Reflections on Returning to Riga, Latvia

After visiting on our honeymoon, Riga became one of David and my favorite cities.  Compared to the other Baltic capitals, Riga seemed more lived-in than Tallinn, and more lively than Vilnius.  Despite visiting in the pouring rain, we made the most of our two days and three nights in the city, exploring Old Town, the Central Market, and the opposite Art Nouveau and Agenskalns districts.  We left Riga, headed west towards Kuldiga and the Kurzeme coast, excited to return at some undecided point in the future.

In the nearly two years we spent away from Riga, we made some grand pipe dreams.  Riga remained etched in our memories alongside other favorite cities like Tbilisi, Georgia and Sarajevo, Bosnia.  The plan was to find a cute wooden house across the Daugava from Old Town, either in Agenskalns or Kipsala, renovate it (too much HGTV, clearly), and open a guesthouse where our friends’ children could come and work in the summers.*  

While our future plans may have become more realistic recently (dog shelters around the world are obviously more practical than guesthouses, right?), the allure of the city remained.  So when scouting flights for our May trip in Ukraine, it was a no-brainer to fly into Riga for a couple days at the beginning before getting into uncharted Ukrainian territory.

 

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two years of concrete and kitsch

It’s hard to believe I’ve been at this blogging gig for two years now.  Having just re-upped concrete and kitsch’s Bluehost account for another year of blogging indentured servitude, I was filtering through old emails from my blog infancy.  Turns out, that June 25 was my two year blog-iversary!  It’s a fun coincidence that I have just published my hundredth post – making my post frequency about one per week (that is an average, of course, as the last few months I’ve been pretty good at posting once per month…).  I thought it apropos to do a little roundup of our travels since I started blogging (especially taking into account that I never got around to a recap of our 2016 travels).  

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Let’s start with some stats, shall we? Read more

Karosta, Latvia – The Baltic States’ Urbex Mecca

I am a fledgling urban explorer.  Urban exploration, or urbex in shorthand, is the exploration of man-made structures, usually abandoned ruins or not usually seen components of the man-made environment. Photography and historical interest/documentation are heavily featured in the hobby and it may sometimes involve trespassing onto private property (thanks, Wikipedia!).   Urbex is becoming more and more popular as a mainstream travel interest, evident by this year’s induction of cultural industrial complexes to UNESCO’s World Heritage list.Honeymoon Jpegs-384 Honeymoon Jpegs-397

My interest in urbex started with our visit to Chiatura in Georgia last year, and is largely intertwined with my interest in Soviet/Communist era brutal (and largely abandoned) architecture. The former Soviet states are an urban explorers dreams, with many former Soviet military and government buildings empty for the exploring.  So when we (let’s be real, when I), started planning our Baltic Road Trip Honeymoon™, I knew urbex would figure prominently into our plans.  You can read posts I’ve written on urbex in Estonia in Tallinn and in the nearby Lahemaa National Park. Read more

The Quintessential Latvian Towns of Cēsis and Kuldīga

When travelers think of the Baltic States (if at all!), it’s usually of Tallinn and Riga, the relatively well-touristed capitals of Estonia and Latvia.  We loved Tallinn and Riga, but in our time in the Baltic States, we also wanted to get off the beaten path a little bit and discover parts of the region that weren’t as frequented by our ilk.  honeymoon-jpegs-292_21287541390_o

The issue was that we were on a fairly compressed time frame in the Baltics – we had to be in Vilnius, Lithuania by a certain day in order to catch our flight to Malta (ugh), so most of the rural, provincial parts of the Baltics we could see would be in passing.  Luckily enough, many of the small towns scattered throughout the Baltic States, and especially Latvia as we would find out, are small enough to be walked in a couple of hours, after which you can be on your merry way to your next capital or abandoned Soviet military installation.  Did I mention I loved the Baltics? Read more

The Hippie Homo Baltic Honeymoon (+Malta)

Photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/tonibm/

Hey friends – there’s about to be a couple of weeks of radio silence here, as I do not plan on doing any heavy blogging while I’m on my honeymoon (maybe some quick pictures here and there).  So I thought I’d write up some of the details of our trip.  I’ve got a list of potential posts a mile long that I’m planning from the trip, but if you have any insider tips on the destinations listed below, I would love to hear from you – either in the comments or via email at nick@concreteandkitsch.com!

I’m excited as this will be my first big trip I’ve taken with intent to blog.  I’ve got all my kit ready like a kid on his first day of school, and I’m really excited to share the details (good, bad, weird, funny, and clumsy alike) with you when I return!

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Changing Plans, or the Baltic/Balkan Conundrum

So last I explained, my partner David and I had cancelled our plans to road trip around Tunisia due to some the terrorist attacks targeting tourists in Tunis and Sousse.  While I was upset to cancel my plans to see the North African nation, I was also secretly excited to plan an entirely new trip to a new destination.  For me, much of the joy of travel comes in the pre-work.  I am a meticulous researcher and am prone to map comas – and the need for a location change provided me with an opportunity for both.

Tunisia was the plan - where to now?
Tunisia was the plan – where to now?

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