I went to Riga for the first time about 9 years ago, though I remember very little about the city. I don’t remember what I saw or did. I don’t recall the cuisine. I do, however, remember being seen. Not just seen, but starred at. Apparently the residents of Riga hadn’t seen too many black people in the early noughties, so when I rolled into town with Mr. Man and our brown-tinged little ladies they could not take their eyes off of us.
And while I don’t remember a lot from that first trip, there is one incident that stands out vividly in my mind. We were in a cafe, sitting by a window and passersby just stopped and starred. They literally stopped and watched us. I even recall someone making the extra effort to reposition themselves to look around
to get a better look at Miss V, an infant at the time, who I was holding.
I recently discussed this singular memory with Mr. Man, and he gave me a quizzical look and asked “you don’t remember being confronted by a group of skinheads one night when we were walking back from dinner?” Mr. Man went on to remind me that he removed Miss V from the Baby Bjorn and handed her to me as he prepared to stand his ground and defend his family.
I didn’t remember the run in with the skinheads until he brought it up, and then only vaguely. Maybe because I was so traumatized by the thought of possibility of having to make a run for it with my infant and pre-schooler while my husband fought off a group of racist punks that I just completely blocked it from my memory.
But that was then, this is now and as I return to Riga after so much time has passed, I suspect things will have changed. named a European Capital of Culture for 2014, Riga is ready for its close-up and to welcome guests from around the world. I’ve changed as well. I’ve traveled quite a bit since then, including to other places where I seen as a novelty, so I won’t be taken aback if it happens again, though I doubt it will.
I’m also determined not to let the incidents of my first visit to the Latvian capital forever “color” my overall impression of the city, and look forward to a Riga redo.