we will land 16 minutes ahead of time Airplanes seem to practice flex time very much like the company I work for. :V 6:06 pm cleaners still is haven't gotten on the plane. Now planning for 6:45 departure. AirFrance... guess they must have been on strike XP 6:17 Cleaning crew's here! 6:47pm Stiiiiill cleaning. Still in Detroit. We have a 2 hour layover in Amsterdam but we have customs and security we have to go through, not to mention picking up our bags, beforw we nab to Riga flight. 7:07 Finally boarding 7:15 Got my seat! Such legroom! Little screens, power plug claimed. 2 sockets between 4 seats, so I plugged in early. It is now mine and people shall ask permission >:V 7:27 pm They mentioned we will fly over Scotland/Ireland/England. I'll be sure to wave to all the UK furs! This will probably be the last update for a while. Take off will be soon. Once Laptops are allowed again, I have a Void Cloud to deal with... 12:00 Void clouds suck! Stupid non-sentient clouds smashed my fleets again. I should try to get a bit of sleep, it's going to be a long day today. But, I've given in to my stomach pressure and checked out the restroom. I have also discovered that my phone carrier nets me a free hour of wifi on the plane! So, I figured a little update. It is sonewhere around 4/5 am in Amsterdam if I'm right. We are to arrive in at 9am. Even after our 2 hour 3rd flight we only have a few hours to get checked in before we meet with a priest relative, so we'll mostly spend it getting cleaned up. I figure that means I have 6-8 hours before I'll have a chance to sleep again once we start down. Better grab what I can now. I'll fill in some trip details (didn't just play Stellaris XP) later. 1:00 am Sleep did not happen. It was inevitable; I've never been able to sleep on a plane. Instead I chat a bit on Discord using the last on my WiFi freebe. 1:30 I give in to my inner furry and start watching Zootopia again. 1:40 I give up on Zootopia, I can't seem to enjoy something I've seen this many times when I'm this tired. Doesn't matter, as the cabin lights just came on. 2am / 8am They serve a breakfast snack : Frozen Orange juice, biscoff bar, roll with jam, slice of cheese, and yogurt. I skip the cheese and yogurt as I still have stomach pains. I do nab some black tea to wake me a bit. 8:05 We're over about the center point of the UK. I wave like a dork 8:35 am We begin our descent. 3:03 Two for two! It was a bit bumpier than the other and the weather is cloudy but cool in Amsterdam. 3:20 Apparently the plane had to drive around a but to find a parking spot :V Taxiing finally ends and he disembark. We're late. Some people have already missed their connections, but we might still make ours if we really leg it! The gate is on the literal opposite end of the terminal. The airport layout is chaotic; there's no sense of flow like the others. But, we also have customs to get through... 3:45 / 9:45 we made it to the other side just in time for the plane to start boarding. Customs was a single question and a passport stamp. They had our boarding passes at the gate. 10:05 We're on board. The tiny plane stands in stark contrast to the massive international plane we got off. It's very hot inside. People look eerily familiar.There's a lot of cute girls on board, too. 10:33 They announce the luggage was late and being brought on board now. Announcements are made in Latvian, English, and Russian. 10:45 The plane finally starts moving. 11:04 Finally take off after another long taxiing session. My window seat affords me a view as the plane drives along a highway overpass. 1:45 We land in Latvia! The flight we largely uneventful. It's rainy but not raining. Forests abound below as we made our surprisingly smooth landing. 2:00 / 1:00 I don't know what timezone it is. We lost another hour, the flight was 1hour 45 minutes. We're at the baggage carousel after disembarking via stairs and taking a 2 minute bus ride. The airport is smaller than Dayton. 1:23 They've lost our luggage. -_-; Well that's about it for the flying! It would be quiet a few hours before I get to bed, but that is a story for another blog post. Hope you all enjoyed hearing about the trip so far!