Saturday, 26 July 2014

Riga 2014 - World Choir Games and more...

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It all started July 10th in the morning. My mum and I met my friend Laura and our friend Barbara at the train station in Zug and we drove to the airport. Laura and Barbara are both in the choir as well and we decided to go to Riga a bit already to have time to explore the city. Check-in was fast, we went through security, got a coffee and boarding had already started at the gate. It took us 2 h 30 min to fly to Riga, we even flew over the ocean, it was beautiful.

After leaving cold and rainy Switzerland it was great to land in warm sunshine. I think it took us about 15 minutes to get out of the airport, we wanted to take a Taxi into town to the hotel. That’s where it started. We had a voucher for the taxi and the driver tried to load four suitcases into the back of the car, the last one didn’t fit, so he said: “Next car”, we were already sitting in the car, my mum was outside, the suitcase as well. He just wanted to drive off, so we took the forth case on our knees in the back of the car. We were just glad when we finally arrived in Riga, that guy was so rude and unfriendly (Russian).
Our hotel was located in the middle of the Old Town, a beautiful building with a great restaurant and awesome rooms. Ours was even spread on two floors and we had a kitchen in it. After a bit of relaxing and unpacking we went to explore the old town. There are so many cute squares with bars and restaurants with so much charm, but some of them are also tourist traps ;). We got an antipasti plate and omg… not really my taste. The big river in Riga is called Daugava, the atmosphere there is amazing, especially towards the evening when the sun is setting, this doesn’t happen for a long time in Riga. It’s only getting dark towards 11 pm. At the river you can see the National Library, this building is very interesting and modern. The different bridges are also worth seeing. We had dinner at a restaurant called “1221” and it soon became our favourite. The food was awesome and the dessert and drinks, wow!!!

The next day we did a “Hop On Hop Off” tour to get an overview of the whole city. We saw all the main sightseeing spots. After having lunch and some doing shopping at the Galeria Centrs we went to the parks around the Opera. The gardens are beautiful and we discovered a little canal, so cute, with little Latvian boats. Our stroll took us to the Freedom Monument and than to one of the stages of the World Choir Games just next to the Russian Orthodox Church. We listened to some of the choirs before visiting the church. The cathedral is beautiful inside and outside. Then we were hungry and thirsty again, so we went up to the Skyline bar. The view up there is breath-taking. You can see the whole city with the old down and the bridges, so beautiful. After that we went to another shopping centre, but the stores there were really weird, so we walked back and had dessert at our restaurant.

On Saturday we went to a big shopping centre called “Stockmann” and another one just next to it. After that we were really exhausted and that meant coffee and lemonade. I never had a better lemonade in my life, so fresh with limes and peppermint, really good. We walked to a cute little “shopping mall”, but they only had weird stores, so we just had some typical Latvian desserts and left for our Opera tour. On the way we were able to listen to an amazing choir from South Africa, it was BRILLIANT!!
The Opera is beautiful, but our tour guide was not good at all. She only memorised her sentences in English, when someone asked a question she couldn’t answer.
After that we had dinner a “late” dinner at our hotel, it was delicious and they had a self-made fresh Ice Tea, it was yummy!

For Sunday we decided to go to a shopping centre a little out of town. Unfortunately, I wasn’t feeling to well and couldn’t really enjoy it. After about three hours I felt okay again and we went back to the Old Town to have lunch in a cute little restaurant. We went back to the Massimo Dutti store in Galeria Centrs, they have great things and we wanted to have another look. On the way back to the hotel we met the first members of our choir and listened to another choir from Ohio. Together with our choir members we went to get a drink and suddenly we met more and more of them and they joined us. We had so much fun. Dinner took us back to “1221” and then back to our room, where we watched the World Cup finale, with my friend supporting Argentina and me supporting Germany. And I won!!!! J

Monday we finally made our trip to Jurmala, a small village about 30 minutes from Riga at the beach. We
took the train to the last station and then also saw the river Lielupe. We sang a song called like that in the competition. Then we walked to the beach and wow it’s beautiful. The sand is really fine and it was really peaceful. We walked along the coast until we saw green parasols. They belonged to the Baltic Beach Hotel with its Baltic beach club.  That meant time for a drink, an Ice Tea specifically. It was nice just to sit there and relax just next to the beach. We also wanted to have a look at the village, one street actually, but we were really disappointed and went back to the beach, walked and then
had lunch at the Baltic beach club again. Then we just relaxed and went into the water with our feet ;). In the evening it was time to meet a friend who arrived just that day. We showed him the city and the skyline bar.

