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motorcycle riding in Latvia
edited February 2009
there is a a motorcycle rally in Lativa, Jumala, any advise fopr when riding and what are the roads like, I hear the people can be unfriendly to us brits is this the case.
Await yr reply.
When are you going?Can make a huge difference:+30 in Summer,-30 in Winter!I was out visiting family at end of January and it was -28.Any roads between towns and villages are unsalted/grit and,unless you have a car that has proper Winter tread,then forget it.It's illegal (as is the case in most European countries now) to have tyres fitted with metal spikes as they damage the surface.We were 60 miles east of Riga,right out in the wonderful countryside.Also,travelled into the city:Stunning.I take it you'll be going in the Summer time?If so,the roads are some of the worst I've travelled,considering it's a modern country - maybe,some of the country roads of Poland come close....maybe!Potholes,after pothole after complete subsidence.You must keep your eyes on the road.Good tip when I was being taught to drive on the ice is to use the whole of the road.Don't just keep to the left.As for 'Jurmala',it's famous for the sand,the dunes,the sea,the forests and you can still find amber just laying on the beach!But,it's also famous as the area where the Russian arm of the Mafia have bought property.They,basically,started buying houses there many years ago and inflated the prices so that no-one else could buy and,so,they have a monopoly.Clever.Yes,they are clever people.
My advice is....go!It's an amazingly,friendly country.Wonderful scenery.If you're staying in the city then take any bike-but be careful of the cobbles in some areas.Out in the countryside I'd take a proper off-road/trailie/scrambler to cope with the bad roads and not some kind of pretender eg,BMW Gs things.They're good,but not that good when it comes down to the real thing.City is horrendously expensive unless you have Latvian friends who can show you the way-as is with most foreign countries.Out in the towns you'll find amazing bargains.The Mafia are OK just as long as respect is shown.Bit like dealing with wild animals really.
Finally,say "Hi!" to 'Veja Bralu Ordenis' (Brothers of the Wind), one of the oldest,most respected clubs out there.Take a drink in "Pieci Vilki" (5 Wolves).It's owned by the local bike club and you'll feel welcomed.There's about 40 clubs out there and all are so varied.'Hermejs' are a bit like 'HOGS',:Gandri' and 'Piratica' are like rally boys,whereas as those with 'Wolves Brotherhood','Drakons' and 'Black Angels' consider themselves,well,up there in the 1% group.To me,though,they all look like German bikers,that like to wear all black leathers with a nice little black,leather waistcoat.For this reason it can be difficult to see who you're dealing with until you see the colours on their backs.
And before I go,keep pestering someone to try some proper homemade (illegal) vodka.Not any old vodka,but homemade from bread.It's unbelievable!
thanks for that, great.
The rally is in June.
I will be shipping Harley-Davidsons for the European HOG rally, so am therefore just getting some background information on Latvia, as I have heard sooo many different stories from different people who have had their own experiences, good and bad.
Appreciate the reply Andy.
I always love it when people tell you exactly what a place is like,and what the people are like,when they've only visited it for a holiday or whatever.Makes me laugh!I'm lucky that my business here,in the UK,I get to travel and live (anywhere from 6 weeks to a year),literally,all over the country:It's amazing what stories you hear.That's why,when I visit a new place for the first time,I like to go get "lost".This means I go to places where the tourists don't get to go,where you meet the locals and eat'n'drink where they go.Same when I'm abroad.But,the big advantage about Latvia is my family connection:My ex-wife is from there and,so,I have been lucky to visit and do what they do.Plus,hearing from her,her family and her diverse friends (Latvian,Lithuanian,Ukrainian,Russian,BelloRussian and,even,Mafia) their outlook on life in the country.It might be that you have heard 'anti-British' comments from people for several reasons.There are three that come to mind:1/.Riga is a common place for British Stag Parties to visit.(Think about it.Would you want our "fine,young men" performing like animals on your doorstep?) 2/.The country has always been owned by other countries.Don't want to go into it here but,now they have their freedom,they don't want 'outsiders'.Russians are hugely frowned upon.And another thing while you're out there,count how many 'coloured' people you spot walking around.You'll be suprised! 3/.The English really are laughed at by all other countries of the World.Shame,but we brought it on ourselves.
