I began my last day in Riga, Latvia, looking for a perfect cup of coffee. More importantly, I was looking for the perfect cafÃ©. While I had consumed copious amounts of coffee during my travels through the country with friends both old and new, I needed a solo day at an inspirational cafÃ© along with my journal to complete my trip.
The beer gardens in the Old Town were crawling with men recovering from the previous night's stag celebrations. Tourists flocked in droves to the many cafes surrounding churches and markets. I may have wanted a solo day, but I still wanted to drink my coffee with locals. I wanted to point at the menu and stammer in my best Latvian. I didn't want to hear English, Dutch or Norwegian.
In all of my travels, I have never suffered from actual culture shock. I tend to be more taken aback once I am again surrounded by my own kind. My experience in Riga was no different.
After a week in a village staying with a Latvian friend and her family, I returned to Riga by bus for the weekend. I had already grown accustomed to my friend's former communist-style apartment building, along with authentic Latvian food. I was used to hearing Eva prattle on in Latvian to her children. Now, I was a little shocked to wander through Riga's streets elbowing my way past Scandinavian and German tourists. Even in the rain, they were everywhere.
I was already tired of dodging out of the way of both raindrops and people's snapshots. My Birkenstocks were soaked (the sun was shining that morning when I set off on my search). I was cold, even in August and I desperately needed caffeine.
I left the Old Town and wandered past the freedom statue to see the other side of town. The crowds thinned out significantly just on the other side of that statue.
I ended up in the Art Nouveau section of town and, as I rounded a rather wet corner, I saw it: my perfect cafÃ©. I walked through the door and instantly felt inspired. If the ambience was this good, the coffee would be perfection. Chairs had been replaced by beanbags, a hammock hung cozily in the corner, and despite the presence of English books everywhere, the place oozed Latvian culture.
A wisp of a woman with delicious curls took my order and presented me with a divinely decorated cappuccino. I plopped down in a beanbag, and proceeded to have my perfect solo date with my journal. The coffee did not disappoint "“ it was every bit as beautiful to drink as it was to look at. When I finally realized that I didn't have any more cash on me for even one more cup, I returned to the rain and my hostel.
I'm not sure if it was the caffeine, but I definitely had a spring to my step as I left the building. Finding the perfect cup of coffee and cafÃ© in Riga proved easier than I thought "“ even in the rain. I know where my first stop will be on my next trip to the capital.
The Art CafÃ© Sienna is located at Strelnieku 3, Riga, Latvia.
Brenda Steffen is a freelance writer who gets more excited about choosing luggage than furniture. She has traveled extensively throughout the former Soviet Union, where she taught English on several summer trips, worked at an orphanage and attempted to find relatives in Lithuania. She has done jobs from cook to canoe instructor at summer camps in Scotland and has sailed with the world's largest non-governmental hospital ship to war-torn countries in West Africa.
When she isn't traveling, writing or taking photos, she is busy trying out new recipes from the many cookbooks she's collected from around the globe.