Just Back from Latvia

Most people aren't sure where you're heading when you tell them you're going to Latvia, but it's an absolutely delightful place. I believe the 1930's writer E. C. Davies said it best: "Don't be in a hurry to see old Riga;she has much to show you and, like the aristocrat that she is, does not flaunt her jewels in front of the eyes of a passerby." My wife, Pat, and I stayed there while I attended the Baltic Pearl International Film Festival and she exhibited her photos in a local gallery. In Riga, you must see the Old City. There are beautiful Art Nouveau areas, lots of cafés like the one behind me, and some fantastic streets, such as Alberta and Elizabetes, which are in the process of being preserved. The neighborhood's best-known architect, Mikhail Eisenstein, was the father of the great filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein.
What to eat: Latvians love their breads, and they have the most delicious pastries, including the klingeris, which is shaped like a pretzel, flavored with saffron, and stuffed with almonds and raisins.
Best souvenir: The region is known for its exquisite amber, found along the beaches and in almost every shop.
When to go: Riga is preparing for its 800th anniversary in 2001, so that would be a splendid time to visit.

—Interviewed by Hillary Geronemus