Tag: jc marx

Thessaloniki, Greece

We took a quick hop down to Greece. We were there for four days. We stayed in a hotel in downtown Thessaloniki. We chose this area because we wanted to avoid the huge crowds of the more popular places such as the Greek archipelago and Athens. Thessaloniki did not disappoint. Great restaurants, pubs, and shopping. There was a lot to see and do in the town itself and, as we had hoped, it wasn’t too crowed.

On the above picture, I have circled where we live, in Stockholm, and also our destination in Thessaloniki, Greece. It was about a three and a half hour flight.

The picture above shows our primary areas of exploration. You can use this as reference as the article progresses. To give you an idea of distance, the drive from Thessaloniki to Nikiti was about a two hour drive with traffic. We chose not to rent a car this go around, using private tour companies to get us to and from our excursions outside Thessaloniki.

I will only use minimal pictures for the article, with a link to the photo gallery at the bottom that houses a lot more pictures. So if you’re the type that just likes to look at the pictures, don’t be embarrassed, just scroll down and click on the link. 🙂


This was our base of operations. Thessaloniki is a Greek port city on the Thermaic Gulf of the Aegean Sea. It was founded around 315 BC, so definitely one of the older places we have visited. And for my gaming friends out there, Greece is the locale for the Assassin’s Creed Odyssey title. Having visited the area and spoken with many of its inhabitants, I can say the game did an excellent job recreating the beauty and history of the area.

Apparently, Hades was in town for a visit while we were there, making it extremely hot and humid (at least by Stockholm standards). It was around 34 to 36 Celsius (mid to upper 90’s F). The hotel was wonderfully air conditioned, but the rest of the places we went were hit or miss on the AC, mostly miss. But of course we did not let this hinder our adventure!

Around Town

We travelled the city by shoe and we took the hop on hop off bus to a few locations that were further away.

It was very easy navigating and getting around in the city. Everyone we encountered was friendly, helpful, and spoke perfect English.

The Food

First of all, let me say right up front: the food in Greece is outstanding! They serve hamburger flat, with no bun, topped with caramelized onions. If you must have it as a sandwich, that is also available in some places. They also specialize in chicken, pork or lamb kabobs, which they call souvlakia. Very delicious, usually served with fries, veggies, and pita bread.

Pictured above, the pork neck with grilled pineapple and served atop pineapple salsa. Absolutely fantastic! I also tried some shrimp saganaki, which is pan fried in a thick, rich sauce. Gyros, kleftiko, feta cheese, Greek meatballs, the list just goes on and on. Seriously, the food alone is worth the trip.

The Archaeological Museum

I know what you’re thinking: museums, really, on a vacation? But seriously, when you think of how old this place is, I mean it may even be where ‘we’ began. They have some artifacts that are nearly 3,000 years old! So yes, you want to see some of these things while you are here.

The Archaeological Museum is right in the city. We were able to walk to it from our hotel. They had a lot of exhibits, and most of them were pretty interesting. We were there for about an hour.

Above, a gravestone from 300 BC.

And of course, Alexander the Great. This one was from around 200 AD. Cosmetic surgery was still in the experimental stages then, as you can see by the botched nose job. :/ Or should I say :?/

Pella and Vergina

We ventured out to these areas to see, you guessed it, museums! On the map at the top, these are located to the west of Thessaloniki. The map label for Pella didn’t show up at that zoom level, so I placed a yellow dot.

I’m going to be honest here, the museum in Pella was not that great, to me. Firstly, the AC wasn’t working and even at ten in the morning, it was sweltering inside the building.

But what was worse was that many of their exhibits were replicas, including the mosaic in the above pic. But check out the photo above the mosaic. That’s the dig site, and it IS worth seeing.

The dig site is right around the corner from the museum. It’s an archaeological dig site of what was part of the ancient city of Pella, which is where Alexander the Great was born.

Now the museum in Vergina was an entirely different story. It is called the Museum of the Royal Tombs of Aigai. This is the location of several significant tombs, including Philip II (359-336BC), who was Alexander the Great’s father. It is one of the best presented and most memorable archaeological museums in Greece. You can walk right down to the entrance of each tomb, which is mostly still intact. It’s an eerie experience.

