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The last couple weeks I’ve been running through Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and the standard of cooking here really has blown me away. Latvia is easily the best country I’ve run through so far in terms of food.

In fact if you’re a bit of a foodie and are looking for somewhere different to go for a weekend break I couldn’t recommend Latvia more – to be precise, Malpils Museum. It’s about a half hour drive from Riga into the countryside, very cheap and easy to fly into from the UK. I found the restaurant here by accident. There’s no advertising whatsoever, and Malpils is a very small town. It’s actually the only restaurant in town, and just so happens to have the winner of the best traditional-Latvian chef of 2012 as head chef!

The restaurant is on the ground floor of a museum set in a giant manor house with stunning grounds. Earlier in the day I’d run past chapels and caves carved into cliff sides in hill top villages.

Prices in certain parts of Europe are great compared to back home. In most places you can get a main course for well under a fiver, and it’s generally good. When I stumbled upon the restaurant I was just looking for something quick to eat. When I realised how smart the place was my heart sank at first, being a sweaty mess in my running kit. I definitely looked out of place and was worried I’d be turned away but my main concern was it looked like a very expensive place (ie. well out of budget for a guy running around the world).

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I ordered the rabbit dish. When it arrived I was stunned to find the presentation was fine dining standard and it tasted as good as it looked. My waiter spoke very good English and was incredibly welcoming. It was chatting to him later when I learnt about their head chef having won the national award for best chef in the category traditional food. So, did this amazing meal cost my budget dearly? No it was equivalent to £7 for the main course!

Often I tend to camp but through this part of Europe I’ve found guest houses/hotels from £7-£15 on average, which is far more comfortable than camping illegally in someone’s field. As it was close to getting dark I asked if there was a guest house nearby. This is when I found out that the museum, as well as housing a restaurant, is also a guesthouse. There was no inkling of this from outside or inside, and later I brought it up with the waiter – “why are there no signs to say restaurant/hotel on the building or on the main road (which bypasses the town)?”. He said he had also wondered this when he started work there, but now knows all their custom is through word of mouth!

If you fancy a weekend away somewhere different then here you’ll have a fantastic room in a manor house for £40 (I took the ‘kids’ room for £15!) a night and a fantastic restaurant downstairs. It’s one of the first places I’ve stayed at along my route where I know I’ll definitely plan to return to one day on a mini break.


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  • Dana Priedniece

    Hello Mr. Kevin Carr!
    I love your shows and work you’ve done.
    But please respect countries where you’re traveling, when you write about them.
    Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are Northern European countries.

    • Gatis Ziema

      eastern.

      • Lauksaimneiks

        Central, the eastern border o Europe lies neat the Ural mountains :)

      • Kayla

        Naturally, it is Northern Europe. United Nations and many other respectable organizations places it there. Take a map and look at it! It’s obviously not Scandinavia (Denmark, Sweden, Norway) but it’s most certainly is in the position of choosing – East or North. Funnily enough, business people who brand themselves as Northern Europeans tend to do in business much better.

        • mg

          Eastern is a state of mind, not a geographical position. Business people don’t ‘brand’ themselves ‘Northern’. Ever. Scandinavians have a mature work ethic. That brings success, not ‘branding’ yourself a Northerner.

          • Kayla

            Naturally, I was meaning Northern work ethics and identity one would associate oneself with. If you research the roots of Baltic states you will be amazed how Northern they are.

      • ab
      • ab

        Although to the British pretty much everything in Europe is Eastern Europe, except for a couple of Southern and two Northern European countries.

        • Kayla

          Exactly! When you ask them – well, what’s N Europe then? Well, Britain of course. It is soo relative. One English comedy show called Spain a third world (in British perspective). Only lately this label Eastern Europe has popped up and keeps dividing, splitting Europe, cultivates stereotypes and increases ignorance.

          • mg

            What’s wrong with ‘Eastern Europe’? Who is ‘them’? Pathetic!

        • mg

          Surely this is a joke. A man writes a blog saying what a wonderful time he had and that’s the best you can come up with. How pathetic! Do you really think it matters where he is from! You’re a terrible advertisment for your country!

    • tūdaliņš

      Funny, how you are despretly trying to point that out, all of this depends where author comes from.
      From GB it is Eastern. And it was done with sincierest respect, that seems rude to even comment.

