Quirky tidbits from my trip to Riga, Latvia.
I’m aware that the title of this post may be confusing. Who is Cinnamon Sally? Why isn’t she called Nutmeg Sally? Is she purposely discriminating against other spices, or does she really just love cinnamon? And aren’t all pumpkins fat? Or are they just big-boned?
I’m sure those are the exact questions that everyone had when they read the title, but don’t worry; I’ll stop trying to be funny now and explain the significance of these phrases.
Both Cinnamon Sally and the Fat Pumpkin are places I encountered on my recent trip to Latvia, and both helped make my short vacation incredible. Before I delve into the wonders of these two places, I’ll provide a brief overview of my Latvian experience.
I wanted to visit Latvia because I had absolutely no idea what to expect. It’s not a popular tourist destination, especially for American students in Europe who tend to stick to the famous cities like Rome, Paris, Prague, Barcelona, Venice, etc. (Nothing against these popular touristy cities; I’ve been to all of them and loved every single one). But I found Latvia so intriguing because I knew nothing about it, and I was interested in venturing to an area of Europe that I’ve never been to.
After leaving Latvia a few days ago, all I have to say is I highly recommend going in the summer. I stayed in Riga, the country’s picturesque capital, which was gorgeous but also covered in snow and full of freezing temperatures and vicious winds. So while I enjoyed gazing at the amazing art-nouveau architecture, my face and eyeballs did not enjoy getting whipped with snow. And while I enjoyed walking through the peaceful parks and medieval Old Town, my feet did not enjoy experiencing numbness after absorbing heaps of snow through my shoes. Riga has so much to offer, but it would definitely be smarter to go in the summer (I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before the trip, I swear I’m usually pretty intelligent).
But that’s why Cinnamon Sally and The Fat Pumpkin acted as my saviors during this trip; both provided warm and welcoming safe havens from the brutal weather. Cinnamon Sally was the hostel I stayed in, and this provided me with the cozy and comfortable home that makes wintertime enjoyable.
After a day full of sightseeing, relaxing in this hostel felt like absolute heaven. Christmas lights provided the main light source in the common area, giving the room a warm glow. Fuzzy carpets blanketed the wooden floors, and numerous couches and bean bags sat around the room begging you to come take a nap in them. I spent some time basking in the warmth and coziness of the room while drinking tea and reading a book in a velvety armchair, occasionally having conversations with the super nice staff members. The bedrooms even had large windowsills with the heater attached to the wall directly underneath, so I was able to sit by the window and write while watching the snowstorm outside.
Although the snowstorm took a toll on my body, I have to admit I did enjoy the winter wonderland that Riga became due to the weather. Having not seen snow in over two years, I found serene beauty in the sight of the winter-ridden parks, where icy bridges arched over frozen canals and evergreen trees stood sprinkled with snow.
Walking through the medieval Old Town section of Riga actually felt like strolling through a snow globe, where blankets of fluffy snow rested atop elaborately decorated and colorful houses. The town looked like it came straight out of a folk tale, with its buildings slathered in vibrantly colored paint and adorned with decorations. It was honestly one of the most adorable places I’ve ever seen, and I could go on and on with similes of what the Old Town reminded me of (In addition to snow globe and folk tale, I would say real life gingerbread house is also at the top of the list).
I could have explored the Old Town for hours, but I had to take a break every time my body temperature dropped so low that I could no longer take pictures because my cell phone didn’t register my finger hitting the camera button. In one of the many desperate searches for warmth, I stumbled across the Fat Pumpkin, which was a vegan restaurant near the Old Town. I get so excited when I find vegan or vegetarian places while traveling, because it’s difficult to resist the fried foods and sweets that they serve at most street markets in European cities. But the Fat Pumpkin provided me with an afternoon of delicious, healthy, comfort food and a wonderful atmosphere. After a steaming pot of lemon ginger tea to revive my frozen organs, I had a lentil and vegetable stew with coconut cream. This flavorful dish left my stomach full, my taste buds satisfied, and my heart all warm and fuzzy.
So thanks to Cinnamon Sally and the Fat Pumpkin, I survived my trip to the freezing Baltic city in January. While I’ve spent a lot of this post bitching about the cold, I just want to verify how much I actually did love this visit to Riga. Yes, the weather sucked, but Riga impressed me with its amazing food, friendly people, stunning monuments, and jaw-dropping architecture.
The incredible Art-Nouveau architecture is actually one of Riga’s most prized assets, and I had the privilege of walking down the famous architectural paradise that is ‘Albert Street’. This short walkway was packed on both sides with tall, gorgeous buildings that were so elaborately decorated and elegantly styled that I had to walk up and down the street twice just to take it all in. Between the pastel colors and the expressive faces of humans and animals carved into the buildings, this street contained some of the most captivating architecture I’ve ever seen.
Although I can now cross Riga, Latvia off my travel bucket list, I have added another item to my list: Riga, Latvia in the summertime. If the city was this amazing during a brutal snowstorm, I can only imagine how beautiful it must be when the weather is nice. But I’m sure the stunning architecture will look just as mindblowing, and I’m sure I could still get a loaf of rye bread and a massive bag of walnuts for only 2.18 euros at the Central Market in the summer (another highlight of my trip). And I’m also sure that Cinnamon Sally and the Fat Pumpkin will be just as welcoming in the summer, so I’ll definitely be back.