Latvia is angry
13.01.2009 - 17.01.2009 -7 °C
Just a short word on an adventure we had in Riga Latvia. After staying at the cool 'old town hostel' with a fantastic kitchen and infinite cider, yet no beer at the downstairs bar/check in place we ran into a funny man in an old timey outfit who was a about 7ft tall goes by the name of Ivars. As it turned out he was a couch surfer too and agreed to host us the next night.
THe next night we dropped our bags at his place (he has no key so climbs over a 4m high gate to let us in) and we decided to go along with him to the parliament square where there was a protest in full swing. Lots of people shouting "NEW PARLIAMENT" in Latvian which sounds something like "HALF PRICE SALMON" and as we could not afford the salmon from the markets that we wanted we thought this was a cause worth fighting for and joined in the chant.
There were lots of speacheds from spokespeople of various organisations and a chior singing patriotic songs from the stage and the 10,000 or so people filling the square and all the surrounding streets joined in. It was very peaceful and patriotic and you got a sense that the Latvian people are sick to death of particularly the economic mismanagement of the current party.
After a few hours we had had enough. Ivars was quietly reading a library book, occasionally propped up on Caitlin's head so it seemed he had had enough too. (It was hillarious watching him fully focused on his novel whilst being bustled and shoved in the middle of this huge, noisy crowd.)
We made for the nearest pub with 2 of Ivars friends he hadn't seen for a couple of years but ran into in the crowd.
(Now for the exciting part) From the T.V at Ivars friends place we watched as the remaining crowd (the angriest and rowdiest) tried to bread into parliament, turned over police cars, broke into and looted liquor stores, set cars on fire and fought with police.
Early in the morning however we left Riga for Vilnius, capitol of Lithuania, only to find that the civil unrest had followed us there with mass protests and marches in all major cities. It is a very turbulent time for the people of the Baltic states, trying to come to terms with their (fairly) new won freedom from the soviet union, remnants of communism , and pressures from the European Union to "Westernise". We also found out that many people elected to parliament in Latvia and Lithuanea are T.v, film and music celebrities with no idea how to manage a country.
Anyhow, we had a great time in Riga and Vilnius. These are amazing cities full of life and art and new ideas and freedoms
and active people who want justice, and half price salmon.