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Saturday 11 Oct
Riga, Latvia

Russia's Biggest Depeche Mode Fan

I woke after only a few hours sleep, my brain fuzzy from chronic sleep deprivation, my mouth furrier than a guy dressed as a Pokemon, and my clothes humming intensely with odour. I hit the dining car and felt better after a chai, while watching the unremarkable Latvian countryside pass. There was very little evidence of activity, very few towns or even villages, in fact no houses or roads or people at all. I read somewhere that Latvia, like all the Baltic states, Russia, and many CIS nations, are suffering from falling populations. This is a pity, cause they're not shite countries or anything, except Belarus of course.

I learned from the guys that when told the Russian border guards had arrived and wanted to see my passport and sic their dogs on me, I'd shouted "Fuck off!" in my sleep. Lucky I didn't wake up in a gulag.

Back in central Riga, we had a moment in MacDonald's where I stared into space for at least 10 minutes during which the neurons of my brain fired not a single time. Finally, I was saved from brain death, and we headed for a nice warm cafe although the girl serving seemed determined to work as sloooowly as possible. I felt better after a latte. We flipped through the guide book trying to find something to do, but there really wasn't anything. It was a shite Insight Guide anyway, not a Lonely Planet, so any place they recommended automatically means you should avoid it. Clodagh read out loud Latvia's painful, sordid history, full of invasions, liberations, counter-invasions, and bad haircuts. Each time their beautiful, blonde haired women had been recklessly defiled no doubt. Their history may even have been shiter than ours. I didn't want to start comparing Latvia and Ireland to see who's had the shittier history though, cause that's not something you compare. You have a Fight to the Death.

The only thing we could think of doing was playing some pool and getting loaded on shots in the aptly-titled Shot Bar. The pool hall was smokey, as they should be, and Karl immediately got chatted up by two Russians and a Ukrainian who were all off their faces. His red hair really attracts a lot of attention in countries like this. After Dave, Karena, me and Karl finished a doubles game, one of the Russians insisted on getting in on the next round. They were playing loads of Depeche Mode songs, and it turned out this bloke was their biggest fan east of the Rhine and wanted to let us know. He would randomly shout lyrics while taking shots - "STRRAAAAAANNNGE LOOOOOOOVE!" He was entertaining and all, but we breathed a sigh of relief when him and his hitman leather jacket fucked off.

After fantastic burritos and shots at the Shot Bar, the rough living was affecting my delicate constitution, so I had to go outside for a walk to prevent myself slipping into a coma and having to be carried out to the airport. We indulged ourselves with a final moment of loutishness at the airport by chugging the last of the beer and taking white-chicks-and-gansta-signs pics of ourselves.

Back home, I was unable to recall the week as a week. It was more like a disjointed series of sights, sounds, vistas, moments of togetherness, and smells. Most particularly smells. In soviet russia, sock smells you.

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Riga and St. Petersburg

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