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Bradley Jay Travel: 'Riga, Latvia Is The New Prague.'

My name is Bradley Jay and I host the Jay Talking radio show which airs weekday mornings on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 from midnight to five. Like the Jay Talking Facebook page. The Twitter handle is @jaytalkingwbz

There are hundreds of travel videos about London, Paris, Prague, Vienna, Madrid and all the popular European destinations, so I am pleased to bring you something quite different this time. Introducing Riga, Latvia. Latvia is nestled at the corner of Scandinavia and Russia and both can be felt in there.

Riga is a small but grand city with wonderful architecture, plenty of parkland, Amsterdam style canals and a charming old town with a hint of gritty swank.

One rather different feature in Riga is the presence of moody old wooden buildings in the urban area that take one back deep into the twentieth century. One of the main reasons I travel is to get a sense of old world Europe, and Riga rivals Budapest as the place to best do this. Actually, Riga may have an advantage over Budapest as it is smaller and less expensive. And I did not see any of these fabulous wooden buildings in Budapest. These structures, especially in the yellow street lights, ooze character, history and cold war skullduggery.

The hotels are affordable by European standards and it is a great chance to experience a bit of true old world European luxury. My hotel was in the "Silent Center" known for its opulent architecheture and sumptuous dining. It was transformative experience to roam the neighborhood, from wonderful cafés, to heated out door lunch spots, to real Russian restraunts, always accompanied by the unique sound of automobile tires on cobble-tone streets.

The natives range from my friendly and effusive personal bartenders (I say personal because there is only one seat at the hotel bar, and I came to view that as my seat) to gloomy intellectuals and artists.

The perfect example of the manifestations of this combination was an old city dwelling that had been converted into a music and arts space and bar with hipsters who are actually hip, a massive wooden deck, and cheap beer and wine. It is now officially my 'coolest bar in the world,' replacing the candles only Alchemia in the Nazi devastated Kazimierz neghiborhood.

Over all, I would have to say that if I could return to one city, it would be Riga.
If I have perhaps moved you to consider visiting the city, you had better get there before Putin does. I can only hope that I was a fit American ambassador and that I left as good an impression on Riga as it left on me.

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