Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Exploring Riga. The Central Market.


At the Central Market, Riga.

Today is our first full day in Riga. We woke up bright and early and headed down to breakfast room located down in the hotel's basement. It was a small buffet but with a decent offering of food - what we would eventually come to think of as Baltic style breakfast.....bread, cheese, eggs, smoked and pickled meats and fish, some sort of salad, yogurt and fresh fruit. Juice, tea/coffee to wash it all down with. I'm a savory breakfast girl so eggs and smoked meat it was for me (I love the ham here) and of course, a cup of tea. Bro, on the other hand, can really pack in the food. I think he had a serving of every item and in some cases, two servings!


Bellies filled, we made our way out of the hotel and to our car. No parking ticket so whatever we did last night, was right! Just hope we can recreate that process!

With Bro navigating, we headed out. The plan was to go to the Central Market. What do you expect with the two of us market loving fiends? As we drove along the streets, we were quickly reminded of how the traffic signals work here and of the difficulty in reading the street signs. I'm quickly realizing that even with having to focus on driving, I somehow am able to read the signs better than my brother. Maybe he needs new glasses. Of course, just when we thought we had the roads figured out, there was something new to contend with. To not obstruct traffic, I was deliberately driving in the far right lane, next to the curb. As we drove along the street that would eventually lead us to the market, we quickly realized that that lane was reserved for buses. I moved one lane over.

One of the zeppelin hangars.  See one and you know you're at the market!

As we neared the market, I recognized the zeppelin hangars that make up the indoor market. We saw the parking lot across the street and had to figure out how to make our way to it. A few u-turns and we were there. We pulled into the lot, parked the car and headed to the ticket kiosk. Unlike the kiosk by the hotel which would only take credit card, this kiosk would only take cash. Luckily, Bro had some change with him from last night's dinner. We put in enough coins to cover the time we thought we would be staying and the kiosk spewed out the ticket. Another parking ticket buy successfully accomplished. We tackle our challenges head on and with the confidence of two people who absolutely have no clue what they're doing :-) To be on the safe side, I spotted two parking attendants and approached them to ask for change. I spoke in English which I'm not sure they understood but the gesture of holding out a bill seems to be universal - they gave us the equivalent in coins which we held on to and later used to extend our time.

Produce for sale.

We decided to explore the outdoor market first - the veggie and fruit vendors. The quality of the produce, at least how they look, is AMAZING! I have never seen such perfect veggies and fruits in any market. Every tomato looked picture perfect and so did the lettuce. Berries and mushrooms are in season here and vendor after vendor had absolutely picture perfect ones for sale. Prices seemed very reasonable as well. I do wonder how much pesticide/insecticide they use to get these lovely veggies and fruits. We also noticed the effort that the vendors go through to display their produce - every item is neatly stacked up - nothing is just thrown into a pile. They sure know how to display their produce so it looks ever so enticing to the buyer. If I lived in Riga, I would be shopping here as often as I could.

Fresh veggies.  Everything looked so good.

Every tomato and cucumber perfectly stacked, so nicely presented.

Notice the stems on the tomatoes - fruit perfectly snipped from the plant.

It's mushroom and berry season here.  I was drooling over the chanterelles!

Scallions, cleaned and ready to be eaten.

Near the produce vendors were the flower vendors. Bro is a flower lover so of course, we had to stroll down the lane lined with vendors. Dahlias and roses seem to be the flowers of choice, or perhaps season, here. As with the produce, everything is so wonderfully displayed.

Begonias for sale.

Vendor selling herbs and produce for medicinal teas.

We skipped the housewares and clothing vendors. I have to say, Riga is not exactly a fashionable capital. I think people still dress basic day to day wear though the women are dressed nicely - no sweatpants to be seen on any of them.

In the background, one of the pavilions.

After a leisurely stroll through the outdoor market, we made our way inside the hangars to walk the indoor market. They call them pavilions here and each is named according to the food they sell. There were the dairy and cheese vendors, the fresh and smoked meat vendors (pork and chicken seem to be the preference), the pickled veggie vendors, spice vendors and last but not least, the baked goods vendors.

Smoked meats. I wanted it all!

The dairy counter.  Latvians love cream....but then again, who doesn't?

Cheese....with selections from all over Europe.  Just leave me here.

Rye bread is the bread of choice here - very hearty!

No explanation necessary.  Just bag me a few to go :-)

Pickled veggies. 

Lots of spices to choose from.

A view of one of the pavilions.  Pretty space, don't you think?

Late summer means pumpkins and gourds are for sale.  Such a colorful display.

Popular bread vendor.  We made a note to come back and try some.   Never had Uzbek bread before.

The fresh meat pavilion.  Lots of chicken and pork.

You can buy your milk and spices in the same pavilion - very convenient.

Then, the most amazing of all the pavilions, the Fish Pavilion where they sold both fresh and dried/smoked fish. Not surprisingly, as fish lovers, we spent most of our time here.

The fresh fish were incredibly fresh - some still moving. The smoked fish was intoxicating and the variety of not only what they smoked but how it was prepared was absolutely dizzying!! I especially loved the clusters of smoked fish (mackeral?) displayed in buckets or baskets like flowers - so cute!

It was amazing to see how every item was labelled with its origin - sprats from Latvia, salmon from Norway. Products seem to come from a variety of European countries. Perhaps this is an advantage of Latvia's membership in the EU. Not surprisingly, I didn't see anything from any country in Asia or anything from the Americas.

We declared the Fish Pavilion are favorite place in the market and are already planning a return visit.  Next time, I will be buying and not just looking!

Fresh and I mean really fresh salmon from Norway.

Locally caught fish.  Amazingly fresh.












Surprisingly, we left the market completely empty handed though it was just our first day here and we decided we could easily come back as the place was located barely a 10 minute drive from our hotel.

On to Old Town!