Unfortunately, they don’t allow pictures inside, this (above) was the only one I got. Definitely a must-see. It’s about an hour west of Thessaloniki. You can schedule tour services that will drive you out to it. Also, be sure to sign up for the tour. It was very informative.


We hired a local driver to take us out to the center peninsula. If you look on the map I made at the top, you can see I circled Nikiti.

We drove around there a bit, absolutely gorgeous. After that, we went further south (also circled on the map) where we had an exquisite lunch and went swimming right off the coast.

Afytos and Wineries

On our way out to Afytos, we stopped at a couple of wineries.

On the map at the top, I circled the area for the wineries just south of Thessaloniki. I have to say, we really never considered that Greek wine would be all that. What with it being so hot and all, we kind of thought it might be overly sweet, like some of the Carolina wines. Boy were we wrong!

This was some of the finest wine we have ever tasted. And, like the French, it is specifically designed to naturally pair with their unique cuisine.

And like most wine producing territories across the globe, the wineries were beautiful to see.

After visiting the wineries, our guide took us further south along the first peninsula.

We drove around in the Afytos area and stopped for lunch at a magnificent venue (above).


We had an awesome time in Greece, despite the sweltering temps. We would consider going back, but would probably opt for a wintertime trip. I guess living amongst the Vikings for a few years has made us more sensitive to the hotter climates.

Here is a link to the photo library that has all the pictures from the trip. These are not hosted by my blog, but are stored externally in Google pictures. All you have to do is click on the link below. Just click on one picture to enlarge it, the you can scroll through them with your mouse or by using the right and left arrow keys. If a picture is a little blurry, just give it a second or two to finish loading from the cloud.

Gallery of Pictures from Greece

Geiranger, Norway

Once we left our great little cabins in Flåm (click here for that article), we took the high road out and, as you can see, the scenery was epic.

So epic, that we started to feel ourselves becoming a little desensitized to all the beauty. Can you imagine that? But I just couldn’t stop taking pictures, just like I can’t stop showing them to you!

How about a change of venue?

Can you believe I saw this (above) on one of the (many) ferry’s we rode to hop across rivers? Unbelievable! Near mint condition! Even has the raised outline Uniroyal tires! I can only imagine what parts must cost for that thing in Norway! I bet he wishes there was an AutoZone nearby!

And speaking of cars, check out the roads we had to brave as we zipped along the mountain tops. Yes, that is a two-way road. Encountering cars from the opposite direction was always nerve racking. One of you would have to find a way to move over to let the other one pass.

We stopped at this really cool overlook that extended out over the mountain.

A little scary, but well worth the view.

By late afternoon, we arrived at our lodging for the evening in the small town of Olden. This time we decided on a really snazzy airBNB rental.

I know this is going to be hard to believe, but the views from this place were, um, well, breathtaking? Check it out:

And here, below, is the unrestricted view (from the following morning). Some interesting observations about this picture. This is definitely one of those times that a picture doesn’t do the view justice.

You see the lowest level, where all the greenery is. The next level up looks like just fog. What the camera can’t see that the human eye could was that whole layer was completely frozen. The light layer of fog frosted everything beneath it, but it just comes out as fog through the camera. Then the layer at the top is, of course, is snow. Amazing.

We hit the trail the next morning destined for Geiranger, which has famous hotel perched high atop a mountain valley overlooking a beautiful fjord. So spectacular is this view that the name of the hotel (translated) is…. The View. Seriously.

The problem is that as we continued climbing higher and higher into the mountains, the weather began to deteriorate. Seeing snowflakes in late April was fun at first, but then it began to get more treacherous. Welcome to the Norwegian Highlands!

Our original plan was to drive from Olden straight to Geiranger (The View). But seeing as the snow was continuing to get worse, we found a ferry close by that would take us almost right to the hotel.

See the map, above. You can see Geiranger on the upper right. But instead of driving directly to it, follow the blue line to the red thumbtack, which is Hellesylt. We drove onto the ferry there. The ferry followed the red line to Geiranger and our hotel, The View.

