Monday, 28 June 2010

Riga - Part 1

I should know better at my age. I mean what would you do if you had just arrived in Riga for a wedding ? Of course the sensible thing would be to have a meal with a few gentle drinks before turning in for an early night. That's a bit boring though, much better to go mad and sample loads of turbocharged Belgian beer. Mercifully the groom was more sensible and knew when to stop drinking.

About the only wise decision I made was to share a metre of traditional Latvian sausage. This was top notch as was the accompanying salad, gherkins, and dips. Particularly worthy of mention was the potato salad.

I woke up the next day with a terrible hangover and the 50km coach trip to the wedding venue wasn't much fun although it was enlivened by some stunning scenery. The gods were on side for this big fat Greek-Latvian wedding as there wasn't a cloud in the sky for the outdoor ceremony.

As I'm not of the fairer sex, I lack the writing skills to describe the proceedings but needless to say El Greco and Mysterious Miss A's wedding went off really well. I particularly enjoyed the traditional games, customs, and challenges that the newlyweds had to go through.

I was still feeling a little tender so I was glad that there were nibbles with the champagne and I was double glad that these were substantial nibbles. None of that vol-au-vent nonsense – instead we had the Latvian take on the sausage roll as well as bread rolls with fillings such as bacon, egg, and mushrooms baked inside the roll. These were all excellent and strangely reminded me of Chinese bakery albeit with different fillings.

Onto the wedding breakfast and the speeches. These were expertly done with El Greco's newly acquired Russian language skills going down a storm with his in-laws. I also learnt some Russian that day, the word gorko. Whenever this was chanted, the bride and groom had to stop what they were doing and kiss until the chanting stopped. And by kiss, I mean properly kiss. I'm not sure the newlyweds finished their food as there were so many chants of gorko - even the usually repressed Brits eventually joined in (once the booze had kicked in).

For the meal itself, there was salad to start and tiramisu to finish but inbetween we had a selection of grilled meats, fish, and vegetables. These were passed along the long tables and I was very anxious as these platters were resting far from my grasp. I managed to bag my fair share and the accompanying sauces were tasty too. I particularly liked the tomato gravy thing but I didn't find out its name - give me a break, I was off the clock !

To drink, I kicked off with some white but switched to red for the main course. There were also bottles of Jameson whiskey and Russian Standard vodka. I wasn't going to touch the hard stuff but then Uncle Vodka came over. This guy was a force of nature, as he roamed from group to group to ensure we all toasted the newlyweds. When he came round to our group, I sipped my vodka. Whilst I didn't understand what he said, his look of bemusement tinged with disappointment said it all. There was only one way out and I quickly drained my glass. His mood immediately lightened and he seemed to take great pleasure that he had sent me on a one-way trip to oblivion.  

Consequently, the rest of the evening was a blur and I thought I'd dreamt some of the games and elaborate dance routines. At one point, it seemed like I'd gatecrashed a hallucinogenic drug fuelled fancy dress party, as the newlyweds were being driven on a pretend bus with dancers dressed up in costumes. The English commentary just made it seem more surreal and I was convinced the Village People were going to make a guest appearance.

Despite being a bit worse for wear, I still seemed to have the blog on my mind. Why else did I take a photo of the supper buffet ? I remember eating some fruit, as of course a few slices of melon and pineapple was going to save me from another hangover.  

Most of the other photos I took aren't really suitable for the blog but this one of the happy couple is. I should take more photos using the 'balloon' setting on my humble Casio.

All told it was a cracking wedding and everybody had a great time. So if you have a glass handy, please raise it to El Greco and his beautiful wife, the Mysterious Mrs A. Don't worry, I won't hold it against you if it isn't neat vodka and don't down it in one !


  1. Sounds like a great party...the ending is rather similar to the last wedding I attended lol

  2. What a stunning location - and equally stunning (in a different sense of the word) drink... Uncle Vodka sounds like a barrel of fun. But then, death by hospitality is an occupation hazard of visiting eastern Europe. Right now, i am really liking the look of the metre of sausage - kind of like one long meaty noodle.

  3. If you had the tomato sauce served with fish, that is a classic Latvian dish served cold at buffets (Aukstais galds - Latvian equivalent of the Swedish Smorgasbord). These are the usual selection:

    Maybe you can recall some of the other dishes from that list!

    Btw did you sample the infamous Riga Black Balsam (Rīgas Melnais balzams), which the Latvians claim can cure every ailment, including your hangover?

  4. Whoa that lakeside ceremony looks awesome. I just had a Chinese dinner..

  5. 3HT - it was a fantastic do

    Gworm - "death by hospitality" - great quote and one that hits the nail on the head! Uncle Vodka was indeed the life and soul!

    LChinese - the tomato sauce was warm and served with the hot meal so it was probably a different one. Great link btw and I'm now gutted that I didn't pay sufficient attention to the buffet.

    I did try the balsam but in a cocktail and it wasn't all that. That said, I'm sure it's better on its own !

    WB - the location was great and my friends were lucky that the weather held.

  6. Great review Mr N, so much so that the Mysterious Mrs A wants this as part of our wedding album!

  7. El Greco - I'm pleased you both like it and I'm honoured that its going to make the wedding album!