Travel Letters

Riga: Art Nouveau

Riga

Latvia

September 4, 2014

To buy or not to buy? 

As the American actress Mae West (1893-1980) once remarked, “I never let anything tempt me, unless I can’t resist it.”

On Alberta Street, I couldn’t resist the book Art Nouveau in Riga.*

Despite my protestations, my pleadings , my sob stories and my best negotiating and bargaining skills, the Latvian (or was she Russian?) saleslady did not budge from the asking price of ten Euros for the book.  Honestly?  It is worth every penny.

Riga: Central Market

Riga

Latvia

September 2, 2014

To:  Jeff Z. and Bob A.

cc: Family and Friends

Since you are both engineers with a specialty, respectively, in transportation and geotechnical engineering, I thought you would appreciate the structures of the Riga Central Market.  The market is the largest in Europe and lies across the Daugava River from the Old Town of Riga.

The market of course is dotted with outdoor stalls that display towering piles of fruit, vegetables, flowers, recently picked mushrooms, and consumer products.  Everything from bananas to berries to boxer shorts to bras is on offer.

Riga: Smiling Faces

Riga

Latvia

September 5, 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

In response to my letters and photographs from Latvia, my old friend and classmate Paul G. wrote the following:

“Thanks, Jan, for the virtual tour.  My wife and I will never visit many of the locations that you experienced.”

Paul’s sentiments are certainly understandable.  For most Americans who travel to Europe, Latvia is not a favored destination.  England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain top the list.    Who can gainsay the decisions to visit Buckingham Palace, the Eiffel Tower, Checkpoint Charlie, the Coliseum, or the Plaza de Toros? 

And yet, the decisions of many Americans are now changing.

Riga: Diplomacy at the Belarus Embassy

Riga

Latvia

September 6, 2014

                       

                Diplomacy at the Belarus Embassy

“Sorry. Your passport photo is unacceptable.  Your passport photo is on a blue background.  We require a photo on a white background.”

“It’s a nice photo, isn’t it?” I inquired, hoping for a bit of flexibility that is probably non-existent.  (May I humbly say, “My looks and my demeanor usually go a long way in many countries.”)  But this young punk of a consular official was unimpressed.  “Yes, he agreed, “It’s a nice photo.  But it needs to be on a white background.”

The Sinaw Souk

The Souk

Sinaw

Oman

January 29, 2015

On my drive to the north coast of Oman, I stop in the city of Sinaw.   The guidebook lists the population at about 10,000, but on this Thursday Market Day, the city explodes into a multi-colored array of buyers and sellers from around the region.

Unlike the Nizwa Goat Market where the participants are all men and boys dressed in the traditional white dishdasha,  the souk here in Sinaw is crowded with both men and boys and women and girls. 

Bahla: Two Castles and a Souk

Sohar

Sultanate of Oman

January 30, 2015

As I drive through the mountains on my way to the north coast beach resort  of Sohar, I visit two castles and a market.

The castles are described in my guidebook and clearly marked on my map.  I find the market (souk) by “accident.”   It is the best site of the day.

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