This turned out to be a great decision since now we could just sit back and enjoy the ride, and, of course, take more picture! But it was also a good idea because some of the roads on the original route had not even reopened from winter, they were still buried in snow!

The landscape from the ferry was substantial enough to warrant its own online photo gallery, which I created here:

Once you’re in the gallery, just click on the first picture to enlarge it, then scroll to see the rest. If the picture seems a little blurry, that means it is still getting data from the server. Just wait a second or two and it will come into sharp focus.

Ok, so we finally made it to “The View”. Was it really all that? I’ll let you decide. But first, check out these two pics below. Both pictures are from the same spot in the lobby of the hotel. The first one is when we first arrived while it was still snowing. The second was during a lapse in the snow.

And without further ado, here is the gallery for the views from The View:

Once you’re in the gallery, just click on the first picture to enlarge it, then scroll to see the rest. If the picture seems a little blurry, that means it is still getting data from the server. Just wait a second or two and it will come into sharp focus.

And that’s pretty much it. From The View, our journey took us to the small town of Førde, where spent the night before returning to Bergen. I have to say, this definitely one of those trips that you just know you are never going to forget. I put it up there in my top five! And it’s not always the location or the destination, but the company that can really make the difference.

Flåm, Norway

This was an incredible leg of our journey. After the seven hour (spectacular) train ride from Oslo to Bergen (click here for that article), we picked up our car and drove from Bergen to a place called Flåm. This was a fjord that we cruised on a boat.

So on the map, above, I have highlighted Oslo, on the right side, then the yellow line was the train ride, and the blue line was the road trip to Flåm. As you can see, it was pretty mountainous terrain, which means pretty awesome pictures!

We made a few stops along the way to stretch our legs and enjoy the beauty that was all around us.

And you may recall from the Oslo article that we were accompanied by our friends, Marie (left), from New York, and BiBi, who hails from Bulgaria but joined us from the UK.

To reduce my footprint on my content server, I have created an online gallery for your enjoyment. Please click the link below to open the gallery:

Once you open the link, click on a picture to enlarge it, then just scroll right and left to see more.

Once we arrived in Flåm, we were utterly shocked to see a full sized cruise liner docked at this tiny little town.

The direction he is facing is a dead end. We would have loved to see how he got out, but he was gone by the time we returned from our cruise.

The giant ship made our little cruise boat look small by comparison. We took this boat on a one and a half hour cruise through the magnificent Norwegian mountains and back again.

Refer to the map, above. See Flåm on the upper left side of the map. We took the boat from there, down and around the mountains, then up the other side to Gudvangen. Then we came back by the same route.

As with the other areas, I took so many unbelievable photographs. Once again, I have created an online gallery so that you can see all of the pictures instead of just a few. Please click the link below to view the gallery:

Photo gallery of the Flåm cruise (click)

  • Once inside the gallery, click on a picture to enlarge it, then scroll left and right to see more.

So we had started the day with a long drive through the twisting, winding and beautiful mountain roads. We arrived at the small town of Flåm for a three hour cruise among the legendary Norwegian mountain range along the fjord. By the time we drove another thirty or so minutes to our cabin, it was getting a little late.

Are these not the cutest little cabins you ever saw?

And wow, I am glad I have the pictures to prove how incredibly picturesque our views were from the back balconies of our cabins!

What a nice way to end a major leg of our amazing Norwegian journey. The four of us (thanks for snapping the pic BiBi) sat and sipped wine while talking of our adventures and planning what lies ahead. Truly blessed.

Vilnius, Lithuania

Why Vilnius?

Since we had previously visited Tallinn, Estonia and Riga, Latvia, we felt it was only right to finish off the Baltic countries. We are also interested in the history of the former Soviet states. This is an aspect of history that Americans do not normally encounter. I have attempted to simplify it in the Tortured Soul section below.

Unlike Tallinn and Riga, we did not take a cruise ship across the Baltic Sea, but chose instead to fly from our home port of Stockholm as part of our four-day Easter weekend.

