Rediscovering Miniature Painting


Earlier this year, during March to be exact, I started browsing through some of my older games on my Steam library, looking for something a little different to play away from my usual WoW, Fortnite and at the time, God of War fixations. It was at this time that I came across two of my old favourites from the Games Workshop IP, Warhammer 40,000 (commonly abbreviated to 40k); those being Dawn of War and Space Marine. These two games were based off of the Games Workshop fictional lore set within the 41st Millennium where a vast number of races from across the galaxy are all at war - in fact the tagline for 40K is "in the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war." This lore was the basis for a vast range of miniature figures that collectors would buy, assemble, paint and then do battle with them on the table top, similar to RPG games the likes of Dungeons & Dragons. I had played both games multiple times, having accumulated multiple hours of game time and game saves for different campaigns but something always kept me coming back to reinstall them and give them yet another play through. 

After reinstalling and racking up even more hours on these games, I soon realised that what kept me coming back to this IP wasn't necessarily the gameplay but more the actual wanting to be immersed within the Warhammer 40,000 universe again, a feeling of immersion that I hadn't felt since my days of first discovering it as a kid by venturing into my local Games Workshop store for the first time and walking away with a plastic crack addiction - more commonly known as becoming a miniature collector. From playing these games again and going through their campaigns and falling in love with the characters and lore all over again I was left wanting more; so I opened my browser window, visited the Games Workshop web store and found myself spending countless hours looking at what kind of miniatures were available to paint, I toyed with the idea of collecting again, wondering if it was really for me, could I afford to start up this hobby again, especially so many years later AND after selling all of my old models - I'd have to start again all from the beginning. This fresh start however, was what compelled me to jump in.

After much deliberation, I went into town, visited my local GW store and after a fun chat with the Store Manager I walked away with a starter paint set with a few essential paints and a brush, as well as a small collection of three Khorne Bloodbound Warrior figures. Excited, nervous to pick up a brush for the first time in over a decade and eager to immerse myself into the Warhammer lore again, I figured I needed something to document my experience, something quick and easy to use to connect with others who shared the same interest and passion for miniature painting, whilst also display my painting journey along the way. This lead me to create my alias RollToPaint, an Instagram page where I could do exactly all that I'd hoped for.

Creating this instagram page was one small step down a rabbit hole in which I kept finding myself going deeper and deeper. More and more would I find miniature painters to follow who were also sharing their journeys in the hobby from beginners to professionals, people returning to the hobby also like me and even people who make a living off of painting them! I was inspired to really put my heart and soul into building and painting my first three models and was blown away at how positive the response from the Instagram community was. This positive community was what really cemented me firmly back into the hobby and gave me so much happiness, to have a creative hobby in my spare time to be productive creating something but also give me huge relaxation and pleasure through satisfaction of the end product which I could share with others.

Three Khorne Bloodbound Warriors, the first models which I painted after returning to the hobby

Painting nearly every day, developing my skills, watching many a tutorial and learning the lore of both Warhammer 40,000 and Age of Sigmar over a month or so, I learnt that Warhammer Fest was a thing and that it was happening during May, so I asked a friend who had also recently gotten into the hobby if he wanted to attend and so we booked the time off of work, booked our full weekend tickets and attended the fest at Ricoh Arena in Coventry. What a weekend it was, it was everything that I'd hoped for and more. A weekend surrounded by people who were all there for one thing, the miniature painting hobby. There was some excellent cosplay, amazing up coming never before seen miniatures on display, fantastic entries to the painting competition which were on display for all festival goers to view and a whole host of GW staff which were painting, doing seminars, casually walking about to stop and say hello to and holding little booths to give their valuable tips! A couple of stand out moments for me were being able to talk to both Chris 'Peachy' and Duncan (our lord and saviour) of the GW community YouTube Channel, Warhammer TV.

Brad and I with our lord and Saviour, 'Mr. Two Thin Coats' Duncan

The whole weekend was brilliant, it was everything I wanted and more and I cannot wait to attend again next year. It really made me feel apart of the worldwide community as the people we met there in passing and at various booths were from all over the world! The passion that came across in the cosplays, various models on display and just general love for all things GW related really showed throughout the weekend and it really motivated me to get painting more of my ever growing collection of figures once I returned back home.

