A nasty surprise

Day 51 – Wednesday 14th of August – Tallinn to Riga (315km)

In more than a month and a half I had parked my bike in lots of different places, from car parks with 24h surveillance to alleys in Russia to the desert in Kazakhstan, and never had a single problem; it was back in the EU, and because of a stupid oversight, that I had something stolen for the first time. It had been raining, I was tired and looking forward to a warm, dry room… I could give lots of excuses, but there is no escaping that it was my fault that I put the padlocks on the panniers when we got to Tallinn but forgot to check whether they were locked, and they were not. When we walked out of the hostel with our bags today to get ready to get on the bike, someone had taken the inner bag from the right side pannier. It contained the toolkit, the air compressor for the tires, the 12v chargers for the laptop and the camera, the broken petrol stove, as well as assorted bits and pieces such as rags, plastic bags, some ROK straps… nothing that was not easily replaceable, but all the same annoying to have stolen.

We took it the best way possible, determined not to let it spoil our holidays, and on the way to Riga I bought some basic tools on a petrol station. The day was cloudy, and the rain came and went all the way to our hostel in Latvia’s capital, an old building near the train station on the limit of the old town that looked like a classic New York tenement building out of an old police thriller. Despite the looks of the place, there were several IT companies based on the building, and the car park in the inner court where we were told to park the bike had CCTV surveillance, which was reassuring after the events of the previous night.

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The impression I got from Riga when compared to Tallinn was a bit like comparing Brugge and Gant in Belgium. The former was a quaint place, all old streets and buildings, perfectly maintained or restored, spotlessly clean streets, almost as if it had been built as a tourist attraction, lacking a bit in real life in its streets, while the latter was a more lively place, also old and historical, but with real people and real life in it. We tried something called Black Balsam, a very strong herbal liquor, in a terrace where there was a swing band playing live, which later on gave way to a group playing jazz, pop and rock covers, with a singer who had a velvety voice that was perfect to make that place and moment one of those memories that you treasure back home, years later.

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Since replacing the tools had put a dent in my budget, that night we had a pizza back at the hostel and went to bed early. The following day we had a short ride to Vilnius, less than 300km, which would be a nice change from the long rides I had been doing for most of the summer.

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