Riga, Latvia — Predatory Scams
The Wild West
Latvia is a very small country that joined the EU in 2005. It then had double digit growth in the Economy / Property / Personal Wealth and average annual inflation was in double digits until 2008. Then the economy started to shrink by more than 12% of the GDP / 50% Property and Personal Wealth wiped out. But yet average annual inflation stayed in double digits figures. Unemployment has reached 8.3 percent and is still climbing in January 2009,
Riga Frontier Town
I have been going to Riga for over 4 years. I go because my girlfriend comes from the City, I met her in my home City in the UK where she works, we visit her family in Riga and stay for a few days at a time because the flat is so small, I stay in a hotel in the City. I’ve seen all the tourist scams over the years and never fell for one! I think of myself as above all this and they won’t get me. As I never go in to a Bar when I can’t see through the windows or when a stranger asks me to come with them and I never walk down badly light road / streets. The scam they use most is a young girl or boy who will chat to you for a time, then they will try and take you to a bar where they over charge you as much as $100.00 to $200.00 for one drink. If you don’t pay you get a beating until you do! All western counties ensure the safety of their visitors but not in Latvia! In Riga the police are no help at all!
Anyway back to my story it was Tuesday 17 February 2009 I and my girlfriend had been the cinema it was 9.30pm I put my girlfriend in a taxi to go home and I went to a very nice bar called Opium in the City centre. I had very relaxed drink and chatted with the bar man about how a Capital City in Europe had so few tourist, and how all the scams against visitors have finally started to have affect.
You most bear in mind; tourism contributes 10% of annually worlds GDP.
Something the Latvians have no idea about! Shame on them!
I then left that bar and went for some food; I went to a bar called TGI which means Thank God Its Friday. It’s only a Burger Bar a well light place with good food and drink! I sat at the bar, there were two older German men sitting next to me having drinks speaking English to the bar maid, as I try not to speak to much to the Latvians I thought I would chat to the Germans. As we talked about things two older women sat behind the two Germans and were trying to get their attention I laughed about this and went to WC as I walked over to the WC a young girl stepped out of nowhere in front of me and said hello I replied back and walked past her. On my way back one of the older women behind the Germans stood in front of me and said your friend wants you. I looked round at this point only to find the young girl trying to get my attention I just smiled back and sat with the Germans a few minutes later a very old and used woman sat next to me I thought she was drunk again she was trying to get my attention I was having now of this. She stayed for a few minutes then moved on but as soon as she was gone two more women sat next to me again trying to chat to me. This was getting too much for me I looked round the bar and saw about five Latvia men outside the bar waiting round I don’t know if these men were the girls Pimps who knows? When I asked the bar maid what’s going on with all these girl she said this is Riga and how things are at this point I thought it was time to leave!!!
I walked over to a bar called Melnais Kakis. Really cool bar in the Old Town they have good beer, pool, darts and jukebox full of good music. It’s a place where I thought things would be ok!
I sat down and a bar maid come over to take my order she came back over with the drink I told her this was a nice bar I got a smile from her she said thanks. Then a second later the young girl from TGI had followed me over to this bar with her friend or pimp, who knows, but they sat some way off to my relief, she was trying to get eye contact with me, she got none!
But I was getting a little worried about how predatory the people were getting now!!! A few minutes later three men walked in talking English I thought they were British they sat a few tables away from me. I order again then went the WC one of the men was in the WC he was hitting a machine. I told him not to as they may throw him out. Then he started speaking to me I left the WC he left behind me,
I went back to my table he went back to his.
A very short time later the man I spoke to in the WC came to the bar then sat next to me and started talking, then his two friends came over and sat with me I did not like this too much. He then started talking to his friend in another language. I thought what this! There British? When I asked what language they were speaking they said they were from Finland and there speaking Fin, so I asked why are you speaking English? He replied “for our Latvian friend we’ve just met to night” I thought NO!
I warned them to be careful at this point the Latvian man rang somebody and in a few minutes two very good looking girls walked in the bar and sat with us. They order a drink, I paid no attention to the girls but I did ask the two Fins if girls like these would talk to them back at home and if not why are these girls talking to you now, the two Fins paid no attention to the girls so the girls then jump up and said we were gay. They then left the bar the Latvian man left a few seconds later and ran after the girls we could see them fighting in the street outside the bar, we laughed at them and had another drink.
I thought that’s one for the tourist. But to our amazement the Latvian man and girls come back in to the bar and sat with us again the girls ordered some food and drink. Then a second men walked in to the bar and ordered a drink and sat with us, guess what? he was also Latvian. I then asked him “why are you all doing this” He said I don’t know what you’re talking about I’m only having a drink with my friends. So I warned the two Fins to be careful the girls then stood up and asked the two Fins to come with them to the Lord Pub which is the old Groks Bar. The two Fins said no to them! The girl pointed at me and said something in Russian or Latvian then they throw the bill on the table I and the Fins told the waitress we will not pay it. Things were said and the girls paid the bill and left.
I then asked the second Latvian man “why you are doing this” again he did not answer me!
I thought things were getting bad now! At this point a man walked in to the bar with two women the two women sat behind the Fins and the big Man the best way to describe him is a Big Troll with a coat on. He stood in front of me. With his finger he pointed to his eye then at me, I thought ###!
I asked the second Latvian man why the Troll man did that to me. Guess what he said? I don’t know!
I then got up and went to the waitress and asked her what’s going on she then said to me it’s a Russian thing at that point I thought I’d better pay the bill and leave but another two men came in to the bar and walk the length of the bar, one stayed at the top exit the other stood by the exit next to me and the Troll man was in the other room, so all the exits were covered now and I had no way out ### ### ###!!!
I thought Quick how do I get out, I asked the girl to show me how much I owned on the till screen it was 11 Ls so I gave her 15 Ls but I asked for another small beer which cost 1.50 Ls I walk back to my table sat down and drank a bit. I then asked the second Latvian man the one I’ve spoken a few times if he wanted a smoke he said yes thank God for that, so we stood up ( I had a drink on the table I’m going to come back or so they think ) I walked out behind him I could see there was some type of gesture to the man at the door to let us out. As soon as I was out the door I walked as quickly as I could down the road with the second Latvian man asking where I was going. I just told him I had to go it was late as soon as I was out of sight I ran. (I run 10k every day so I have no problem running ) I made my first turn back to my hotel then I heard a car driving fast so I slowed down change my appearance a little, then a 4+4 come in to sight I walked very slow making a point of not looking at them, the 4+4 come up very fast then slowed very quickly but they overshot me because of the ice and snow I turn again then ran to my hotel I made it after five minutes of running!!!
I do feel really sorry for the Finland men that I left behind and I hope they are well and safe but one must think about one self but I did warn them!!!
All I can say if you are thinking of going to Latvia Riga Don’t!
If you are take care!!
Don’t forget your Six Shooter
For the most lawless town in Europe!!!