Saturday, June 11, 2005

The Goldies’ Very First Romantic Getaway

This is an entry for June’s Blogging For Books contest. This month’s assignment is:

For this month's Blogging for Books, write a blog entry about one of three things:

A memorable trip or "mini-vacation" (with "memorable" covering everything from "best time of my life" to "unmitigated disaster");

A time you did something spontaneously, in order to shake up your life;

A time you metaphorically took "the road less traveled", and made an unpopular or uncommon decision.

I’ll go with #1 – memorable trip.

Once upon a time, in the year eighty-eight of last century, when Mr. Goldie and I were still college students, and were not yet married, or even planning to be married, but were already exclusively dating, we decided to go on an out-of-town trip. We wanted to see the romantic city of Riga, to wander its medieval streets, to see the famous Dome Cathedral, to do some shopping, but, most importantly, to spend three or four days together away from it all, just the two of us. I guess I don’t need to tell you that sex figured very prominently in our plans. After all, I was 21, he was 20, each of us had two roommates, so the opportunities to be alone were very few and far between.

We went ahead and bought the tickets on the overnight train. A girl that I was best friends with at the time offered to hook us up with her friend’s Grandma, who lived in Riga, and would be thrilled to let us stay in her apartment for a few days.

Due to lack of planning, the whole Grandma thing didn’t work out. We found it out thirty minutes before our train left. That meant we had to find a place to stay on our own.

Next morning, the train pulled into the Riga station. For those of you that haven’t heard this name, Riga is a capital of Latvia, a small, Eastern European country on the shores of the Baltic Sea, populated by quiet, refined, European people that are not too keen on socializing with ethnic Russians, or (as is my case) people of any non-Baltic ethnicity born and raised in Russia. I cannot blame them, seeing as their country was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940, along with their neighbors Lithuania and Estonia. Riga is a large city, founded in the Middle ages, and the historical part of the city is spectacular. I love good European architecture!

But, before we could wander the crooked streets of Old Town, we had to find a place to stay first. Technically, it was not hard. Dozens of people were standing in the morning sun near the train station building, offering rooms for rent. We approached one of them.

“Excuse us, we are looking to rent a room for three days?”

“Are you Estonian?”


“Are you married?”


The woman then named her price, which was three times the usual going rate. There was no way we could pay what she was asking, so we moved on to the next woman… and the next… and the next. Every one of them seemed to think that we had to pay through the nose for committing the cardinal sins of being unmarried and non-Estonian. We had no idea what to do, when we saw Him.

He was a little old man that had been standing quietly with the rest of the group. Just as we were about to give up, he walked up to us and told us his price. It was lower than we had ever dreamed of. The man was clearly a Godsend. We hastily agreed to rent from him, and he announced that he would now take us to his place. He introduced himself, but, due to a speech defect he had, I never caught his name, so he will forever remain to me The Old Man. He then went ahead of us, and we followed.

To our surprise, we came back to the train station. The man looked at the clock, and became nervous. He told us that we had to wait another hour for the next train, that would take us to his house. We agreed, and decided to take a walk around the area while we were waiting. It struck me as odd that, while we waited, the man followed us like a puppy. No matter where we went, he was right behind us.

Finally, our train pulled into the station, and we got on, followed by The Old Man. An hour on the train, a thirty-minute walk though the countryside, and we were finally in front of his house. By that time, we were slightly puzzled. How were we to wander the streets of Old Town if it would take us an hour and a half to even get to Riga? But we were there already, it was too late to turn back, so inside the house we went.

Ow! The horrible smell! I still don’t know what the house stank of, but it was not pretty! The Old Man showed us our room; it did smell a bit, but it was spacious, and there was a large, comfy bed in the corner. So far so good. We asked about the shower; there wasn’t any. We were welcome, however, to wash our hands in the sink anytime.

Oh well. We left our things in the room and went on to wander the streets of Old Town.

The Dome Cathedral turned out to be closed for repairs till next spring, so we ended up in a different cathedral instead. I hope we didn’t miss out on a whole lot. It was basically, well, a cathedral. We did wander the streets, and the streets were just as beautiful as we had expected. The only bad part was that, after a few hours of all that wandering, one got really tired, and we had nowhere to stop by and rest, as our room was an hour and a half away. We had to stick it out on these old streets till dark, and then come back the next morning. I think we ended up seeing a movie, just for the sake of sitting down. I think it was “Wall Street”, but I’m not sure.

We did not go to any restaurants, for the obvious reason – we were college students, and, as such, practically penniless. We did, however, go shopping. Back then, in the Soviet Union, Riga was famous for its European styles and fashionable clothing. We could not afford any clothing, per se, but I did buy two pairs of really hip pantyhose – thick, striped, with little butterflies painted all over them. I got a pair in red and another one in blue. Oh, those Eighties. The sales personnel in the stores turned out to be rather nice. Of course, it helped greatly that we looked like the locals. The trick was, when a sales person talked to us in Latvian, not to answer in Russian, but to nod and smile instead. Somehow we got by.

We bought some food for next day’s breakfast, and got on a train back to The Old Man’s house. The bed turned out to be hard and uncomfortable. I do not need to tell you that we tried making out, and discovered that making out is not a whole lot of fun if both of you haven’t showered in two days. Besides, we realized we had another problem. The bed was creaking and squeaking like a hyperactive hog in heat. Forget about sex – you couldn’t turn in that bed without waking the whole house. Our sleep was long, uneventful, and filled with the sound of squeaking. Strange smells were all around us.

Next morning, after a breakfast of bread and milk and tuna, we repeated our foray into the city. Again, we enjoyed it.

On the third morning, my body finally realized that milk and tuna was not a good combination. I ended up throwing up into a garbage can on the narrow streets of Old Town. Fortunately, that evening, it was time to leave. We returned to St-Petersburg tired, sweaty, smelly, and barely speaking to one another. The fact that we still continued to see each other after that, is, to me, proof positive that Mr. Goldie and I are a match made in Heaven. For our relationship, surviving that trip was almost as hard as surviving an infant and a toddler. It proved to be one of those character-building experiences. Plus, I bought the pantyhose. All in all, it wasn’t a bad trip. Maybe one day, Mr. Goldie and I will go back.

But we won’t be staying at The Old Man’s place this time.

The Goldie has spoken at 7:12 PM

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