Tortured Soul

Throughout this section, I will sprinkle in pictures of the city that we experienced during our stay. Most of them will not be in context of my narrative.

Vilnius has a deep and rich history that goes back to the 14th century. But even in more modern times, it has been the victim of several tug-of-wars by some very powerful countries. And this has left lasting damage on both the city and its citizens.

The city was occupied by the Germans during WWI. They were eventually driven out by Soviet forces. Vilnius became part of Lithuania. But as part of the Soviet-Polish war, the city quickly became occupied by Polish forces, only to fall yet again back to the Soviets. But as part of its retreat from the battle of Warsaw, the Red Army ceded the city back to Lithuania.

By the end of WWI, both Poland and Lithuania laid claim to Vilnius. But in a sneaky operation known as the Żeligowski’s Mutiny, Poland ultimately gained formal ownership of the city.

In 1939, Vilnius was again seized by the Soviet Union (who subsequently invaded Poland). The USSR and the Lithuanian governments entered into a treaty, unbeknownst to the Lithuanian citizens, that would allow the presence of Soviet military bases in various parts of the country. Thus, the Red Army withdrew from the city proper to its suburbs and Vilnius was given over to Lithuania. Lithuanian government saw this as a grant of independence and a victory for Lithuania.

The Soviets later demanded that more and more troops be permitted to enter the country. Lithuanian government pushed back, under the perception that they were independent.

This did not bode well with the Soviets. They set out to make sure Vilnius would feel their wrath this time around. They installed their own government and began deporting some of the city’s inhabitants to work camps in the harshest areas of the Soviet Union. Most were thought to have perished; none were ever seen again. The people targeted were primarily those with higher education or critical job positions. These were, for example, doctors, lawyers, politicians, scientists, and engineers. All told, between 20,000 and 30,000 citizens were deported. Basically trying to cut out the entire intellectual sector of their population. Next, they devastated the city’s industries and even relocated a highly successful radio factory to Belarus.

Vilnius KGB Detention Center

Much like the KGB headquarters in Riga, this one is located in the heart of the city. The horror of being taken to this place, from which you will never return. To be held and tortured, and in many cases executed, just feet from where your fellow citizens and your family are walking and working.

Anyone suspected of spying, which included discussions of any kind against the Soviet Union, were arrested by the KGB and tortured and in may cases executed at the KGB main facility right in their own downtown Vilnius.

Today, the building is a museum, and we did spend some time there. I highly recommend it. Like Paneriai it is highly emotional.

So as you can see, the Soviets had totally crippled and completely demoralized this city. This entire process is formally known as ‘sovietization’. How to beat down an entire city, or country until its citizens hang their heads low and swear allegiance to the Union.

At the beginning of WWII, Germany bombed the city repeatedly, destroying Soviet aircraft and killing thousands of soldiers and citizens. Following this, the German ground troops encountered little Soviet resistance and were assisted by the Lithuanians. Since the Lithuanians viewed the Soviets as their oppressors, they saw the Germans as their liberators and hoped they would grant them independence. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

The Nazi occupation compounded the cruelty and unspeakable suffering of Vilnius and Lithuania.

The Paneriai Memorial

About 100,000 Jews were murdered by the Nazis, many of them in Paneriai, about 10 km (6.2 mi) west of the old town center. The murders took place between July 1941 and August 1944.

The victims were brought down into the pits wearing hoods, then lined up and shot. Their bodies fell atop the other corpses that had been shot before them. When the pit was full, they were all buried and a new pit was started. There were six pits in total at Paneriai. We did visit the Paneriai Memorial. It is well presented, albeit emotional.

Towards the end of the war, the Nazis realized they were losing. They became paranoid that their heinous crimes would be discovered. They selected additional Jews from the ghettos to form work groups. These groups were made to dig up the corpses and relocate them to a different pit where they were burned. In many cases, people of the work groups recognized the bodies of their own family and friends.

Following WWII, the Soviets reestablished their dominance over Vilnius, essentially picking up where they left off. This time, their occupation lasted from 1944 to 1990.

