Thursday, 15 March 2007


Originally published on, the Alternative World Travel Guide

"The tanks that once rolled through the cities of Eastern Europe may have vanished, but soldiers and secret police have been replaced with a far more sinister presence – the Gap-Year Student"
James Crouchman spends the week in Latvia

IT was around midnight when I finally found the correct street. Perhaps it was the combination of sleep deprivation and poor street lighting that explains what happened next. My hostel – appropriately enough for an area that forms a border, culturally as well as geographically, between Northern Europe and Russia – was positioned between a smart cafĂ©-bar on one side and a shabby strip club on the other. The entrance itself was no more than a thin slab of flaking wood between these other two establishments and, unfortunately for me, I chose the wrong door. I entered and scanned the room – walls dripping with sweat and dimly lit by a mauve light-bulb – and it slowly dawned upon me that I wouldn’t be staying in a hostel staffed by miserable sex workers. A burly man with several tattoos tapped my suitcase and grinned. “You want next door.” I caught the eye of the stripper in the corner, standing underneath the neon ‘Marquis de Sade’ sign that adorned the sticky walls. She had momentarily stopped thrusting her naked body to awful cod-reggae, and was now cackling like a Bond villainess. I was almost pleased to have brought some comic relief to what was probably a miserable existence. In terms of utter, soul destroying humiliation, it was right up there with getting lost in the sanitary towel aisle of Boots, or calling your Junior School teacher ‘Mum’...

(Read the full article on Roadjunky)

Click here to book into Riga's 'Argonaut Hostel'

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