Superb Astra Millitarum & Crimson Fist Chapter Space Marine Cosplay

Over the months since joining the hobby again, visiting Warhammer Fest, connecting with various people over different social media platforms I've really felt like I belong within this community, I've met some great people both online and in person through this hobby and simply can't get enough of it. My local GW store even held a painting competition to celebrate the release of the latest Age of Sigmar boxed game, Soul Wars. To enter all you had to do was pick up a free figure in store and then return with it fully painted within a week, below is a picture of the figure that I painted, a newly released Stormcast Eternal figure which I decided to do in an ancient statue style of colour scheme. Whilst I sadly didn't win the competition, it took me out of my comfort zone with painting and let me experiment a lot with different techniques. I'll definitely be keeping my eyes open for more painting competitions to take part in to hopefully expand my painting techniques even further!

Stormcast Eternal Sequitor 

Now, nearly five months on since my return to the hobby, I cannot get enough. In my spare time I find myself often painting my ever growing collection of miniatures, reading through lore and rulebooks, watching various tutorials and tips from the vast online community channels and visiting streamers to hang out and chat with them and their viewers about all things Warhammer related. Speaking of which I have to give a shout out to Jimmy The Brush who I have to say is one of the streamers who has really influenced and helped me feel welcomed into this great online community for miniature painters. Him and his Fiancée do a great regular painting stream and is great to have on and hang out in the chat with whilst I paint.

I can't wait to explore deeper into this hobby and actually start battling on the table top with my miniatures as well, for now I am very much the beginner and am enjoying my journey of learning more and having fun with it all. If you would like to stay up to date with my painting journey then you can follow RollToPaint on Instagram, Twitter and Twitch.

Until next time!

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EU Travelling 2018 - Baltic States Part 3 - Vilnius, Lithuania

01/03/2018 Vilnius, Lithuania

February came and went and here we are, now in March and I'm still procrastinating on publishing my blog posts for the trip that Adam, Jon and myself had through the Baltic States back in January; I don't really know why I've left it this late to do, I guess lately I've just been really unmotivated to do a great deal of anything creative and you can't force yourself to make things whilst you're in that mindset or else you'll only end up producing a load of second rate dribble. At any rate, I've somehow managed to kick myself into gear again only days after putting out part 2 of my blog series for the trip. (Part 1 & 2 can be read here). So join me as I go through our experience of Vilnius, Lithuania.

Vilnius, Lithuania

Having had half a day left in Estonia, we spent most of the day perusing the city centre and shopping malls before stopping off for some beers to pass the time before our evening 45 minute flight to Vilnius. The flight was without a doubt the smoothest flight all three of us had been on, hardly even feeling like we were in the air -- landing was also an interesting experience as Adam and I bore witness to an absolute machine of an Airport worker tearing down the runway in his transit van, doing a handbrake U-turn and powering back up to the runway all in the ice and snowy conditions. +10 lad points to Lithuania!

It was getting on for late evening by the time we had left the airport and grabbed a taxi to the hotel in the city centre. After paying an extortionate taxi fair which lead to us using Uber for the remainder of our trip, we dropped our bags off at the room and headed down to reception, where we asked the receptionist for recommendations on places to eat that were nearby. She very kindly handed us over some discount coupons for a hotel that was around the corner that had a restaurant called 'Rib Room.' So we headed on over there and experienced amazing 10/10 service and food. Jon and I went for the platter of ribs selection whilst Adam went for a Spaghetti Bolognese, all of which looked and tasted amazing, followed by an equally to die for Chocolate Fondant dessert. The bill was an extremely low priced €69 for a three person three course meal and round of drinks. There, we finished up our drinks and turned in for the night, ready to explore the city in the morning. If you ever find yourself in Vilnius, check out Rib Room, you won't be disappointed!

Having had a great first evening's experience of Vilnius, we were in great spirits to tackle the cold snowy city centre. Venturing out towards the main square, finding our lay of the land once more. Luckily it wasn't as cold as our previous destinations as a lot of the snow had already fallen and the temperatures weren't as bitter so we didn't mind walking throughout the city centre for lengthy periods. We came across a free walking tour and having had great experience with our previous walking tours in Latvia and Estonia we decided to take the 2 hour long tour throughout Vilnius.

