I am sad to read that Riga feels that it has had too many loutish stag parties visiting. Having lived for 10 years in Amsterdam, I have seen my share of drunken Brits-abroad behaviour. But I am especially sad to read that Riga has been defiled in this way: after all, I had my own stag party there in 2005. We chose Riga not out of a sense that it was so cheap and sinful place – but out of genuine curiosity. I believe that we were respectful guests, and I remain very grateful to my best man Paul for organising such a memorable trip, and to everyone else who came along.
I only recall seeing one other stag party there at the time, and while they appeared fairly determined to humiliate themselves, they seemed not to be troubling their hosts. As for our group, we marvelled at the architecture, and choked back the tears (literally) in the museums, visited record breaking Skonto Riga and walked the streets, imbibing both the beer and the history. I wrote about it here: my lasting impression was of a beautiful blossoming city full of euphoric archicture that had been crushed and defaced by Nazi and Soviet occupation.
Already I had the sense that Riga was becoming a western tourist destination before it had had a chance to recover its own identity and felt very uncomfortable about being conspicuously wealthier than the natives. But above all, I had respect for a humble people with an incredible heritage and a tragic recent history (around a third of the population died during the Second World War). No trip anywhere has made such an impression on me. Perhaps it wasn’t much of a stag party. I don’t recall getting very drunk, let alone getting up to the kind of behaviour the Latvians have now had enough of. I’d even go so far as to say that visting Riga was one of the most sobering experiences of my life. I urge you to visit and pay your respects to an amazing corner of Europe.