As you explore the city today, you notice lots of open squares. These were not part of the original design of the city. They are areas that had been bombed as part of WWII. Since the Soviets moved back in immediately following the war, it was their decision not to replace any of the damaged infrastructure or buildings. They serve as a constant, bitter reminder of the abuse this city has suffered.

The war and Soviet dominance prior to the war had gouged a deep scar upon Vilnius the likes of which would take decades to recover. Some aspects of Vilnius will never recover. WWII was a terrible time for all, but Vilnius continued to suffer long after the peace treaties had been signed and the tanks had gone home.

Even through 1987, the terrorization by the Soviets continued. Sovietization and the dominance and horrors of actions carried out by the KGB in the name of communism continued throughout all of the Baltic countries.

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, all three Baltic states were finally able to achieve independence. This, in essence, is when Vilnius began its long journey back to the free world. Their infrastructure had been utterly destroyed. Living conditions were barely above third world. They had no experience in the commercial, industrial, or even the banking world. Anyone who possessed key knowledge in these crucial areas had been deported and killed. It was like throwing a baby bird out into a hurricane.

Indeed, one could write another entire volume on Vilnius’ recovery from freedom to stability. But it is human nature to survive, and the people of Vilnius never gave up. It wasn’t until 2015 that they got their first directly elected mayor.

Today, Vilnius is a major tourist destination for the region. It is part of the European Union, and with the help of the banks of Scandinavia, it continues to rebuild its infrastructure and its business community on the global scene. Although they have made great strides, the rebuilding of a civilization is a long and arduous road upon which their journey continues even today.

Like many European cities, it is chock full of cozy cafes, pubs, and restaurants. The food was absolutely exquisite.

Succulent venison, and several dishes unique to the area. Like delicious fried bread with cheese:

While we were there, we also visited the Trakai island castle. Beautifully restored castle from the 14th century. Very well presented and I strongly recommend you go here if you are in the area.

Most of the stone walls are original. Red brick was used in the original castle. They kept as much of that as they could.

I know it felt like a bit of a history lesson this time, but I just couldn’t explain how this city felt without the historical perspective. It is evident everywhere you go. You can see it in the infrastructure, and you can see it on the faces of the citizens and hear it in their voices. It is a city that has endured incredible hardships. And although it has a tortured soul, it also has a strong and determined heart that continues to speak to the world: “I will survive.”

Ghent, Belgium


Hello there! What? Hey it’s me, The Travelin’ Man! Don’t you remember? Wow, yes, it has been a while hasn’t it? I feel like I lost the Travelin’ in Travelin’ Man. Guess that makes me The Man!

We’ve been huddled under the blankets watching the snow come down and pretty much just enjoying the beautiful Swedish winter in Stockholm. But not to worry, we are officially back on the road again, or in the air again. We’re headed to Belgium, where we’ll catch the high speed train to Ghent. So dust off that hat, grab your walking shoes, and journey with us for our first trip of the year!


For our first adventure of the year, we decided on a weekend getaway. Brussels is a quick two hour hop on a direct flight from Stockholm, then a one hour dash to Ghent on the high speed train.


Certainly not a world renowned glamorous spot chocked-full-o-people. And perhaps that is its biggest draw. The more I travel, the more I yearn for secret gems tucked away from the stampedes of tourists. And Ghent is definitely one of them.


The thing that really struck me about this place was that upon arrival, I immediately had this strange feeling of having stepped back in time. Yes, I get it, tons of old medievaly European cities; but this was different. It didn’t feel like a place that was restored or even preserved. Instead of being pulled through time and put on display, it felt like it had pulled me back in time.


I fully expected to see nobles clip-clopping down the cobblestones in their fancy carriages; and men with their puffy trousers and jackets with voluminous sleeves and crisp linen shirts strolling along the sidewalk with their better halves decked out in long silk gowns garnished with lace. But I digress.


Most of the taverns and shops do not break the immersion once inside. Cozy, warm interiors with low ceilings. Strong timber supports and beamed ceilings, often with dark red brick walls. There was one glaring exception.


While we were there, we stayed in the Marriott (above) right in the center of town. And even it looked like an Inn from the days of yore. That is, until you stepped inside.


