It was the first day of a group visit to Riga in Latvia and we drove to the city to rendezvous with our Latvian guide for the afternoon who was going to take us on a walking tour of the city. We had no idea when we started the tour that this experience was designed as a severe endurance test based on the welcome to the Soviet Army initiation week for new recruits.
She was a lovely woman, and rightfully very proud of her city, I called her Rosa Klebb, but she hadn’t fully made the transition out of the communist era and she pushed us through the city at a punishing pace, even at one time refusing a perfectly reasonable request to stop for a just a brief moment to purchase drinks.
We saw all of the major tourist sites including the House of the Blackheads where we were chastised for buying postcards from a street vendor because she considered them too expensive; the Cathedral, where we took a ride to the top of the tower and marvelled at the view over the city; the house of the Black Cats with its graceful feline art nouveau statues; and the city main square with an inviting selection of pavement cafés where sadly we were not permitted to stay and sample the wares.
After an exhausting afternoon we eventually said a relieved goodbye to Rosa and to celebrate our liberation looked for a bar to sit and recover from the ordeal but sadly the weather had changed very quickly and some threatening black clouds were rolling in and it was starting to rain.
We sheltered for a time while we had a tedious deliberation about transport back to our respective hotels and dining arrangements for later in the evening. I knew that there was going to be trouble when Alona revealed her plans for a table dancing restaurant and Kim’s jaw dropped like a brick. There was only one thing to do, go into the canvas topped open air bar and have a drink, which we did while the others continued their debate about proposed evening activities. I could tell that Kim was getting somewhat irritated and another unnecessary discussion about taxi passenger arrangements didn’t help matters or improve her humour so I was extremely pleased to get back to the hotel without a major incident.
It didn’t take long for Kim to decide that she wasn’t going to the table dancing restaurant and I wasn’t especially keen either, but this put me in an awful dilemma. I wanted to stay with her but as tour leader felt obliged to meet up with the others.
Kim had displayed better judgement than me because the place was awful, loud, cheap and with young girls employed as female enticement to dance in the window in bikini tops and draw in the leering stag parties. This was sexual exploitation and I didn’t like it, they were roughly the same age as my own daughter and it occurred to me that I would hate it if they were my children and I was somewhat ashamed to be there. I ordered my meal and paid for it but left before it arrived and I walked back swiftly to the Hotel.