Got over my first-reaction fear of attempting a new situation in a non-English speaking setting and we took the trolley to Mežaparks, a large park in the summer house district in the surroundings of Lake Ķīšezers. The remnants of strictly utilitarian Soviet architecture are less prevalent in Riga than in Helsinki and the grand estates of the early twentieth century are really lovely.
Along the lakeshore, moss covered trees lined the path as crows squawked and landed on the cracked ice. We neared a pier where a lone ice fisherman ignored the warning signs of melting ice to try his luck a various holes drilled on past trips. On our walk back past the zoo we both noted how much we needed to have this time in nature and would really like to be in a tent.
It was wonderful to get in the trees, walking the many asphalt paths and taking off on cross-country ski trails (completely devoid of snow). There is a gorgeous amphitheatre setting for summer folk music and dance festivals and, as we neared the lake we saw hilly trails that seemed perfect for some great mountain biking.
In keeping with our pattern of shopping for food every day, we decided to continue on to the Central Market to pick up some fish. Walking through one of the pedestrian tunnels under the busy street abutting the Rīgas Centrālā dzelzceļa stacija train station we were serenaded by a very skilled
Approaching the stairs down to another pedestrian tunnel I was suddenly swarmed by three small Gypsy women all speaking very fast and pushing their plastic wrapped sweaters against me. In spite of my repeated no in Latvian, “nē, nē, nē, nē” they blocked my path to the stairs so I had to circle around to the other side of the center handrail where I stuck my hand in the face of one and shouted “nē”.
As Jo readjusted her daypack to her front to prevent another pickpocket attempt, I quickly walked through the tunnel in an attempt to get away from the Gypsy, that I had asserted by displeasure to by with my hand in her face gesture, who was chasing me and shoving her packaged textiles in front of my chest. Through the tunnel and going up the stairs she was even more aggressive in pressing her wares on me and did not give up till I gave her a sideways shove with my forearm which she had pinned between my and her bodies.
Our lessons for the day:
· Don’t be complacent in crowded areas, especially the pedestrian tunnels
· As much as we have compassion for the Roma’s long history of oppression in Europe and really appreciate their music, Gypsies are not to be messed with.