Ice Hockey, Snowball Fights and Sketches, a night out in Riga
Riga is fast becoming one of those places that pops up in ever group chat when it comes to planning a wild weekend with a group of friends. Stag dos, Hen dos, general British pisshead that go get smashed and releave themselves on the Monument of Freedom (not okay) and everyone else inbetween have taken to the Latvian nightlife to try and create some wild memories with their friends that they problem won't remember in the morning. Well it won't surprise you to hear but on my trip to Latvia I decided to partake in this new tradition of getting hammered in the Baltics. But this is not a tale of me ending the night in a Latvian cell after defacing the countries most treasured monument. No this is the story of Ice Hockey, Snowball fights and Sketches, a very different night out than any I have had before.
It all started with a ticket to an Ice Hockey game. Now I had never been to an Ice Hockey game before but my girlfriend, who is from Latvia, insisted it was very important that we go see it. I was actually really excited, I hadn't experienced a sports event in a foreign country before, and I understood what a big deal Ice Hockey was in this part of the world. We were going to watch the mighty Dynamo Riga. Upon arriving at the game I was really hoping for a bit of atmosphere, something different then watching Sunderland fans scream in anger at how awful their team is, and I was not disappointed. There was one specific group of fans that looked a great laugh, kitted out in their Dynamo regalia, drums at the ready, I knew they were going to be a blast, and we were sitting very close to them. As we approached kick off, or puck off, maybe stick off? I don't know what you call it, a full scale live rock concert swung into action. Sintija told me they were a local band and kind of a big deal. They were pretty hardcore and needless to stay I was getting pretty pumped to support my new favourite team against their Russian adversaries. Then the music suddenly stop the lights went dark and the crowd started to cheer. I was surprised to see what appeared to be a massive mascot skating out onto the ice seemingly on fire, while fire cannons shot flame all over the ice. Before a puck was hit I had already fallen in love with this game.
The game began and I was taken aback by just how hardcore ice hockey is. I had seen a few videos of the hard hitting but nothing beats seeing a person get smashed into the sidewall right in front of you live. It was like rugby on ice, and who isn't going to love that. the game was a tight affair but the Russians seemed to have the upper hand throughout, going 2-0 up before the half. But the Riga fans stayed jubilant through out, loudly drumming away and chanting 'Tikai Riga Tikai Dynamo!' Then in the third quarter lightening struck, twice! Two goals in quick succession put Riga on the edge of a win, the stadium went mad. Everyone passionately getting behind the home team. Me included, I was going mental, shouting so much my throat was sore, obviously you can drink while watching Ice Hockey which helped. But despite the crowd pushing the team on and the home team taking it to Overtime, the Russia's went home victorious by penalties. This was crushing to see and the atmosphere understandably dropped after the winning penalty but that did not stop that game being one of the most fun sporting events I have been too.
After leaving the game we headed straight for a 24 hour Lido. Lido is the place to go if you are looking for Latvian food while you're in Latvia. It is a buffet of Baltic delicacies and seriously hearty grub, great for a couple of people who have already had a few beers. Would really considering skipping Maccies and heading straight to one of these 24 hour restaurants if you find yourself looking for scran in Riga.
We then moved on to our first bar of the evening. A bar in the centre of old town with a very cool vibe and a quiz. Served some really nice beers but I can't remember the name of it unfortunately, but there were a lot of very similar bars in the area so take your pick. We then headed to an Aussie pub hostel, called Riga Old Town Hostel & Backpackers Pub. This place has a great vibe and is a must on a night out in Riga and I will be heading back as soon as I can. Really nice staff, really good and cheap drinks and some really good music. Everything you would expect from a good Aussie pub. I know not the most Latvian choice, but I was actually just following my girlfriend and she said to go there, so I'm going to say it was an authentic Latvian experience.
We spent quite a lot of time in the Aussie pub and drank maybe a few too many shots, it was time to go home. It was winter and a weekday so the clubs weren't particularly bouncing but there was enough to carry on if we wanted to, and I have been in the summer and the clubs looked crazy. But anyway, how do you get home in Riga, drunk and in the snow? Thats right, a tram! Drunken trams are incredible, trying to stay up right while singing and dancing in the middle of an empty tram is even better. One of the more enjoyable journeys home, but then it really took an amazing turn. As soon as we got off the tram we found thick snow! Our airBnB was a little out of the city centre and therefore the snow was less mushy. So you know what that means SNOWBALL FIGHT! Running around the streets of a suburb of Riga getting smashed by snowballs and flinging them back while drunk really hit differently. Felt like a snow day at school, but obviously a little more intoxicated. This is possible the most Eastern European thing I have ever seen and I loved it, I want every night out to have a snowball fight in it somewhere please.
But apparently this night hadn't got Eastern European enough. We needed vodka for our room, so we went on a search. Unfortunately most liquor stores close around 11pm so we had to just go into shops and ask nicely and in one of those shops I had another strange experience. Four Latvian students walked into the shop and immediately noticed I was British, I mean this wasn't really a revelation I am a very British looking person. Getting seen as being British and people talking to me about it, is not the strange experience but what these people wanted of me was a bit stranger. They wanted me to preform a sketch. I did not know this was a British stereotype, but I actually quite enjoy it, does this mean we are seen as creative and funny in Eastern Europe? Almost the opposite of what of our stereotype is like in countries such as Spain and Germany. These guys were insistent so I planned on recreating Charlie Chaplin's Great Dictator speech, on top of the pallets in the shop, with references to Trump and Boris Johnson instead, a genius idea I thought but I don't know any of the Great Dictator Speech, it had been a long night. But, luckily for me, before I could do the sketch the old lady in the shop asked us all to leave as she would not be selling any alcohol. This meant an end to our night and we went home, after a few more snowballs were flung.
This night out is still one of my favourites and I am glad we didn't get that bottle of vodka if I am perfectly honest because I am just glad I can remember the night. Anyone looking for a holiday to blow off some steam when we get out of lockdown I cannot recommend Riga enough.
Thank you for reading, hope you enjoyed.