Some of the most interesting segments of the tour were when our guide, Milda, went on to talk of the religious history of the city, going into great detail about the still very active Pagan lifestyle and worshipping of forest spirits, which even she herself worshipped, to then leading us to an independent small island state within Vilnius itself; Uzupio Res Publika. We stopped at the bridge which lead into the state, where she told us of the 4 main laws for the state.

1. You must be happy whilst here.
2. Drive slowly and with care.
3. The state is for art and artists of the world.
4. Be cautious of the river!

Milda went on in detail, telling us of how the state was founded on April 1st 1997 (April Fools day of course) and that the whole state was a kind of light hearted joke, with it's own set of rules for living a happy life. Some of the art installations even had pieces of media embedded within the walls, detailing any piece of literature, art, news and so on about Vilnius and Uzupis, good or bad, they were proud to be recognised in the world. Joke or not, a state full of happy artists that live carefree lives sounds like my cup of tea, perhaps if it were in a slightly warmer climate I'd be looking to migrate!

Having had a great walking tour which lead us into the afternoon, we decided to grab a quick bite on the go and look for traditional things to do in Lithuania. Jon looked for sports that were synonymous with the state, discovering that Basketball was their main sport. A few google searches later and we found that the capital city's team were playing on the evening against another Lithuanian team and for around €6 each we could get great seats. Friday evening, prime time entertainment in the capital of Lithuania? Sign us up. We grabbed an Uber and took a short couple of miles or so journey to the Siemens arena which came to all of around 70 cents. Travel tip: if you're ever in the Baltic States, get Ubers and NOT local taxis! We ended up grabbing Ubers pretty much everywhere after this journey and saved ridiculous amounts of money -- other taxi firms would charge roughly ~€10 for the same length of journey, absolute daylight robbery.

We headed into the arena, taking a moment to have a gander at the trophy cabinets of the home team, Lietuvos Rytas, the cabinets were filled with seemingly a lot of achievements, these fellas meant business. Grabbing a €3 pint (can we have those prices at our stadiums in the UK please?!) we found our seats and watched as the teams warmed up on the court whilst the stadium quickly filled up leaving only a small number of seats unfilled.

Lietuvos Rytas vs BC Lietkabelis got underway. Having neither of us been to a basketball game, we took in the distinctly American style atmosphere, complete with an opening ceremony that had a standing national anthem sang by what we assumed was a local musician, mascot hurling the home team's flag back and forth along to pyrotechnics, intervals that had the home cheerleaders performing a mixture of dance routines, a dude who looked like an extra from Jersey Shore walking onto centre court firing balls into the crowd for attendees to go down and try their luck at shooting a hoop and earning prizes, and sponsored advertisements -- It was all distinctly American, just with an Eastern European twist. The home team, Rytas thrashed their opponents and the atmosphere of the stadium was amazing to be a part of. We left the stadium and headed into a shopping mall across the way from the stadium, grabbing some food and drinks before turning in for the night.

The final day of not only our time in Lithuania but also our trip of the Baltic States too, we decided to get up early and make the most of our limited time left. Heading out into the city with a brief stop off for Red Bull and pastries, we decided to head towards a viewing platform above the city that Milda had told us of on the walking tour. Going through windy back streets and through a local park, we came across a lad on a sled who was being pulled by his other half. One day I hope I can find a such a loving lassy who'll put up with my shit enough to want to pull me on a sled through snow too. Heading through thick probably 5-6" thick snow of the park we reached the steps towards the viewing area where Adam and I had serious doubts, not about going up the steps but for coming down them on the return journey. Even in my sturdy winter boots, I valued my life and wasn't about to let a set of stairs in Eastern Europe take me to an early grave (lol I do love overdramatising a scene). Adam shared this feeling, leaving Jon in his fucking VANS OLDSKOOL FLATS?! to climb on his lonesome. Credit to him he made it what we thought was probably half way until he turned around and shouted to us that he was probably a quarter of the way there. In hysterics Adam and I watched as he slowly baby step retreated back down to us where we decided to give up the viewing platform as a bad job and head back towards the city to grab some food and look at things to do for the rest of the day.

