I miss Latvia

by Gigi Griffis
Latvia coffee shop

Sometimes it comes as a surprise to me the places I miss.

They’re not always the places with the most bombastic scenery, the deepest foodie cultures, the most satisfying hikes. They’re not always, on paper, the kinds of places you’d expect me to go.

And yet something about them nestles down inside me, roots there, calls me back.

One of these places, apparently, is Latvia, where I’ve found myself drawn back again and again these past few years. Where I found quiet routines that comforted me in the midst of uncertainty. Where the rhythms of day-to-day life became a familiar delight.

In Riga, we stayed in well-designed apartments north of town, two blocks from a park where Luna ran her heart out and one day we stumbled upon a vegetarian food festival that quenched my longing for falafel. Every day, I walked the ten minutes to a sprawling coffee shop where the coffee was good and the comfortable interior was better and I could sit cross-legged on a wooden bench and write. I became such a regular that the staff knew my orders, something that’s always a special kind of joy when you’re nomadic. 

Once a week, in the early afternoon, I’d treat myself. Take the long walk from my coffee shop down to the park area between the northern part of town where we lived and the old historic center. With a podcast or audiobook playing in my ears, I’d make the trek down to the Grand Poet Hotel overlooking the park, take the elevator to the basement, slip into a robe, and relax into a weekly head massage from one of the incredible massage therapists. Sometimes, after, I’d sit quietly in the sauna. Sometimes I’d just take my sweet time showering and getting ready to rejoin society, my mind and body quiet.

And then there’d inevitably be sushi. Because this is splurge day, after all. And then another long walk back home with a podcast teaching me something I didn’t know before.

On the weekends, we’d take day trips. To gorgeously creepy bogs and the only hills in the Baltics and white-sand beaches. We’d eat more sushi, too. 

And that was just our time in Riga. The shape of my journey up the coast, walking from Riga to the Estonian border, cozying up in guesthouses at night, eating lavish breakfasts in wood-paneled dining rooms, walking beaches and cliffside paths and quiet forest paths. It was difficult. It was quiet. It was lovely.

Lately, I’ve been longing for the shape of my Latvian life. The quiet days of simple pleasures 

Perhaps because it was easy, familiar, comfortable. The small joys tallying up to a contentment I don’t always feel. Or perhaps because covid has stolen so many small joys this year. Coffee shops. Massages. Indoor eating at sushi restaurants. Here in central Europe, with numbers rising and the weather turning too cold for cafe patios, these things have slipped through the fingers of possibility. For now. 

And so I miss Latvia. In a way I didn’t expect to. 

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Natalie December 14, 2020 - 4:54 am

Gigi, what a wonderful tribute to Latvia, Riga and a life well-crafted. A timely reminder for me to intentionally develop these rhythms as well. Thanks!

Sonja of Montecristo Travels December 14, 2020 - 7:45 am

What a lovely read and also … I get it. I think it’s the advantage of staying in one place long enough o “live there” not just “tourist” through. You get to appreciate something that might otherwise not come through. The good news is — you can return. :)


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