Riga, Latvia, November 2023

Graham and I went to Riga for an Ubuntu Community Summit on the weekend, and then I did the housewife in luxury thing while he was attending an engineering sprint during the week. My notes on the summit content is in a separate post.

View from our room. The image does not do the golden dome and golden autumn leaves justice.

Riga is a beautiful city, I think Latvians put Italians to shame when it comes to style (hot take) but Latvia is also very flat and the clouds moved in for winter and I think they’ll only see sun again in many many months.

Also, we arrived after a very very narrow transfer – instead of the planned 3 hour relaxed meander at Lisbon airport, our plane had two failed attempts at landing due to storm Ciarán, then flew to Faro to refuel and eventually landed in Lisbon, doubling our flight time from Ponta Delgada. We had 10 minutes, ran for our lives and made the flight to Riga. Our bags didn’t make it.

At first I wasn’t too bothered, expecting the bags to arrive the next evening. They did not. By Saturday we needed to get some underwear, and I needed warm stuff (I get hot and Ponta Delgada was warm and so I landed with my summer dress on and nothing else. Adrenalin kept me going for a while). This is when the community told me about Humana, Riga’s collection of second-hand shops. I got a few skirts and a jersey or two for very little money, rushed back to attend the rest of the summit, but made a mental note to come back later. Man alive. Great success.

I have had a life-long obsession with karakoel lamb fur coats. I don’t know where it comes from, and I don’t know why when it involves killing lambs. I guess farming makes you harder about this. Anyway. So I’ve been looking for ages. In the Humana shop, there were some! True vintage, from South West Africa (called Namibia now). There was also a fluffy, practical coat that was only 25 Euro, which I consider a bargain and that I wore strutting around like a fluffy black peacock. Then a feminine Latvian-looking little jersey and a bold poncho . I was thrilled and on a shoppers high.

The coat on the right is Karakoel, and true vintage, from south west Africa (called Namibia now).

On the way back I popped in to another Humana shop just to see and found a coat that I immediately knew I had to have. It was a more modern cut, with a wider flair, better lining and lighter in weight. I also loved the grey shades. There is a small cut in the back and the lining is torn which made me think it was some mafia princess’s coat and she met her demise through a stabbing. The problem is, it is already unlikely I will wear one fur coat, there’s really no need for two. And this one was double the price.

So I put my metaphorical adult panties on and walked out and back to the hotel without buying it.

Ha, who am I kidding. I got to my room, dropped the other stuff, took the black coat and the receipt, and went back, knowing that it is unlikely that second hand shops will take purchases back. I was going to come home with two fur coats. I didn’t see the grey coat at first and had a sickening sinking feeling that someone with more money or more decisiveness took it, but no, it was there! I got it, and then, miraculously, the other shop was willing to take the black coat back and refund me. Much success.

Grey fur coat from Samantha of Stoll which looks really fancy.

If the fluffy coat made me strut like a fluffy black peacock, this coat made me walk like a plus size supermodel. Oh, the bags arrived Monday evening, 4 days after we got to Riga.

Riga has a huge park with a river through it which is a beautiful public space to walk through. I think we caught the narrow window of beautiful colourful autumn, too.

The very first sculpture I spotted was this foal, so that sealed my affection for Riga, forever.

Now, brace yourself for countless images of parts of a building with a colour matching tree next to it. I couldn’t get over it. Do these people paint their buildings to best match the shade of tree? How often do they do this?? I was transfixed.

Also I kid you not, sometimes the damn cars that drove past at the moment of taking the pic were also colour coordinated. WTF?

Somewhere along the line I went for a walk with Sarah, a spouse of another Canonical employee, and we hit it off immediately. Much shopping, walks and dress ups in museums ensued.

There’s an even better one with Sarah in too, but she doesn’t want pics on the web.
Classical beauty 😉 playing dress up at the Riga Art Nouveau Center and museum.

It was a blast hanging out with people. I think the Ubuntu and Canonical people are really intelligent, curious, interesting people, I really enjoyed talking to them. On the game night there were sheets of paper and a variety of games available (fabulous idea, by the way). We played Dots and Boxes which I now know is a terrible idea to engage in when your opponent is a developer who is employed for their attention to detail and ability to take in a lot of information at once. I was obliterated.

We also devised a game where each of us draws one line at a time, with a drawing we have in mind. Obviously the other people have their own drawings in mind, not helped by looking at the picture upside down from the other side of the table. Dan, the third participant, didn’t want to follow the rules (these are hacker-mindsets, after all) so I said, fine, you’re the wild card, you do whatever you want.

At some point we started crossing space time dimensions, or the surface of the paper at the very least, and I wanted to take a picture to remember the absurd amount of fun we had with such a simple game mechanic.

Between a church and some shops in old town Riga there was an arbitrary sculpture of an arbitrary armadillo. How cute! I call him Fred. Also the sculptures aren’t cordoned off, so they’re shiny where people have been touching them, sitting on them, playing with them. I like that.

Thank you Riga, you were fantastic.

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