Fed, watered and warm again we decided to head to the Museum of Illusions which was a superb shout as there were all matter of mind boggling exhibits to try and get your head around. Some of my favourites included the never ending mirrors, classic funhouse circus style mirrors which had us in hysterics and a games of perspective. At the end of the tour was a VR experience kind of tour guide of the city which showed what Vilnius was like in the Summer time which was fun to take in, being my first time using a VR headset as well.

Late afternoon some came around and we decided to check out the local Holocaust Museum (The Green House as its referred to on Tripadvisor). That wasn't worth our time though as it was an overpriced, small tour which wouldn't allow photography and was extremely wordy but didn't hold much substance. Jon and I both agreed that our experience in similar museums throughout other countries that we had been to across Europe were far superior. Unsatisfied we quickly left the museum and decided to head towards the KGB Museum (Genocido Auku Muziejus) where we spent the remainder of the evening there, taking in the history of the horrible atrocities that were committed to the Lithuanian people over the years by the KGB forces. It was horrifying to see the way that the Soviet forces treat the Baltic people across all three states, in a lot of cases even worse than that of the Nazi oppressors. It is invaluable that these kinds of museums stay open to the public, so that many can learn the knowledge of errors and terrible acts of previous generations and crooked minds, so that we too don't end up repeating their horrific ways out of fear, hatred and lack of compassion towards others.

A grim afternoon of learning the terrible past of Lithuania and it's people, we ended the night in a local pizzeria sports bar where I was able to taste some of Lithuania's traditional cuisine, potatoes. I went for a roast beef and veg mix as I was in dire need of proper sustenance after partaking in such rich foods throughout a lot of the trip, of course, washed down nicely with a local ale and followed by some milkshake, ice cream, donut topped concoction of a dessert which put me back in good spirits. Finishing our drinks we headed back to the hotel to pack our bags and get a decent early nights sleep, ready to head back home in the morning.

 Landing back in Luton, back to the typical blustery UK winds and sunshine trying to peer through the cloudy skies with not an ounce of snow in sight, we headed on back to Brighton. All in all, our trip throughout the Baltic states was great, filled with a whole heap of things to see and do. When first telling people that I was to travel across to Eastern Europe, many would say that it would be a waste of time with"Theres nothing even there!" or "Why do you think so many Eastern Europeans come across here, there's nothing there!" and "Wouldn't you rather be somewhere hot?" Sigh. Don't even get me started on those types of people. Contrary to whatever close-minded, probably never even ventured to anywhere in Europe besides Benidorm, usually middle-aged person would tell you, the Baltic States are lovely, history rich filled places, great for travellers of all ages to go and explore, just make sure that you don your thermals and prepare for the cold if you head there in January.

I hope you've enjoyed my detailing of our experiences throughout our trip to the Baltic States of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. You can check out the previous blog posts below. Drop me a follow on the social media channels below to keep up to date with any new adventures that I'll share in my little slice of the internet. I've already booked a trip to Rome for September and have plans for many other adventures soon which I can't wait to share with you.

EU Travelling 2018 - Baltic States Part 2 - Tallinn, Estonia

27/02/2018 Tallinn, Estonia

Procrastination, work/life and general case of the 'CBA's has lead me to putting off writing this post up until now, which I'm more than a little annoyed at myself with, as I really had hoped to have all three parts of my blog posts covering my Journey throughout the Baltic States done by now. Be sure to check out the first blog post of my journey, here. Here goes, without further procrastination, join me as I go over our experience of Tallinn, Estonia!

Tallinn, Estonia

Up bright and early with a forty-five minute flight from Riga, I was barely able to smash out one episode of Peaky Blinders before the plane was landing in Tallinn. A smooth flight and painless trip to the hotel to check in and drop our bags off left us with the majority of the day left for us to explore the capital of Estonia. Some wrong turns, google maps deciding to put everything in reverse and poor navigation skilled directions later, we found our way to the city centre. Jon was quick to point out that it felt like we were back in Bratislava again, perhaps due to there not being many people out in the streets or the windy cobbled roads that do give a distinct tone along the lines of "If I take a wrong turn here, I will definitely be stabbed down a dark alleyway." We found our way to the main city square and came across an Irish Pub, 'Murphy's' (could they have gone with a more stereotypical name?) which we figured would be a good stopping point to check online for things to do in the city over a local beer and some grub.

