Parks: I found myself using parks to orient myself in Riga, for it is a city that has some charming green spaces. Some with lakes, others with temporary stages and free wifi. Flowers in some, playgrounds in others. They skirt the old town and provide both oxygen and places of reflection and shade. Once inside the winding streets of the old city it’s easy enough to lose your bearings, but if you enter from the right place you at least have a chance of getting where you want to be.
Podcasts: Those parks also provided suitable locations in which to catch up on some podcast listening. I’m a fan of podcasts and have some favourites that help me regulate my sense of time: marking the days as they pass by into weeks. Plenty of them are BBC based (Mark Radcliffe’s Folk Show; Aleks Krotoski’s Digital Human) or from The Guardian. Recent American entries include The TED Radio Hour and This American Life. Standing supreme and inspiring the most loyal of followings however is Welcome to Night Vale. I urge you to seek them all out.
Protests: After three nights in Riga I went back to Berlin for a single overnight stay, en route to Edinburgh. This time I pushed further east, making my way to the heart of Kreuzberg with its cafés, bars, alternative perspectives on life and a distinct lack of the sort of glass and steel to be found elsewhere in the city. There was also a protest going on: pro-Palestine and anti-Israeli aggression. Where else but a capital city to carry out such protests, where else to find like minded protestors but in such vibrant neighbourhoods? There is of course a particular Berlin historical context here, given the religious nature of the current conflict in the Middle East.
Politics: That historical context was apparent in my final Cultural (capital C) experience of the trip. I took myself to the Bauhaus Archiv in central Berlin, near various embassies. I hadn’t realised that the Bauhaus school had only existed for around 13 years, between the end of World War I and the installation of the Nazi government in Berlin. Compared to the Victorian and Edwardian era people, politics and cultures that took Europe into that conflict, the movement must have been a breath of fresh air to all its adherents. The designs are still fresh, the concepts still have the power to inspire and surprise. The Archiv is relatively simple: a relatively large space hosting a permanent exhibition of architecture, furniture design, photography, colour and shape; next to a smaller space for temporary displays, in this case work by and inspired by Kandinsky. I loved it, from the work itself to the sense of purpose, collective vision, pedagogical alignment and personal passion of the staff and students involved. The staff at the Archiv were also fully engaged: from the highly engaged reception and shop staff, to the highly efficient and watchful stewards.
Privations: My time was up and so I headed to Tegel Airport, in a Berlin suburb. It’s not much of an airport, considering the importance of the city it serves. That said, Heathrow was unable to cope adequately with a passing thunder storm and so everything was delayed and shunted around before, during and after my stay there. Everything is run on such a tight schedule that a delay somewhere in the system knocks everything out. My fate was to wait… yet somehow, after an hour or so getting rebooked onto a different flight, I found myself in the BA Lounge. After getting my bearings I checked that I could indeed indulge myself in as much free food, drink, wifi, food and drink as I fancied. More of that next time would be most welcome.
Podiums: Back in Scotland the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games were in full swing. There’s been such a build up to these Games and Glasgow appears to have grasped the opportunity with two hands. I made my way to Hampden on Sunday for an afternoon of Athletics: very entertaining, once I had made my way through the queue. Lots of running, some jumping and some throwing. Plus national anthems of the winners – everything you could wish for. Heading into Glasgow afterwards I took in some of the live sites, street markets and other goings on. I’m sure the memories of summer days and nights out on the streets live long in the people of the city.