Today was a relatively slow day as most of it was spent in transit. We were still in St. Petersburg and needed to get to Liepaja for the first annual International Bell Ringing Festival in Liepaja, Latvia, starting the next day.

We had a few spare hours in St. Petersburg in the morning, which Peter, Jeffery, and I spent separately visiting different locales to shop for souvenirs. Between the three of us, we acquired honey, musical scores, and lots of vodka. We leave it as an exercise to the reader to determine who bought what.

Afterwards, we flew from Pulkovo International Airport to the uninspiredly-named Riga International Airport in the eponymous city in an AirBaltic propeller plane that Peter could tell you all about.

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We were still without Father Roman, and thus terrified at the prospect of arriving in a foreign country with no ability to speak the language (Latvian, though a healthy portion of the country also speaks Russia). Luckily, we found our contact, Olek, very easily as the airport is not very big. Olek took us on a driving tour of the city.

 

Riga is the capital of Latvia, and with a population just under 700,000 is home to around a third of Latvia population. The city, as is the country as a whole, is not terribly large, especially after coming from Russia or the United States. Its skyline is not dominated by skyscrapers, but rather punctuated by church steeples, bridges, and a few artistic buildings. Because we were driving quickly through the cobblestone streets and were unable to communicate with Olek, we did not comprehend much of what we saw. But, the parts that we did see, mainly the historical and geographical center of the city known as Old Riga, were beautiful and left us with a wish that we had longer in Riga.

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Latvian basketball star Kristap Porzingis, colloquially known (at least among New Yorkers) as “Porzingod”. NB: He is not actually so small that a credit card would appear massive in his hand; if so he would be terrible at basketball. More likely, that card is HUGE.

After the tour, we were finally reunited with Father Roman. We went to dinner in one of the Riga locations of this chain of wonderful Latvian restaurants, Lido. The restaurants are designed to give an authentic Latvian experience. Thus the waiters and waitresses are decked out in traditional attire and bustle between the miniature windmills and terrifyingly jovial mannequins of Latvian children (of which regrettably no pictures were taken). Other than the atmosphere, the restaurant was quite modern, unless self-serve buffets were common back in the day in Latvia. The buffet had a massive selection of Latvian foods, which includes everything from beet salad to chicken skewers to cheese pancakes to fruit smoothies (again, regrettably no pictures were taken). Our guide, Olek, was very kind to cover our meals.

After dinner, we assembled a superteam of bellringers from across Russia, including St. Petersburg, Novogrod, and others. We packed ourselves into a van, and drove off into the Latvian sunset towards Liepaja. Two hours later, we arrived in Liepaja and settled down for the night.

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