Some time had passed in the pub and it soon became early evening. As we ventured back out into the now very cosily lit city centre with many a Christmas decoration, we decided to take a leisurely stroll around the various viewing areas of the city which were nestled higher up in the hills which overlooked the city, leading around to the other side of the city walls which lead onto the more commercial and modern side of town, filled with a large shopping centre and all your usual fast food chains and restaurants. 

One thing that I do love about being away in Europe during Christmas time is how the streets are all lit up and emphasise on the character of the architecture styles. It's great to see a lot of people out in the streets late in the evening too, such as buskers, street performers and just general public also enjoying the surroundings. After exploring much of the main city centre and finding our bearings, we decided to make our way back towards the main square, stopping off for coffee on the way to look online for recommendations on where to get some good traditional Estonian food for our first evening in the city. Being one for wanting to try traditional food whilst I'm away, the online reviews and recommendations of 'The Draakon' were second to none, claiming to be a traditional style and aesthetic with great food and ale. We decided to make tracks and head there.

Just off of the main square, underneath what appeared to be a main church or cathedral was a large wooden door nestled underneath the towering church building, with a sign hanging overhead which bore the name 'The Draakon' in a distinct medieval style, accompanied by a plaque on the wall which detailed their menu and current offers in a quirky, quite Tolkien-esc style with winding script type, floral patterns on aged wood. We headed inside, where we had to head down a small set of stairs into a kind of open plan cellar which gave off a distinctly homely feel with candle lit tables, stone walls and open roaring fires whilst traditional medieval music filled the background, giving the setting a great ambience.

I headed through to find a table whilst Adam and Jon went to the main counter where they were greeted by a woman dressed in traditional robes and linen of the time and apparently, according to those two, was in character and gave off a very dead pan/sarcastic style of service as Jon soon found out as her response to his enquiry for a free table was "You don't eat a table, you need food." and Adam's order of a glass of water leading to her hilarious response of "Are you a boy? Boys drink water, men have ale, you have ale, yes?" (which we later looked on the reviews that was all part of the act and character of the restaurant). Gutted that I'd missed out on the waitress dishing out the stellar banter to those two whilst I found us a table, Adam and Jon joined me at the table where they had brought across a round of ale, a kind of pastie/pie filled with beef and a bowl of Elk soup each; all in traditional style bowls, ceramics and jugs. The food was absolutely to die for and went down a right treat, the whole ambience and traditional style and character of the surroundings made the experience a complete 10/10 for me.

Pleased with our evening and appetites sufficiently sated, we decided to head on back to the hotel, where upon entering our room it was like walking into solid musk of sewage and drainage stink. It was absolutely rancid. We checked the toilet, sink to which I then found that the smell was emanating from the shower. It made me feel instantly sick. Jon wasn't looking so certain on our room choice either. Adam was clearly unaffected as he was already tucked up in bed smashing out his iPad games. I wasn't having it though, Jon and I decided to head out to the reception and raise the issue, to which we were given the worst customer service we'd ever received. To cut a long story short, which included porter inspections of the room and a receptionist who couldn't have given any less fucks about our situation if she tried -- we checked out early, left extremely sour reviews on the hotel and after a brief hour or so of standing in the snowy Estonian streets at around midnight, trying to find another hotel nearby whilst on the phones to our families, we were able to book into a far superior hotel, just a few miles outside of the city centre.

[If you find yourself booking a trip to Tallinn, stay clear of City Hotel Tallinn!]

One fairly rotten evening later we woke up feeling refreshed and ready to put that minor hiccup behind us. We were just glad to have found another hotel room as I was certain that if I slept in that room with that god awful stink we would have only gotten ill from it and I wasn't about to willingly experience another illness similar to that which Jon and I had in Poland from food poisoning on our first EU trip. Heading into the city centre to see what the new day brought, we decided to check out a local walking tour again, similar to the one which we took in Riga with our main man Toms.

The tour took us throughout much of the city which we had seen the previous day, now learning what each of the buildings, landmarks and sights were and a whole lot of the history of Estonia. On the tour we learnt that Estonians, typically, hate one another and have little to no people skills -- that certainly explained our experience with the receptionist who clearly had no interest in any human interaction of any kind.

