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Strangers become Friends

A few months ago I was standing in line at McDonald's in Riga buying food and while I was waiting for my order I spotted another African guy.

Now remember we are not many black people here in Latvia:), so we greeted each other which is customary in African culture and started a conversation.

And that was how I first met Stephane.

He told me he is 29 years old and hails from Yaounde in Cameroon, and that he came to Latvia a year ago to study Hotel Management.

We exchanged numbers and promised to stay in touch.

Recently after a long week of work I decided to surprise my wife and take her and our baby girl Ondeya out for the day.

You see summer is here and it would be a total waste to spend all the time indoors.

So while I was make the necessary arrangements, I remembered Stephane and I decided to call him and invite him to join us on our excursion.

He was excited and all game, so we picked him up and headed straight to Mezaparks.

Mezaparks Recreational Park

is one of the most beautiful, greenest Parks in Riga, and is located near one of the most prestigious neighbourhoods in Riga, as well as a popular recreation area.

It is nestled between Lake Kisezers and the Riga Zoo and offers modern-day opportunities like hiking, rollerblading and cycling.

The major cultural and recreational park Mezaparks opened in 1949.

Today it is one of the few remaining forested areas in Riga and locals flock here especially over weekends.

It was a hot Summer's Friday and at first we got lost as we were looking for the famous local Barbecue Restaurant Šašliki Mangaļos where my wife and I ate before on our first trip to Mezaparks. Luckily friendly locals showed us the right way.

Šašliki Mangaļos Restaurant

It is a restaurant near Mežaparks in Riga. Nothing seems to have changed in its interior since it was opened during Soviet times, at least that’s what it looks like.

One will find a pure authentic shashlik(barbecued meat) bar.

The food here is by all means fantastic.

This is how they operate – you go to the counter and choose the meat (chicken, pork, lamb), then select something from the side dishes (cucumber, tomato, pickles, onion), take some lavash, take some sauce and some beer or tarkhun.

Grab an authentic Soviet aluminum fork, look for an empty table (it is no surprise that Šašliki can be quite full from time to time) and wait for your freshly grilled and juicy shashlik.

Don’t be too relaxed because the meat is placed on the counter and you will have to bring it to your table yourself.

This is the deal here – one will get a fantastic shashlik in an authentic Soviet interior away from tourist attractions.

Adress: Mores iela 22, Ziemeļu rajons, Rīga, LV-1034 For Reservations: +371 67 395 257

After a filling lunch we strolled through Mezaparks to Lake Ķīšezers.

Ķīšezers is a lake in Riga, Latvia, with primary inflow of the Jugla River.

The lake is 1,730 ha large, it has 2.4 metres of average depth and reaches 4.2 metres at the deepest point.Situated next to Mezaparks it offers a panoramic view and relaxation.

Here we sat down and just enjoyed the moments observing birds flying, children swimming and the sun shining in the blue sky.

To cool off we enjoyed some ice creams. Stephane and I had lengthy conversations about Africa's past and future and being away in a foreign country. We both realised how much we have in common. My daughter Ondeya smiled as I held her in my arms and she enjoyed the nice breeze.

After a few hours of doing nothing, we boarded a boat with River Cruises Latvia in the early evening and cruised all the way back to Riga's inner city.

Our friendly captain was called Edgars.

After we arrived we bid farewell to Stephane who thanked us for having made his day and we headed home. And just like that, our Friday had come to an end. And I added another good friend to my list...

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