Monday, June 08, 2009

Riga to Stockholm

It rained non-stop the whole of my last two days in Riga, the only time in the Baltics I ever felt I needed an umbrella. "It's crying because you're leaving," a student told me, a more novel end-of-year platitude than You're the best teacher I've ever had.

I watched Riga recede slowly with two cans of beer and Martin, my now ex-flatmate, who had somehow managed to accrue 31 kilos of clothing despite appearing to wear exactly the same two t-shirts ever since January. The bridges and spires of the Old Town gave way to half-ruined warehouses and underused port buildings. Waves had overwhelmed the pier at the mouth of the Daugava. For the next two hours Latvia remained a flat mark on the horizon, no darker than the clouds above it.

We stayed up until two, dancing with a group of Latvian girls who were moving to Stockholm in search of work. At eight I was out on deck watching the hundreds-and-thousands coastline, islands no bigger than the boat with red-painted houses and streamer-like flags blowing in the wind. A chimney the size of Riga's TV Tower announced our arrival into port. Thirty minutes later we were dragging our cases down the gangplank.

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