Whoa! You immediately crossed back over the magic time warp and back into the present.


I will speculate about the timeless mystery of this place. While it was occupied by the Germans in both world wars, they did not destroy or vandalize the city during their occupation or on their exit. Which is unusual, but fortunate. Furthermore, it was never bombed during WWII. Thus, there is not the feeling of a town partially original and partiality restored. It is fully authentic and untouched other than normal maintenance and upkeep.

As you can see from the pictures thus far, we enjoyed galavanting around this cozy medieval town. The canals were so beautiful that we just had to get down in them and do a canal boat ride. Why didn’t we think of that before all that walking around?



We also stumbled across a 12th century castle. It was in spectacular condition inside and out. This shot was taken from the boat:


The castle also features wedding services and a fully intact torture chamber. There is a joke just sitting there, just waiting to be had. Travelin’ Man knows better!

The day we arrived, we only spent a little time in Ghent. The following day we ventured to Bruges (click here for that journal). So it was actually the third day that we spent entirely in Ghent.


If you’re debating whether you should go to Ghent vs. Bruges, my advice is to do as we did and go to both of them. Otherwise, choose which venue suits your travel style better. The time warp back in time to the laidback medieval Ghent, or the fast paced big city feel and shopping of Bruges.

We had a great time on our first adventure of the year, and I hope you enjoyed tagging along with us! Next stop will be Bruges, Belgium, so stay tuned!


Riga, Latvia

Riga, Latvia



This is one of those popular long weekend destinations from the Stockholm area. The nice thing is, you get on a cruise ship in Stockholm, cruise overnight, then wake up at your destination.


There are a couple of other popular locations for doing this:

  • Talllinn, Estonia – we did this one and it was spectacular! Unfortunately, this was before I became The Travelin’ Man. Which basically just means we have to do it again!
  • Helsinki, Finland – Very popular long weekend destination. Jana has been on this one and recommends it, so we will definitely do this one, probably this summer.

If your geography is a little rusty, check out the map below. I’ve drawn a line to show where we are, and I circled Tallinn and Helsinki for reference:


So from Stockholm, all these locations are a one night cruise each way. It is so nice doing the one night cruise. There is nothing to do but party and eat. It’s a great way to get you in the mood for your upcoming long weekend!

The Cruise to Riga

The cruise takes us out into the open Baltic via the all to familiar path through the Swedish archipelago we have taken many times before. But the big difference here is that now we get to see what it looks like with snow on the ground. Yes, I know technically it’s spring, but we’re still in winter mode out here. Anyway, the same path, but it looks totally different. Take a look at these pics:




The ice was actually a bit of a problem. Beautiful to look at with a glass of wine in your hand. But we went through large patches of this overnight, while we were trying to sleep, and the ice grinding against the hull of the boat is quite loud.


But even though the ice cost us a little shut eye, it was so beautiful to see. What a unique and rare experience.

The next morning, while eating breakfast by the window, it was actually snowing! First time I’ve ever been on a cruise ship while it was snowing.

Things we did in Riga

Riga is a town that has been tortured by history. I get it; lots of European cities have rough histories. But this one in particular has had it rougher than most. Hostile take over by the Christians in the medieval period, violent repression by the Soviet Union, then the Nazi occupation during World War II. The city was heavily bombed during this time. The Soviets eventually got the Nazis out, but then they decided to stay. More repression, more violence. Nearly 100 people had been secretly executed by the KGB after the war (the graves were found after they left), and thousands had been deported. In both cases, their families had never been notified, the victims simply disappeared. In 1991, Latvia (and Riga) once again regained their independence from the Soviet Union and has been free ever since.

Despite this painful and heartbreaking history, the city is a strong, resilient hub of culture. Great museums, bars, pubs, restaurants, and beautiful parks. But everywhere you go, you still hear the whispers of their past.

Old Town Walking Tour

We hired a private tour guide from Riga Old Town Tours. Surprisingly, they have a web site called rigaoldtowntours.com. Our guide was really nice and very professional. It was a two hour tour spanning nearly three miles of primarily, you guessed it, Riga old town.

