Will A Short Stopover Be Enough To Visit Riga?

Spending a relatively short stopover at the Riga's airport can be daunting, but you won't be disappointed if you chose to explore...

Spending a relatively short stopover at the Riga's airport can be daunting, but you won't be disappointed if you chose to explore the city instead. Even 4 hours between the flights was enough for me to take a quick glimpse of this dazzling city and want to come back. A friend of mine, who was born and raised in Riga, once said that he would consider Vilnius, Tallinn and then Riga in the descending order in terms of beauty and charm. But having visited Vilnius, Lithuania, I would argue that Riga appears to be more alluring that its "elder brother" - Vilnius.

If you take away two hours that I spend going through the passport control and traveling from the airport to the Riga's city centre and back, I only had a bit over one hour left to spend in the city.
Combine this with having to carry a hand luggage, and you can imagine how much I ended up seeing. Not much.
Nonetheless, it was enough to jump to the conclusion that Riga is the hidden gem of the Baltics.
It reminded me a great deal of my favourite city in Ukraine - Lviv.
What I didn't expect in Riga is that most people spoke Russian. It seemed to be even more wide- spoken than English to the contrary of its neighbour - Lithuania where only people from the older generation spoke Russian. 
It was a revelation for me that Russians were the largest ethnical group (47%) in Riga followed by Latvians (36%) prior to 1991 when Latvia got its independence. Right now Latvians in Riga make 42% while Russians make 40%. Still a lot.
I tend to think of all the three Baltic countries - Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia - as a whole, but apparently Latvia is very different from the other two, at least it has not been seen in taking an active role in the anti-Russian protests over the past two decades. 
I guess, unlike in Ukraine [pause], Russian language is not being "infringed" much in Latvia, otherwise Russian troops would have already bitten off a chunk of the country.
Riga has long been a trading centre in Northern Europe thanks it its geographical location. Believed to have been found by Vikings much like Kyiv and other medieval cities in Europe. 
Latvia has been ruled by Germans, Danish, Romans, Polish, Lithuanians and Russians over the course of its history. Hence its unique language which is nothing like other European languages.
Riga is very famous to have the largest collection of the Art Nouveau architecture in the world which was very popular in the late 19th - the beginning of the 20th centuries. This is when the majority of today's city centre has been built. 
Yet there are also a few older buildings that catch the eye.
Riga is quite expensive city to live in. A taxicab driver told me that the cost of living can be compared to the ones in Western Europe.
It's one of those countries that joined the European Union and people are not quite sure if they've made a right decision or not. At least, I've heard things like that from Romanians, Bulgarians and Polish.
But for me, a stranger from the street, a freedom to travel and work anywhere in the EU as well as the ability to use the same currency as most of the EU countries do can't be wrong. That's all about opportunities.

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