One day my friend Krists asks me: "Why don't you come to visit me in Latvia?" I think he doesn't know with whom he is talking to... After more than three months in Italy, at the Airforce Military Academy, he was coming back home for good, and that same day: I follow him.

"In times like these the escape is the only way to stay alive and continue to dream."

- Henri Laborit -

18 december Rome (ITALY)

I'm on board of a Finnair plane ready for take off to Finland.

I've just met a nice guy from Naples: Francesco. We are the only Italian on this flight, he's going to Riga to meet his girlfriend.

I think we will have a great time together even because we will have to spend a whole night in Helsinki airport because our flight to Latvia is only tomorrow morning!

19 december Vantaa (FINLAND)

We have been welcomed in the Finnish capital by a snow storm.

It had never happened to me to land on an icy runway!

[Elina Ylitervo from Oulu, Finland]: "It's 3.10 a.m. and I'm waiting for my flight to Oulu.

It's freezing, snowing and dark... I miss Rome already! In three months I've forgotten how depressing winter can be in Finland".

At four a.m. we decide to have a walk outside.

I did a snow puppet but my hands got so frozen and I caught a cold too.

It has been funny.

All this for a photo!

Francesco, ready with my photo camera, I get next to my "snow sculpture" and... Smileee.

Nooo!

My film is over.

All the others are in my suitcase already sent to Latvia!!!

20 december Riga (LATVIA)

After one hour and half flight we get to destination. Riga from above is wonderful: it looks Venice with castor sugar.

At the airport I meet my dear friend Krists. We directly go to his house where he introduces myself his family. Leo (his father, a nice man lover of pipes and antique-trade), Anda (English teacher) and his brother Martins, very friendly and nice.

After dinner I am so tired! I watch the TV with Martins: Nikita in English with comment in Latvian and subtitles in Russian.

Outside is snowing so much!

21 december Riga (LATVIA)

Today we go to the Old Riga.

At first we go to the public market, it seems the Russian version of Carnaby Street in London.

Prices are very low, they are selling the imitations of all the trade marks.

Krists buys a leather jacket, me: a Russian rap audiocassette. Cigarettes are so cheap, only 60 santimi (about 1800 Italian Lira) for Marlboro.

Everything is very characteristic.

After that we go up on the St. Peter Tower where we can admire all the view of Riga. It was so cold indeed!

Tonight we will go to a very important party. All the people will be very well dressed and Krists is trying to convince me to dress in that way too! No way!

The party takes place in a school, everybody were really elegant; as for me: buggy jeans, plush and hat!

At the beginning they didn't want me to enter but when my friends explained them that I was Italian and I was on holiday there and I didn't have the proper dresses, they opened all the doors to me, they have been very kind!

Krists is right when he says that Italian are loved here!

Our evening keeps on in one of the best discos I have ever been: Vernisaza!

 

24 december Ogre (LATVIA)

We spent Christmas at Krists' relatives in a small village 40 km far from Riga. It's called: Ogre, it's in the country and very close to the Russian border.

We go there by a very old train! All the seats are in wood, everything is written in Cyrillic, very picturesque!

The temperature outside is going lower and lower, we are many degrees below zero!

When we get to his grandmother's house, after the usual regards, we put out our shoes and bare feet we go to the living room where there was the table full of food!

There were many people at Silvja's, Krists's grandmum; 65 years old, very brisk, nice and playful, she was dressing a typical old Russian dress. She was so sweet when she tried to communicate with me just speaking Latvian and when she showed me, in a proud way, her library!

After dinner we open the gift under the Christmas tree. There were some for me too! I receive a cup of tea picturing all the most important monuments in Riga and a box of chocolates "Laimas", the most typical in Latvia. Krists a toothpaste, some pills for his skin; Martins a silver bracelet; Anda a Japanese tea service and Leo something for his beloved pipe.

They gave as present also: socks pairs, detersive for washing machine, candles, plastic Carnival masks and so on.

I have admired them so much in those moments, I remembered all the Christmas spent in my house, many very expensive presents and no one was ever happy.

They seemed to know the essence of the things. Even with simple things as a toothpaste, they looked happy! They have given me a great life lesson: you can have a good time also with nothing and they underlined it later too when, all together, started to play games that I hadn't been playing for years! Italian poet Giovanni Pascoli was right when he talked about the "little child" who is inside of all of us.

I have admired that happy lady so much when she sang and played with all the guys!

At about one o'clock, we go to a disco pub: "Policijas Acadēmija", so-called because, some years ago, there was a police station over there. We have danced that cool Russian disco music till late!

At three a.m. we go, on foot, to another disco: "Opus Pro", all the street are frozen and I have never felt so cold in my life as that day! I will never forget the Latvian sentence: "Man ir auksti" (I'm freezing). I notice that here, in Latvia, drugs are not very popular but, on the other side, they drink very much!

At 5.30 a.m., after a long walk, we get to Krists' grandmum's house. We are dead tired, I fall on a sofa to relax and... Noooo!

They start eating again! All the family together. It's incredible! How can they do it? It's 5.30 a.m.! I watch those beans bowls from my room, Russian salad dishes are eaten while I was trying to have a simple breakfast!

A bit later we take our train again and we go back to Riga!

At 7.30 I'm in my bed!

Merry Christmas!

26 december Riga (LATVIA)

It's five p.m. and I've just woken up!

Life here is so weird!

I've lost the knowledge of the time! I haven't seen the sun for six days because I go out in the night and then, in the morning, I usually sleep till late!

The sun rises at 10 a.m. and sets at 2 p.m.!

 

27 december Riga (LATVIA)

This morning we should have gone to a rally with Uvis and Gusts. Meeting at 8 a.m. but when me and Krists open our eyes it's 4 p.m.!

Well, eight hours late.... Anda tells us that Uvis came to pick us up and tried to wake us up but then, defeated, went away. Whatever!

Krists, asks me: "What about cooking these?" He takes from the freezer a bag of frozen "ravioli". One Kg for two! "Yes, I love ravioli, go on!" But they weren't ravioli, they were: "Pelmeņi", a kind of ravioli but prepared with pork meat, onion and a weird liquid similar to yogurt!

It was disgusting. I eat a couple and then I give up. My stomach swears. In the end, I have dinner with his parents with a pizza, but the disgusting thing, for me, is that they drink some milk while they eat that pizza! Noooo!

Today it has been snowing all the day long, the poor Martins has had shovelled the snow away form the front door twice. While I was kidding him I slipped on an icy slab, I flew as a cartoon and I landed on a bounch of snow. My knee still hurts me!

28 december Riga (LATVIA)

It's incredible! Today me and Krists have spent the whole day at home having rest, he was watching the TV and I was playing Tetris... At one a.m. we decide to go to sleep and, to joke, I ask him: "What about going to eat?" He thinks I'm serious and, here we are, in the heart of the night, bustling with sandwiches, salami, cheese, peppers etc. At two a.m. we try to go to sleep again... But Krists decides to smoke the last cigarette. We start chatting and we go to sleep only at 3.50.

We are weird. We have been the whole day in the same room without saying a word, each of us was minding his own business and then we have the inspiration in the heart of the night!

 

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