The man-chicken needed a good long sleep to recover from his first day in Latvia, the second day was even more testing.
My huge double bed at Friendly Fun Frank’s Hostel was just what I’d needed. Now I was fully recovered for day two of my ritual humiliation, served from trays of fun times and booze.
We went out to find food as soon as we could and, to wear in the day gently, I opted to wear my normal clothes with a reserved choice from the bag of atrocities. Just my pink hat and my pearl necklaces for breakfast.
During check-in the day before we were advised of a good place to get some traditional Latvian food in the Old Town. Images of sauerkraut and pork filled my mind and I wasn’t disappointed. We found ‘Lido’ quite easily and let our eyes consume the huge buffet. I piled a plate high with various nibbles from tuna, boiled eggs, grated beetroot, gherkins, pickled mushrooms, and olives. The queue shuffled along to the next section and my mouth flooded as I spied the meat selections. Everything from lamb shanks and steaks to koftes and shashlik, with a vat of beautiful pork belly nearby. Several troughs of vegetable stews, rice, and sauerkraut flanked the meat palace so I filled up my second plate with exactly what I’d imagined – sauerkraut, beautifully boiled and skillet-toasted potatoes, and pork shashlik. Happy as could be I sat down and we all gorged in near silence, only the rare ‘mmm’ and ‘this is great’ passing between the three of us. I was completely full after I guzzled what appeared to be a muller corner desert poured into a glass.
Fully fueled we returned to the hostel so that I could provide my next display to the people of Riga. A swift application of brilliant-red lipstick later, and after struggling into a very tight bra, I exited the hostel with our new guide who was tasked with taking us to a firing range.
I flashed a cheeky wave at two Latvian men, who looked away in embarrassment. Well, they were staring…
I stood at the bus stop and absorbed all the giggles from teenage girls, and glares from elderly women.
My posture fell into the range dominated by Frankenstein’s monster, and my walk could only have been less sexy if I had been substituted for Michael Gove, but a Latvian man on the bus still came up and told me that I was lovely. Or something to that effect. To be honest he had the look of a crazed speedfreak, a mildly sweating bald head with a pair of unblinking piggy eyes boring into me. From behind my delightful aviator sunglasses I watched his movements carefully, ready to block any attacks that might come my way. Thankfully the language barrier seemed to confuse him. After he slunk to the back of the bus he just quietly observed me, and I tried not to look at him.
We got off and walked the quiet streets, past a ladies clothes shop where the proprietor, in a surprisingly humourous way, beckoned me to come in and widen my wardrobe. We entered a strange compound guarded by a sleepily disheveled guard and his tiny dog. Down some stairs and into a reception area full of Red Army officer caps and shooting awards. The lady who took our details chuckled to herself whilst the men stood in stony silence. They must have been used to this.
The firing range was a very long underground room, perhaps 60 metres long and 8 metres wide. Huge air-con units ran the entire length, down to where four paper targets were stapled to the end wall. The targets depicted a James Bond George Lazenby-type figure pointing a Martini glass at me instead of a gun. Which reminds me, I never did have a Martini on this trip. Oh well.
We pulled on our ear defenders and I went first with a Glock pistol and 10 9mm rounds. I popped the safety off and took aim. I learned that from 15 metres I’m a damn fine shot with a pistol. Eight out of 10 rounds blasted into Bond’s hapless face. Martyn and Zak were each pretty good with the pistol, the Glock deserves its reputation.
An AK74 (not a typo) came next. Semi-automatic with six rounds. The recoil this time was markedly harsher, as expected, but nothing scary. I was less accurate but still managed to draw quite a nice line across Bond’s chest. Zak, however was pathetic with the rifle and managed to hit my target every time. His was a metre to the right. Oh well. I videoed Martyn having his turn and admired the spent shells whizzing out of the gun and tinkling on the floor mats. I didn’t notice at the time but apparently the shells often bounced off of the shiny bonce of the minder standing to our right the whole time. He never flinched. Thousands of brass chunks leaving half of his brain nothing but a thoughtless blancmange.
The pump-action shotgun was terrifying. Six shells each. We were advised to aim slightly lower as the recoil pulled the whole gun up. From 15 metres the hit might be 10cm higher than where we’d aimed. The recoil was awesome, but not as awesome as the feeling of yanking the hand grip back and seeing the shell pop out. Heeeeell yeah, I was Bill slaying zombies in Left 4 Dead – ‘BOOMER!’, I was the Terminator plopping squelchy holes in the T-1000, I was Corporal Dwayne Hicks (not a macho name, bad choice Ridley) blasting acid-spewing holes in a never-ending torrent of Xenomorph nasties. Frankly I ruled. Let’s forget that my shooting wasn’t great with this gun. One shot would have smashed his Martini glass, and he wouldn’t have been so eager to jump into bed with anyone. Ever again. That’s all you need to know.