Anyway,I hope you enjoy Latvia.It really is a an amazing,strong willed,little country.If you love the countryside,respect nature,enjoy superstition and Old Wives Tales,etc you won't go wrong.If you need any other help just let me know.Like going to 'Rimi' supermarkets to get your bargains (including very cheap cigarettes,if you're into that,which I'm not,but hey!) or.....well,whatever.I could go on and on.You never know we might bump into each other out there as I've,now,got three properties out in the countryside.
Where are you from,by the way,and how did you get to decide to go to Latvia?
Andy - this is really great and interesting information. Makes me want to hit the road right away. Your love of the country is obvious and makes a nice difference from some of the negative feedback I've seen on
. Personally, I spent a week in Riga in 2003 and really enjoyed the city but many people come away from Riga with negative feelings about Latvia as a whole. Is there some truth to the impression that Latvian's are unwelcoming to foreign (especially British) visitors?
Where do you start?Hmmmm?Maybe,let's start with going back to basics and the mentally that "we Brits" have.
'We' still have this idea that 'we' are the best,'we' do better,'we' know better,blah,blah,etc.My dad was in the SBS during WW2 and,after marrying,settling down,having a family,etc, my mum always asked about having a holiday abroad.The answer was always the same:"I've been there in the war.There's no need to go back again."Being brought up as a RC with the proud attitude that we really are the best there is:You only have to see how great we are by how many wars we have won,including two World Wars!!!Suffice to say,as soon as I was able, I jumped on me 'bike and began a tour - this,only after it was agreed between myself and the girlfriend of the time,to spend two years touring the countries of Great Britain,to see how wonderful our land was.When got over the water we, immediately,noticed the open roads,the more consistent weather and,especially,the attitude that the 'foreigners' have.We both agreed that it is 'us' who are different from the rest of Europe.Personally,it seems we have sat on our laurels for far too long.Put it this way,look how the Germans changed after losing a second World war:They looked at themselves and pulled their socks up whereas we,well,do I need to even go there?Anyway,enough of the politics.
'We' still have the attitude (which is going to take many generations to loose) of going to a different country and 'expecting' the people there to bow to us.That is,'expecting' themto understand English we speak,'expecting' them to serve tea,or a full to the brim beer that's cold and with a frothy head,'expecting' them to know that we have breakfast,lunch,dinner and tea at certain times of the day....you got the idea.I call it the 'Spanish Syndrome',when so many English had cheap hols to Spain that they fell in love with the 'idea' and,some,moved out there (coming back in their 100's now,though!).Cheap holiday in the sun at an English speaking hotel,that serves English breakfast,tea,cold beer,fish'n'chips and where other holiday makers are English,can have a chat and not have the 'stupid local' not undersatnd what they're shouting about.I've lost count of the amount of twats I've met like this,including a guy (out in Turkey) who refused to eat any of the local food as it had given him food poisoning the night before(!?!) and,therefore,would only eat from McD's.Why,you ask?Well,he remarked that,at least,"...you can rely on the beef from McDonalds coming from England!" And I never knew that....!
So,after going to the link you left on the previous message,I had a read through the many comments left there.Basically,to me,you can divide the people into two:The Brit Holiday Maker and those who put themselves into other peoples shoes and want to see things from the other side of the fence.If you see what I mean.I travel abroad and want to see,eat,breath,drink,sleep what the locals do.If I want a full fry up with a warm beer I know exactly where to go.
From those comments I can see many of them have this 'SS' (Spanish Syndrome!) where they can go for a cheap stag do in another country and,literally,take the p*ss.These are exactly the same people who would soon be in an 'outrage' if it happened on their own doorstep.Imagine what they would say if,God forbid,foreigners began coming over here and started to take their jobs!
more to follow...............
