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Balls To The Baltic - Latvia or Bust



And there will be Bombs

As we left Fontain’s we briefly met up with everyone else, and Jonathan embarrassedly gave the dressing room key from the civic centre back to Solvita. A group of us then headed off for what was the first of a few tourist trips that had been arranged for us by our hosts. 

It was dark, wet and wild winds howled, as we made our way back to the residential area. Little lakes filled the pot holes in the roads that wormed their way between the flats. We left the comfort of the van and were lead around the back of a four or five storey block. As we turned the last corner, Jonathan decided that he wasn’t sure if he had locked the van or not (he only did this several hundred times on the trip) and headed back to check. Standing around waiting in the cold and wet was about as much fun as, well, being soaked by freezing cold water with large amounts of wind chill, so I promptly decided that some more entertainment was needed, and the obvious thing to do in the freezing cold wet and tempestuous night was a game of hide and seek. I was surprised at how quickly everyone else agreed.

So there we all were, hiding behind various things in the dark, waiting for Jonathan to come back, giggling and whispering like school children. When he returned to find the area deserted, for the briefest of moments he must have wondered where we had all vanished, before someone giggled just a little too loudly and gave the game away. The moral of the story being… never play hide and seek with Latvians. They’re crap at it.

We were led down a set of stairs underneath the block of flats. It smelled of cats piss. I was informed that it was in fact rats piss, and there is apparently a distinction in the odors. I stood corrected and hoped that I never got to the point where I could tell the difference. Martinch unlocked a heavy steel door and led us inside something that it would never have occurred to me in a hundred years would have been there.

Underneath the block of flats, in an area now populated mostly by rats, was a nuclear bunker. It took me so much by surprise that it never occurred to me to ask obvious questions, like, “is there one of these at the bottom of every block of flats?” This particular one had been turned into a museum. There were gas masks. There was a huge machine at one end of the floor for purifying the air. There were models depicting the beauty of radiation sickness.

I must admit to have not actually been that interested in the paraphernalia. What grabbed me was the simple fact that this building was normal housing built for normal people. It was built with the preconception that it may have to one day house those people after the worlds leading lunatics had been going hard at it with their nuclear hand bags. Or … the people who built that housing wanted the people who lived in them to believe that they were under that threat.

However you look at it, and I certainly don’t claim to make judgments, half an hour, maybe an hour later, we left a lot more somberly than we went in, and maybe I was getting a better impression about why our friends from earlier in the evening found this place so gleefully depressing.

The storm was still approaching and was undoubtedly closer. The wind howled and was touched with flecks of ice as we said our goodbyes to Martinch and Lelda and clambered back into the van.

We offered to give Ieva and Ed a lift back to their flat which was on the other side of town to save them a half hour wait for the bus in the foul weather. They were quit happy to stand around having their bits either frozen or blown off or both, which says something about the Latvian attitude to these things, but we eventually convinced them of the virtues of the warm van.

We stopped at the supermarket on the way, and as I said, it was filled with most of the same things you’d find in a British supermarket. Nothing of amazing interest there, unless it’s the fact that in this globalised world (if that’s not a tautology) there are coming to be less and less differences amongst us. One day we will all be …. American.



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