One of the things that has most surprised me about life in Riga is the reality of the long summer days. In the U.S., we’re taught to seek protection during the “peak sun” hours of 11 am – 3 pm; here that period is probably twice as long. The sun is blazing well before I get up in the mornings, making me grateful that I packed a bottle of SPF 70 and a hat! Often the sky is still a dusky blue when I go to bed. It’s been ideal for exploring, less so for sleeping. Thank goodness for the blackout curtains on my windows!
Latvia is situated along the 56th parallel north, a distinction it shares with places such as Sweden, Alaska, British Columbia and Siberia. This northern neck of the woods gets a whopping seventeen hours of sunlight in summer and a measly seven hours in winter. Riga’s daylight hours peaked on the summer solstice, June 21, when the sun finally set at 10:21 pm and twilight lasted until midnight. One month later, on July 21, the sun went down at 9:57 pm. That’s nearly 25 minutes of daylight lost.
With the short, dark days of winter looming on the calendar, I’ve been spending as much time outside as possible, storing up reserves of vitamin D and serotonin like a squirrel hoarding nuts. That’s been easy, with inviting temperatures in the high 70s (or the mid-20s for my friends on the metric system) and fluffy white Magritte clouds floating across crystal blue skies. (That’s also why it’s been a little quiet on the blog – I’d rather take photos than edit them!)
I’ve been looking for different vantage points from which to enjoy my new city. Having gotten a breathtaking birds-eye view from atop St. Peter’s Church, I was eager to appreciate Riga’s skyline from another angle. So when the opportunity to join a sunset cruise on the Daugava River presented itself, I jumped at the chance. Of course, with the days being so long, that meant we didn’t set sail until 9 pm.
Our boat, which featured open-air rooftop seating, left from the dock near the Presidential Palace (Riga Castle). We cruised for about 30 minutes southeast, passing under three bridges and turning around at the TV Tower. It was still so bright out that we needed sunglasses to keep from squinting. We sailed northwest back into port just as the sun dipped below the horizon. Old Riga was aglow and the modern Vansu Bridge was silhouetted against the evening sky. It was a truly beautiful sight!
We paid eight euros per person for the hour-long cruise and were allowed to bring our own food and beverages – including alcohol – on board.
What’s the prettiest river cruise you’ve ever taken?