Seeing that I’m in Latvia and don’t understand Latvian, I usually rely on friends and acquaintances to tell me what’s going on. If not for them, I would have assumed that there’s nothing to do in Riga except drink until the wee hours of the morning, eat at Pelmeni and stumble home through the park while being accosted by dubious-looking women.
A friend of mine told me about a Mamma Daba event happening near Old Town. Mamma Daba means “Mother Nature” but it wasn’t very clear what was the purpose of the event. Anyhow, I wanted to go to Pelmeni for lunch and it was nearby. Pelmeni means “dumpling” and as you can imagine, the place sells dumplings. It’s a buffet-style restaurant where you can buy all sorts of dumplings. After going loads of times, I’ve determined that the options are pork, chicken, smoked meat, vegetarian and cheese. I think. It’s all in Latvian so I actually have no idea and just get a few of everything, to hedge my bets. Your selections are then weighed, by which you pay by. There are also soups available like cold beetroot soup and spam soup (I was hooked on the spam soup for a while until I realized I was eating spam). But the dumplings are the way to go, cheap and tasty (and best enjoyed when you are drunk).
After Pelmeni, I went to check out the Mamma Daba event. It was a small tent situated in the park along the canal, near the Opera house in Old Town.
Me: “Sveiki, Kā tev iet?” I said, proudly showing off the new sentence I had learnt. (“Hi, How are you?”)
Her: “Labi, pefhpg pfhzs pehsp.” (“Good” followed by something incoherent)
Me: “Ah right. I don’t actually know Latvian.”
Her: “I guessed as much.”
Just as well that Latvians are trillingual. She explained to me that Mamma Daba was an organization trying to promote people to get out of their house and enjoy nature. Or was it to be more active? In any case, it was with good reason. Summer here seems to be very short. It’s only August and already starting to feel like fall. (Looks like the best time to visit Riga is in June & July.) Normally I would never step out of the house in these conditions – ie. if it looked like there was a remote chance of rain. I think I may have mild ombrophobia, which is the abnormal fear of rain. Or that I need to just buy an umbrella.
Anyway, I was only out and about because it’s my last few days in Riga (and for Pelmeni). One of the “promotional” activities for Mamma Daba was that they were giving out free massages. Hell yeah. There were a pile of sawdust bags to lay on and I jokingly asked if I should take my clothes off. She replied “No! Please don’t”. I love fucking with people.
I found out that there was a live band playing there that evening so I came back later, armed with some friends. There was a duo playing the guitar and apparently, they were the female lead singer and male guitarist of a 5-person, Latvian-famous band called Astro’n’out.
The lead singer’s voice was like that of a Siren’s. Imagine a unicorn bathing in milk and honey, while floating on a cloud over a double-rainbow. It was like that, only sweeter. It was so good, I forgot that I didn’t understand Latvian. I was one with the music. And I hadn’t even started drinking yet.
After the show, I went to invite the singer, Māra to join me and my friends for a beer at my favourite local bar, Ala Folk Club. I guess the guitarist could come too, if he had to. Unfortunately, they were leaving to go do another gig. But she gave me an autographed CD and hug, which is arguably almost as good as a cold beer. I wonder if I’m her first fan from New Zealand.
info: Pelmeni Astro’n’out Ala Folk Club
Mamma Daba has a bunch of events on in Riga. Here is the schedule until Sunday.
note: I have not received any freebies from Pelmeni or Ala. Although I probably should!