On Tuesday we explored the parts of the Old Town we didn’t see yet and then went to the famous Central Market, they had fresh fruit, vegetables and much more. However, there were too many people, so we went to have some coffee, crepes and lemonade. Then we finally did our canal tour and we saw a lot. It was great to see all these sights from a different perspective. After that it was the official start of the World Choir Games with a parade. All the nations walked in it and it was great to see so many different choirs. The music was the same all the time, I really couldn’t hear it anymore at the end. In the morning we heard it already and we had fun dancing and posing to it (see the umbrella pics). In the evening “1221” had us and some of our choir friends back, we also got an official World Choir Games badge.

On Wednesday we really had to get up early to meet the whole choir for rehearsals and checking the singing locations. It was an exhausting morning, so we went back to the hotel before the first performance, had
lunch, slept and changed into our choir wardrobe. The first competition we had was in a church, the category was called “Musica sacra accapella”, it went really well. Then we had a rehearsal again and another competition where we sang Lielupe and a song we accompanied with glasses. It went really well, even better than the first one. We were all so happy and went for some drinks, the last drink we took on the terrace of “1221”, such a cute little place.

We slept in on Thursday and then went to the Occupation museum and then had crepes, lemonade and coffee again, at the same places we had them before. In the St. Peter’s Church we listened to some choirs and talk to other Swiss choirs. Then we had a tour around the Old Town with some of our choir members. It was really interesting and we discovered some places we didn’t know about. In the evening we had dinner with the whole choir in a really crowded and loud place. The only thing we wanted to do is leave. We ate and sang and there were two Chinese children’s choirs there, they were so happy when we sang, such cute reactions. I went for drinks with my two closest choir friends after that and somehow the whole choir ended up there. We danced and had a lot of fun. Let’s just say we went to bed really early.
On Friday we went to listen to some of the competitions. The music in the first one was a bit depressing, so we changed locations and listened to the category “Popular Choral Music”. We heard the best and the worst choirs just after each other. After lunch at the hotel we went to get some typical Latvian presents for our conductor and president and then it was time for our first award ceremony in the evening. For that we had to go to the Arena in Riga. Diplomas were handed out in the Open Competition and Medals in the Champion Competition. We competed in the open one and won gold in the Musica sacra category. We were so happy and of course went celebrating.

The second award ceremony was Saturday morning and we won silver!!! :) After the ceremony we went into the city and just sang on the Dome square, it was great. In
the afternoon we went to the Champions Concert to listen to the best choirs. It was absolutely amazing. Of course we ate at our restaurant again and then went to the Closing Ceremony in the Evening. It was marvellous, the atmosphere was unbeatable and we were just singing! We also exchanged contact emails with our two choir assistance girls and some other, I really hope I’ll see them again. Of course we went celebrating again after that.
Not for too long though, cause mist of us had to be at the airport be 8 am the next morning.

At the airport they told us that your suitcases wouldn’t make it to Zurich with us. We were shocked. Only in Zurich they told us why and we had to fill out forms to get them. They arrived Tuesday night. It was so weird; always when I needed something I remembered that it is in my suitcase, oh well…

I also bought some postcards in Riga, but I didn’t have time to write them there, so I wrote them here and send them from here. I also didn’t have time to read, I read on the way and back in the plane and that’s it. I missed it and blogging as well, but I had an amazing time and came back with great memories. The Latvians are really friendly and open. We had some rude meetings, but that was mostly with Russians. And one of the portieres in the hotel was really cute… ;)

If you happen to travel to Riga once, go try the Garlic Bread, it's delicious!!!

I've created a pinterest board with all the pictures, have a look here:

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