It was a wonderful weekend in Riga. The sun shone, temperatures crept up to the high teens, Latvians celebrated the Restoration of Independence of the Republic of Latvia – and I celebrated a three-day weekend and not having to wear tights any more. It was the kind of weekend that almost made you forget winter had ever happened.
The wine flowed; music filled the parks, cafes and bars; old men gathered to play chess in the bright sunshine; couples took boat trips along the canal and a flower arrangement in the shape of Latvia was displayed at the base of the Freedom Monument.
A bar girl screamed at a customer over a dispute about the bill, cold food that should have been hot was served with a shrug, and I discovered that the only thing more entertaining than a bunch of miserable-looking Latvians is a bunch of miserable-looking Latvians in traditional dress.
Speaking of clothing, the change in season also means a change in wardrobe. If you’re a woman, the ‘in’ thing seems to be trying to resemble a two-tone highlighter marker or post-it pad as much as possible. So a fluorescent green suit could be paired with fluorescent pink patent shoes, for example. If you’re not feeling that brave, simply find as many clashing colours and prints as you can, top off the look with jewellery Pat Butcher would consider a bit much and you’re good to go.
For the gentlemen among you, you’ve got quite a range of attire to choose from. Anything from a young Axl Rose to Snoop Dogg to Don Johnson (circa his Miami Vice heyday) will do. Or simply sport skinny jeans and a t-shirt with a snappy slogan like the optimistic young chap I spotted today. ‘Look but don’t touch’ his t-shirt warned. I don’t think he was in much danger of anyone touching him but it’s good to make these things clear. Just in case.
You also always know where you stand with the old ladies of Latvia. They keep it real in caps, scarves, anoraks, dark trousers and sensible shoes all year round.
Is it wrong that I prefer this look?