Riga was heavily bombed during WWII by the Soviets in an attempt to dislodge the Nazis. Many of the buildings and churches seen throughout the city were rebuilt. Some of the squares you see in old town were not actually squares, but areas that got decimated during the bombings and were not rebuilt.

It is amazing how some of the things in the city somehow managed to avoid damage from the bombings. This statue, for example. It is 138 feet tall (42m).  This is the Freedom Monument and was erected in 1935 to commemorate Latvia soldiers lost in their previous war of independence (1918 – 1920). It survived the WWII bombings and subsequent Soviet occupation. The Soviets nearly demolished it several times, but each time, fate intervened and thwarted their efforts. The Soviets never knew the true meaning of the statue. But imagine how the people of the land felt for the nearly fifty years while the Soviets occupied the area. Imagine how they felt each time they saw this monument.

There is an entire museum dedicated to the occupation, but it was closed during the  time we were there.


Another interesting relic that survived it all. As you can see, the rest of the world has moved on, but this bar, appropriately named Medieval Bar, is determined to freeze itself in time. Can you believe it can entertain 150 guests!? That’s because it is primarily underground. The restaurant/bar is built where the old wine cellar used to be back in 1201!

Historic statues, artistic sculptures, and unforgettable art. So rich in history and culture that I could easily spend an entire week here exploring and learning.

The city is also adorned with many beautiful green areas and parks. While the frozen scenes above were beautiful in their own, wintery rights, I can only imagine how gorgeous this place is in the height of summer.

The KGB Building

I could easily write an entire article on this attraction. Notice that I didn’t call it a museum, because it’s not. It is the actual local headquarters for the KGB during the Soviet occupation. It is presented as-is, or should I say as-was, with few modifications from how it was discovered. The only changes they made were in the name of preservation.

This was a very dark era for Riga, and you take a small residue of that with you after touring this building. It is demoralizing and depressing. But it is a part of history that deserves to be remembered, lest it be forgotten and repeated. This is the building people were brought to once they were “identified”. Arrested is the wrong word there because no records were kept of the abduction and no family was notified.

They were brought here and exposed to various forms of interrogation and questioning. If the authorities didn’t hear what they wanted, it escalated to imprisonment and torture. If sufficient evidence was found that the person or persons were working against the Soviet Union, or they got the confession they wanted to hear, the victims were taken to the execution room and shot (the bullet holes are visible in the wall). If sufficient evidence was not found and they concluded that they would not be able to get a confession, then the subject or subjects were deported and never seen or heard from again.

On a side note; when the KGB vacated the building, the wall in the execution room with the bullet holes had been bricked up. The entire building was analyzed and the fake wall was discovered. At the behest of the government, the bricks were taken down and the wall was exposed.

What’s even sadder about this whole affair is that, unbeknownst to the citizens, all this was happening right in the KGB building, right in the center of town. They never knew, because no one ever escaped, and no one was ever released.


Jana always manages to find the absolute coziest little hotels and B&B’s, and this one is no exception. Located right next to the river, and convenient for walking everywhere we went.

It’s called ‘St. Peter’s Boutique Hotel’, and it’s located at ‘Peldu Street 23, Riga, LV-1050, Latvia’. You can get to their website by clicking here.

We were only here for one night, so we only got to experience one restaurant. We went to a place called Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs. Like many of the establishments here, it was down in the basement. Very cozy atmosphere! I was a bad Travelin’ Man cause I didn’t take any pictures. The food was delicious. I got a pork hock, which is a very popular dish here. It was splendid. It was really more of beer environment (over 50 to choose from), so don’t come here for the wine.

Modern Riga

Across the river Daugava was a thriving, bustling metropolitan Riga. We didn’t venture over on this trip, but there were tours available. We really want to come back here in the summer and see what it looks like with everything in bloom.

The End

That was pretty much it. We had a great time and will try to come back. One final note for those who do take the cruise over; this is a shipping town, meaning they make a living primarily from ship commerce on the river. If you are awake when the ship comes into town, you will see the complete shipping operation. It ain’t pretty. And it wasn’t meant to be. So take it for what it is and enjoy the rest of the city!