What I did notice from the comments that are of a more postive persuasion,these are pretty common sense,coming from those who are on the 'other side of the fence'.Those that were 'anti' how many actually tried to say "Hello","Please","Thank you","Goodbye","Excuse me",etc,in LATVIAN and not Russian - which,as I outlined before,and could be a totally new topic,about the love/hate relationship the Lats have with the Ruskies.It seems to boil down to one thing.Respect.The Latvians are VERY proud people,especially as they now have their freedom from dictators,etc,over the millennia.When you get to know them (remember I was married out there!) you can start to understand why they want to be free of any outsiders and want,what they call, 'True Bloods'.
All I can say is to remember respect wherever you go.Try and speak some basic Latvian (not Russian!) and you'll see a big difference,especially if you make a bit of a laugh about it.Understand how they see 'us' and what a bunch of a**ehols 'we' appear to them as.Look at their customs - handing over a bunch of flowers,for example,when you meet a friend,whether it be female OR male is totally welcome.Sitting in a bar and having conversation rather than shouting.If you want to binge drink then do it in style:They wouldn't call it this as it's quite normal to have a tumbler full of spirit (not a tiny shot glass) knocked back in one followed,immediately,by a swig of (if possible) local beer,while having nibbles of bread,gurkis (pickled cucumber),tomatoes,caviar (if about!),herring,etc.Then,before you know it,another tumbler is placed in your hands......hic!Having a p*ss in public is bad enough but,never,EVER,never do it front of a woman!
Also,I noticed that most of the comments are about the foul,disgusting,rude Latvians in Riga.Again,I'd say to these people to actually get out and visit the country they are in and not just another city.To me,even when I visit a city over here I'm glad that it's only a visit and that I don't actually live there.I'm not a lover of overcrowed,big cities.There again,I wonder how many of these "rude Latvians" were,actually,Latvian.There are still many Russians still living there and are,even though some were born there of Russian parents,being well and truly persecuted:They can buy a house but they don't own the land that it sits on is a great political 'law'.Or,howabout,the Russians that come to visit the country have to proove they enough cash to live on for the duration of the stay,or out?
You can pretty well know whether the person is Russian or Latvian by the spelling of their name.Men end with 's' while women end with 'a'.This is a fair rule of thumb.So,a Lat woman should be,say,'Zana' followed by,say,'Kalnina' and the male equivalent would be 'Andris Kalnins'.If there are names like 'Daskevitch' well,they could be from Russians born in Latvian while it was a Russian state.From what I understand,it is these Latvian born Russians who still consider themselves the 'better' of the race and causes all sorts of political problems.When telling my wife that the Latvian football team was to be playing England she said "What?We do not have a football team." Understandably,I put here right.Then,she replied,"Look at the names of the players.They are not Latvians!"Yes,she was right.
When I worked in Guernsey I met the 1,000 population of Latvians who live there.What a bad reputation they have!But,as the true Guernsey locals had found out,due to the bad press over the years about Russians,many were,indeed,pretending to be Latvian.Even the locals had learnt to go by the rule-of-thumb about names.Then,pretty much all agreed,saying the Latvians are very polite,hard working,proud and intelligent.Unlike the the other pretenders,they would say!
Must stop my rantings here.I could go on and on.Let's just say:-
Learn basic Latvian.
Understand where the Latvians have struggled from and what they want to achive.
Look at how they percieve us.
Enjoy their culture and love for their country.
Think about why you are going to 'just another country':Is it to say you had a holiday there or is it because you want to be a part of them?
Don't tar people with the same brush.Just because Dr Shipman killed his patients are all GPs murderers?Just because many of the guys in the club are known for their drug dealing and violence does that make all Angels,1%ers or,even,the biker fraternity scum of the Earth?
Anyway,if you have common sense and that big thing called 'respect' then you will understand where I'm coming from.If not.....well,enjoy the good ol' Costa Packet
If there's any thing more specific you'd like to know then just send it over and,this time,I'll try and keep it short and sweet.I promise!
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