Riga - what a gem!

It was one of these *spur of the moment* ideas - and it turned out to be a good one - when a friend of mine decided "Let's go to Riga together!" We booked a rather inexpensive flight with WizzAir and found a hotel near the city center and off we were. At this point I usually give you the hotel information, but I'm afraid I cannot recommend the place we stayed at...

But the City was absolutely wonderful! Riga is a perfect mix of former-Easter-Block charme and western openess and commerce (oh the shopping!) and we made quite a few culinary discoveries on our way through the old cobbled streets of the city center :)

My first recommendation is a tiny little chocolate shop called Black Magic with a stunning interior that will take you back centuries and make you feel like you're on your way to becoming an apothecary - or a witch, depending on your preferences...

Needless to say I immediately felt at home. But the actual *magic* of this wonderful little place is the typical balsam they sell - yes it's alcohol and no I haven't tasted it, but it's Riga Black Balsam since 17hundred something, so I guess it's a big deal - AND: the chocolate! Oh, the chocolate... I recommend the pistacio praline! And the one with caramel! Or try the one filled with mac the champagne! Or strawberries!!! Oh yes, the chocolate..

After a few more rounds around town, we took the elevator up one of the church squires and enjoyed a true, 306° lookout over town - wonderful! We also met some fun Swiss people on the tower, who were in no way affiliated with the Swiss people we partied with at the Radisson later that night, but it seems that Riga is the place to be for Swiss people right now. Maybe it's the chocolate...

It really is a quaint little town... The Radisson blu has a nice and not overly expensive Skyline Bar on the top floor that offers another amazing view over town, especially at night. unfortunately,  we had to pay an Entrance fee, but it was definitely worth it, since the drinks were less expensive than we had anticipated and the (Swiss) company had us dancing all night long :) 

Since we didn't particulary enjoy our hotel's breakfast offer, we chose to have breakfast at one of the many cafés around town instead and stumbled into the Index Cafe, another place which quickly became a favorite. Their coffee is great and their oatmeal and porrige is the perfect way to start the day! Plus they are one a few feet away from the Riga Version of the Statue of Liberty and the city center.

But our favorite place in all of Riga is - and always will be - the wonderful restaurant and cocktail bar Cheers! not to confuse with the Boston version of course. The sheer fact that Cheers has the nicest waiters and the best brownie desserts ever is enough to love this place. Combine that with good musik and yummy cocktails and you have a place to be at night :) 

I mean really, they even put fairy dust on the brownie!

So, yes, Riga, a must-see in Europe and so wonderful we might go back next year just to see it all again! Of course there's not just food and drinks in the city; it also has a wonderful Art Nouveau quarter and many historic monuments and buildings as well as a wonderful culture and art scene, as far as we could tell - we just happen to be two foodies in love with the wonderful cafés and chocolate shops in town :) 

See you soon Latvia!


Leipzig - Eastern Germany Charme

I've been trying to find the pictures I took in this beautiful city, but to no avail, so here's a short but sweet post about the gem in Eastern Germany withouth the pretty pictures - for now :)

As some of you might know, Leipzig was part of the GDR in Eastern Germany after WW II and was almost completely destroyed during the War. Luckily, many of the historical buildings in the city center have ben re-erected using the original plans, so that you can still find the historical St.Thomas Church (dating back to the 12th century) where Martin Luther preached the implementation of the reformation, or the equally fascinating Nikolai Church (also dating back to the 12th century), where people from the former GDR and State security Police members united in the fall of 1989. The two old churches frame the old city center, where you can also find a beautiful market place and a few other historical landmarks, such as the Johann Sebastian Bach Museum and Memorial.

But Bach is not the only famous historical inhabitant of the city; another famous student who resided in Leipzig for a few years is Johann Wolfgang Goethe, who was sent to the city to study law. The restaurant Auerbachs Keller was one of Goethe's favorite adresses in the city center, and it is said to be the only real location in Goethe's masterpiece Faust.

For those of you who aren't to keen on exploring historical sites, don't worry, Leipzig can offer you a lot more! The city south is where most students hang out in their free time, and there's a great hostel right there in the middle of it all: Hostel Unschlagbar is my personal recommendation for a weekend trip to the city. Even the city center is easily accessible on foot! Plus there's a bagel shop on the ground floor of the same building ;) If you feel like sampling local cuisine and are on a low budget, don't worry; Leipzig is a low-budget paradise! I recommend the restaurant/bar Volkshaus (not far from the hostel) for a nice evening meal. They offer local cuisine as well as new interpretations of old German classics and their prices are very student-friendly :)

For more information on this beautiful city check out the official site for Leipzig tourism. Enjoy!