[The next time I get any kind of negative feedback in my working life for being slightly lacking in being a people person I'll direct whoever is giving me said feedback to take a trip to City Hotel, Tallinn and experience what shit customer service actually is!] 

The walking tour concluded back in the main square where we decided to head on toward the Kiek in de Kok and Bastion Passages Museum which was an old tower overlooking the city that was filled with a visual historical guide through the ages of Tallinn. Ascending, each floor had a different historical period within it, detailing notable pieces of history throughout the years, filled with all kinds of props, clothing, weapons, torture instruments and scripture -- great for any history lover, like myself to spend a great deal of time inside, taking in all the information and picturing the days long past of the city. We soon realised just how unfit we were when we had to descend the tower's winding original staircase, reaching the bottom jelly legged, ill and out of breath (okay the multiple pints at the Irish pub before the museum perhaps had something to do with it too).

Evening soon came around and we decided to search the streets for another place to sit and have a couple of beers in and see the rest of the night off. We ended up at 'Olde Hansa', which was another quite traditional, olde worlde style restaurant/bar, quite like that of The Draakon which we attended the night before. The setting inside was amazing, similar to that of The Draakon, the tables were candle lit, the warmth instantly hit you as you entered the building and all the waiting staff were in traditional robes and linen. The settings were great and our drinks came in the traditional style pot jugs again, except for a much steeper price than that of the previous night.

There, we spent the rest of the evening reminiscing on our time throughout Riga and Tallinn, comparing the two cities and planning our next steps for the next destination, Vilnius. All-in-all, Tallinn was a lovely place, your typical eastern European capital city with lots of medieval history, large impressive architecture and great local ales to taste! Despite our momentary problem with City Hotel Tallin, that didn't detract too much from the experience as we thoroughly enjoyed our time in the capital of Estonia. We all agreed that Tallinn feels like a capital city that our parents would probably love to visit as its a little more slower paced, lots of history and it just has a nice character about it, even if the people were generally quite rude.

Be sure to check out my various social media channels below to stay up to date with upcoming blog posts. Up next, I'll be detailing our final destination, Vilnius, Lithuania. For now though, this has been the second part of posts for our trip through Baltic States!

Read part one - Riga, Latvia here

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EU Travelling 2018 - Baltic States Part 1 - Riga, Latvia

11/02/2018 Riga, Latvia

The new year has started with adventure for me as I set out on my now somewhat, annual bit of travelling throughout Europe (this being the third year of travelling within the EU). This time, the destination was the Baltic States - Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, travelling again with my good friend, Jon and this time joined by our old work colleague and friend, Adam. 

Riga, Latvia

First up on the route was Riga, Latvia's capital city. After an early 4:30AM start to drive up to Luton airport from Brighton, we were up and away on our roughly 2hr 30min flight to take us to Riga airport. After landing we grabbed some cash, got a lay of the land with the help of the airport tourism receptionist, caught a quick taxi ride to our hotel and donned our vests and long johns to survive the minus seventeen degree temperature which awaited us outside as we ventured into the city centre. Upon first sights, Latvia reminded both Jon and myself of our grim experience of Bratislava - not a lot going on, dull and cold surroundings with Soviet era statues and architecture looming over the landscape; our expectations were pretty low. Never the less, we pressed on into the city and found a T.G.I's to grab some food whilst we planned what to do with our time in Riga. Admittedly, whenever I go abroad, the last type of food I want to eat is T.G. fucking I's but in minus seventeen degree temperatures, you kind of get what you're given or become an ice cube.

Two distinctly average and Jon's apparently amazing burger and fries later, (we were unable to grab a Burger Brothers* before we set off travelling from Brighton, so clearly Jon had forgot what a decent burger actually tasted like, next time mate!) we had a plan of action for the rest of our day and following day and a half stay in Riga. We headed out and decided to spend the rest of the afternoon checking out the KGB museum at the other side of town. All three Baltic States had a really interesting past with the Soviet Union and we figured that would be a good starting point to learn about Latvia.

*[Burger Brothers is the best burger place in Brighton, perhaps the UK. Check it out if ever you're in Brighton.]

