“Just wondering why didn’t I realise earlier that you are some dirty scumbag from Ireland. That is the only excuse to that cynical and dishonorable generalisation of latvian mammas especially on Mother’s day.
My suggestion is put on your beloved Penney’s pigammas and go back to your travellers mobile house where you belong the best with all of the Irish “pride”.
You are disgrace to any mother and any nation. Scum!”
After this incredibly constructive criticism from Daila, I began to realise that I’ve recently been pissing my readers off a bit (more than usual). However, as there’s nothing particularly t-shirt-friendly about this one, I’ve decided to take a different tack and write something positive – lest people start calling me a ‘miserably looser who needs to make a family’ again. So this one’s for all my regular readers who keep coming back even when they don’t like something, and don’t throw their toys out of the pram when they disagree with a post.
STUFF LATVIA DOES WELL:
(Note: I’m skipping ‘beautiful’ women and nature, as, quite frankly, I’m not that into chicks or trees. This is more about the practical, everyday things I encounter.)
1. Wifi access
Latvia has arguably the best internet access of any country I’ve been to – and I’ve been to a lot of places. Cafés, bars, restaurants, hotels, shops, shopping malls, stations, the airport, certain taxis, long-distance buses… the list of places where free and unlimited wifi is available is pretty damn impressive. In fact, I’m amazed if somewhere doesn’t have wifi. The downside of this is that it means that every troll and troglogdyte in the country also has speedy access to the internet, but I guess you take the good with the bad. (Incidentally, I’m not referring to the charming Daila here – she has been happily enjoying the internet access Ireland provides for the last ten years…)
2. Public transport
This one mainly refers to Riga, as that’s really the only place where I’ve used public transport, with the exception of the bone-shattering trams in Daugavpils. Trams, trolley buses and ‘ordinary’ buses provide regular services that are rarely, if ever, late. Each stop has a detailed timetable that is accurate and up-to-date. Once on-board, the next stop is shown on screens and announced twice by a man with a funny voice. (Or a woman, but her voice isn’t as cool and I don’t go around imitating her saying ‘AREEEEEEEEEEEEEENAAAAAAAAA RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGA!’ the same way I do with him.) If you buy an ‘e-talons’ ticket, 10 journeys will cost you just €5.70, and it works on all forms of transport. Unfortunately, the roads are still shite, but hey, Latvia giveth with one hand, and taketh away with the other.
I’m not talking about prices. Contrary to popular belief, Latvia is actually not that cheap. Clothing, electronics, cosmetics, books, etc. will cost you the same as in Western European countries, if not more. The quality is also questionable.
I’m referring to shop opening hours. Shopping centres and other stores are open until around 9pm every night, except Sundays – but even then, they are open until around 6pm. Smaller grocery stores generally open from 8am to 10pm, with some of the larger supermarkets open from 7am until 11pm or midnight in some cases. Supermarkets are even open on Christmas Day. I was amazed (and a bit shocked) to see that even during the three national days of mourning Latvia had for the Maxima tragedy, the shops stayed open. And not just the ‘essential’ ones – no, you could buy a wedding dress, or get your dog a haircut if you so desired.
Aside from that, alcohol is sold until 10pm every day, except for the shops that sell it 24 hours a day… don’t ask me how that works.
4. Banking services
OK, so most of the banks here are Scandinavian, but the service ‘on the ground’ here in Latvia is generally outstanding. On the rare occasions I have had to visit a branch, you select your service, take a ticket, and sit in a comfy chair while you wait to be called. The staff are always pleasant and helpful, even when you’re stupidly confused by your new electronic code card. (Sorry to the really patient girl in DNB on Elizabetes…)
Online banking services are excellent. I’ve only had a problem once in almost four years. I called the helpline and the problem was sorted out within minutes. And, almost every business here accepts cards – take note Germany! – I’ve even seen people pay for a pack of gum with their card.
Sorry, I couldn’t resist…
Right, if you think I’ve missed anything, feel free to add it in the comments. I’m off to plan my outfit for tomorrow. Daila has, unwittingly, provided me with some inspiration…