After the obligatory posing with guns we stepped back into reality and I admired the abrasions to my shoulder caused by the pump action. My strappy dress didn’t provide any protection there.
The price of buying a trip from fun Friendly Frank’s Hostel includes a free Zelta beer when you get back to the hostel. This canny piece of marketing must be saluted as you almost invariably end up buying another after downing the first. Zelta isn’t the best lager in the world, it reminded me a little of Fosters Ice, but it does the trick when you’ve just been striding around in a dress that makes you look like Anne from Little Britain.
So, with a little booze running through our veins we went out looking for cocktails. Riga is a pretty city, this needs to be mentioned again! The main square provides several spires, statues, and interesting architectural embellishments to snap. It was really quite deserted too. We wandered up to an outdoor bar called ‘No Problem’ and, after saying hello to a couple of other stag parties, settled down for a few hours of myriad brightly-coloured and highly alcoholic beverages. Another Brit in a dress came over to share the experience and I noted with interest that we had the same pearl necklaces. I had a padded bra though so his dress wasn’t hanging quite right. Oh I should note that this whole weekend I was called Sally.
After several drinks we went back to the hostel so that we could join the organised bar crawl in the evening. We could have done that ourselves really, but on reflection strength in numbers was a good idea as we could have ended up in any kind of bar, maybe one not kindly disposed to men in dresses.
Three women in the hostel did my makeup for me (gulp) and a large group of Turkish alpha males cheered for ‘Frida’, referring to my heavy monobrow and my obvious similarity to Frida Kahlo.
Looking like a goddess I joined a few guys from the hostel and we began a carousel of bars where the night got more and more hazy. I met a Dutch lady-man who didn’t have any lippy so I offered it to him and he turned himself into a clown. In the next bar I know I did karaoke at one point, but I don’t know what I sang. Maybe it was Nirvana. All I know is that I suddenly realised that I was joined by two other people who, like me, couldn’t read the lyrics on the screen and were just bellowing like hormonal elephants. I partially sobered up for a second and noted the cacophony before slipping back into the mist of booze. Some point soon I was asked by a middle-aged Norwegian to embarrass his friend so I went and sat next to him for a sec. He squirmed. I don’t blame him.
Whilst chatting innocently to some people outside this bar I suddenly felt a huge whack on the back of my head and looked up to see one of our party looking worried. I ducked and tried to find out what had happened. A wrecked woman was tottering up the road with her handbag, the weapon. Nice. So yeah, Latvians don’t appreciate my rare beauty. Some Latvians do, I refuse to tar them all with the scummy brush of narrow-mindedness, but obviously a great many of the scowls I’d experienced were just drinks away from physical aggression. I was angry, but I was drunk too, so it passed in seconds.
We reached our fourth bar and shots were bought by several people. I looked at the strange green-black liquid and my throat said ‘Don’t you dare!’. But I did anyway. Actually I compromised and took a sip. ‘Damn you! I told you not to but you had to go and do it anyway. Right, here it comes!’ I rushed outside and ejected the smallest amount of saliva ever. At that point I thought my night was over. That I wouldn’t make it to the club at the end of the pub crawl. But I was wrong.
That fate was reserved for Zak because when I went back in the bar, past a man dancing on the counter, I found him asleep against the wall. Slipping against a strange on a stool next to him. Oh well, first casualty. Our guide whisked him off home somehow. Bearing in him that he was at least twice as big as this little ambulance lady I was impressed.
When she came back we all rolled into the ingeniously-named ‘The Club’ club and danced the night away. After and hour or so I noticed that Martyn had defaulted to his famed ‘idling’ mode where he sways on the spot in time with the music, with his eyes closed. After checking if he was ok I found that he was not, he was completely battered. So off we went home. The whack of fresh air made him head for a patch of grass and try to go to sleep. I enlisted two young Latvian men to help me carry him back to the hostel because he was now a dead weight. FFF’s hostel has incredibly steep stairs so carrying up by myself was not easy. Particularly as he kept trying to sit down and go to sleep. I opened our room’s door and found Zak snoring. I rolled Martyn onto his bunk and then crashed myself.
But I did manage to wipe off my lipstick. What a day…
The results of it all can be found here.