Working Waterfront: Peter Dailey, Port of San Francisco
I Lunch for a Living
Bay Crossings Journal
Bay Crossings Poetry
Springtime in Paris Sweepstakes
Ferry News
The Steam Will Rise Again
Bay Area Libations
Working Waterfront: Laurie Miskuski
Boating Calendar
Taste on the Bay on its Way
Bay Area Sailors Win National Acclaim
Cover Story: Waterfront Living
Bay Crossings Cuisine:
Port of Call: Riga, Latvia
City Welcomes New Sculpture "Cupidís Span"
New Hookup Links 511 Service With Hearing-, Speech-Impaired Travelers
WTA Pages: All Aboard for Martinez
MTC Updates Master Plan for Bay Areaís Network of Carpool Lanes
Tables by the Bay
Flight of Fantasy

Port of Call: Riga, Latvia

By Michael Leo

Water is still a major mode of transport in Riga, Latvia where the Daugava River meets the Baltic Sea.

Imagine you lived in a charming little seaside village at the mouth of a great river. Your waterfront lifestyle leaves little to be desired; you fish, paddle a nimble canoe, and enjoy sunsets on the beach with your lovers and neighbors alike. Then, one day a group of Germans roll into town. They call themselves the "Brotherhood of the Sword" and you are curtly informed, as Germans are wont to do, that you are now part of their new colony and that everything belongs to them. Forget about Jesus, what would you do? After the joke started to wear thin, you would kill them, of course. Every last one. That is exactly what the indigenous residents of what was to become Riga, Latvia did in the 10th century. However, for the next thousand years, they were not as successful in the implementation of their conflict resolution skills. The Germans were only the first uninvited guests, followed by the Swedes, the Lithuanians, and eventually the Russians.

Ensconced in a large bay on the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea, the city of Riga, the birthplace of the first decorated Christmas tree, grew to be a major trading and manufacturing center, rivaling St. Petersburg and Moscow. Often lumped together with its Baltic sisters, Estonia and Lithuania, and quickly forgotten, Latvia finally achieved independence, the first time, after World War I, but it was graciously awarded to the Russian sphere of influence by the Nazis as part of the Hitler-Stalin Pact. Later, when Hitler turned on Stalin the Nazis controlled Latvia until 1944 when the Russians reoccupied the country. After such treachery and enormous losses in the war, the Russians were not in the best mood when dealing with locals as they moved westward towards Berlin. Knowing this, almost 100,000 Latvians fled with the retreating German army. Latvia gained independence from the glorious Soviet experiment in genocide oppression a second time on September 6, 1991.

One steady staple for staying warm on the Riga waterfront is Black Balsam, a thick, alcoholic bitter made of 16 grasses, oak bark, ginger linden, and other secret ingredients. This pungent sludge is often mixed with equal part vodka for an effective hit against any problems, real or imagined. Riga also serves as a terminus for a major ferry crossing to Stockholm, operated by the Baltic Kristina. Riga, you can get there from the San Francisco Bay in 37 days traveling at 10 knots, by way of the Panama Canal, Cape Wrath, and Skaw, only 9,034 miles.