Heading to the KGB museum, everywhere you looked there were soviet monuments along with very communist era style architecture - I'll divulge more on these later on as we learnt what these monuments were erected for during our walking tour on our second day. Arriving at the museum, it looked like something out of a thriller, an inconspicuous building yet hidden in plain sight of which you'd expect to see the likes of Jason Bourne running towards to discover his true identity. Whilst I sadly didn't get any pictures of the building itself or much of its contents inside as the displays were mainly lines of text and a few pictures of KGB officers here and there; picture a large building on the corner of a block which, whilst looking like nothing out of the ordinary, once you stepped inside, it felt like you were instantly transported back in time to the 1940's as everything had remarkably been kept to its original style and standards.

Inside, the building was a plethora of information detailing the Latvians, Soviets and even Nazi Germans who had all occupied the building over the years, each under vastly different regimes and regulations. Going through a history which lasted right up until as recent as the 1990's, we soon learnt that the Latvian nation had endured a cruel history of oppression, having only regained their national independence very recently. Whilst it was saddening to learn, I thought the museum was a great first choice for our stay in Riga, as any European history of the 1900's greatly interests me, especially both wars and the cold war eras.

After finishing up at the museum it was soon getting around to mid evening and we knew we had a full day in Riga to make the most of ahead of us, so we decided to head back through the main city centre where we found all of the buildings we had previously passed on our way to the museum were now lit up, looking really prestigious and glorious at night; the European tradition of having Christmas trees up until late January also added to the lovely surroundings, lighting up the streets with a warm, homely glow. Later, we found ourselves at an English style pub where we tasted some samples of Latvian ales before deciding to have an early night so that we were ready for what Riga had to offer on our next day.

To kick off our second day in Riga, we decided to seek out expert knowledge of a local tour guide, Toms, who ran a two hour tour throughout Riga's city centre. Toms is one of those types of people who I could sit and listen to for hours on end, knowing that I'd walk away enriched and enlightened from what he'd have to share in conversation; his tour was excellent, giving us the history of Riga with some added personal anecdotes referencing his upbringing in the city amongst other things. He concluded the tour at a local bar where we were able to get some food and drinks in. Before leaving us Toms came across to Jon, Adam and myself and personally thanked us for being on the tour with him, he said that he could tell we really enjoyed it and it meant a lot to him. If you ever find yourself in Riga, take up the walking tour with Toms, seriously, you won't be disappointed! 

After finishing up our food and drinks at the bar we decided to head out to the Museum of Occupation in Latvia, where we could learn a little more about the history of the country, specifically how they fought for their independence on several times from under oppressors. The monument which I had mentioned earlier was detailed within this museum along with a whole bunch of information, props and even uniforms, weapons and miscellaneous objects from Latvia's past. One exhibit which stuck in my mind the most was the "Baltic Way" 600km human chain protest against the occupation of the three Baltic States in 1989. The chain of people stood hand-in-hand across 600km, going through Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to stand up against the occupation and oppression and regain their independence is something that I'd never heard of before and was really interesting to learn about. It's amazing to learn about what we as humans can do. 

To finish off the evening we headed to 'Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs' - A olde worlde style restaurant which was in an underground cellar. The atmosphere in there was amazing, a live jazz band played in the corner next to a roaring open fire and the place was filled from front to back though we were lucky enough to get three seats at the bar. Jon and I opted for a traditional Latvian meal of 1 Kilo of Pork which came with chunky potato fries, sauerkraut and sour cream whilst Adam went for a traditional chicken dish. Let me tell you that this meal was probably one of the top five meals that I've ever had in my twenty-six years of living on this earth! Nursing a food baby, we headed back to the hotel for another early night as we had a flight to Estonia to catch first thing in the morning where we'd carry on our journey through the Baltic States!

All-in-all, Riga was a really lovely place, insanely cold, but great to experience never the less. The food was amazing, the beer tasted great and the sights were easy on the eyes, despite there being many a soviet and communist surroundings and history which was still quite the wound which was still healing. I'd mainly recommend Riga to travellers who are looking to learn about Soviet history and experience eastern Europe's culture, its great for foodies and travellers who don't mind donning their thermals to experience what's on offer!

In my next blog post I'll be going over our time spent in Tallinn, Estonia as a part of our trip through the three Baltic States so be sure to follow me on my social channels below to keep up to date with my adventures.

Adam loved the flight to Estonia's seating arrangement. 

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