      • Līvija Pujēna

        It is OKAY to get the facts right, bro

        • tūdaliņš

          Calm down. And I am not your bro, bro

          • Līvija Pujēna

            never been calmer, bro
            good story tho

          • tūdaliņš

            my bad then, and still not your bro, bro.

          • Kayla

            Funny, you don’t even want this girl to call you bro yet you would like to bag all of us from the very N to S into E Europe. LoooL

          • tūdaliņš

            Funny how you find yourself offended from those few words.

    • Mārtiņš

      Wow! I’m really ashamed to be Latvian at this moment, this guy gives Latvian cuisine a glowing review and gives praise to the high quality service as well as travel value in general and first thing in the coments is a massive steamer and about somthing as pittiful as the part of location in Europe no less.
      Kevin I hope you do return to Latvia some day, but I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t! Had a nice and pleasant read :)

  • Andreass

    Actually we (Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians) are a bit more eastern than western europeans.
    Both geographically and mentally.
    Have a look :)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Europe

  • Violeta Birzniece

    Indeed, an amazing manor with beautiful surroundings, absolutely gorgeous rooms and one of the best restaurants in Latvia. I’m very happy having had my wedding organised there.

    • mg

      Sounds truly very nice indeed.

  • Kayla

    Dear lad! It’s so great you enjoyed Latvia and it’s cuisine which is truly amazing. But get this in your head – Latvia IS NORTHERN EUROPE or the Baltics, and please don’t repeat Eastern Europe for all places East of Germany (would East Germany be Eastern Europe too then?) It’s quite ridiculous. Every single country in Europe has their differences! Especially, if we’re talking about the cuisine – you can very well see we eat most of the stuff prepared in a way Scandinavians or Germans do (weird, eh?). Christmas dinner table in Latvia or Norway may be identical (I was surprised to learn that too). Black pudding (blood sausage) is also smth. always associated to Scotland while it is a very traditional food in Latvia.

    Other thing, where on earth did you find a place to stay for GBP 7 – 15? It is cheaper in winter season – obviously! But unless you’re sleeping on an old bed in a very modest country house or a barn, you’re paying a lot more than £7. In manor houses a good room usually costs at least 50 pounds and up. In Riga it is impossible to find anything decent for less than GBP 70 a night and the most popular hotels will have rooms for 100 and up. Many things in Baltics are not cheap at all, and many tourists have admitted it. Food comes in very different prices, real, organic, privately grown stuff is certainly not dirt-cheap.

    • the latvian

      I would totally disagree on prices with MM. If you are looking at SPA’s and other fancy-glamorous places, then of course. But there are loads of places for £10-20 a night outside Riga. And in Riga you can find very nice hotels for as low as £50-70 per night.

      I assume that MM hasn’t travelled his own country enough to see that there are a lot more places to stay than barns with old beds. Sorry for him.

      Anyway thanks for inspiring review Kevin. Have a great trip!

    • Dev21

      You talk to him as if he’s been saying Latvia is in Eastern Europe for years, show the man some respect, he is saying nothing but good things about your country. Correct or not it is quite common for the Baltics to be labelled as Eastern Europe.

      As for the prices, he may be exaggerating slightly, but nowhere near as much as you.. Impossible to find anything decent in Riga for under £70?? This pretty much confirms what I thought when I read your anger at being labelled Eastern Europe.. You sir are a snob.

      • Kayla

        Hey, everyone wants to find a bargain and if smth. is cheap doesn’t mean it has some bad connotation. I would love to find out a good deal on a country accommodation. And you can find good bargains in Riga or let’s say Stockholm alike (at Airbnb it really isn’t expensive). Perhaps it depends on the site – I honestly didn’t find anything decent unless you’re sharing an apartment or staying in a small inn smw. farther away from the city center. 35 Lats for a hotel room is pretty standard in LV though and seasonal prices vary.

      • Edgars Anspoks

        I have to say, the article seems well written but I do find the author referring to Latvia and Estonia as Eastern Europe a tad disrespectful. It varies from person to person of course. 50 years of russian occupation has left a certain disgust for the label.

        • Dev21

          I don’t mean to be disrespectful and I’m sure the author didn’t either. Maybe North-Eastern Europe as Erika says below would be more accurate, but I don’t think the Eastern Europe label will go away as to be fair we are pretty far east in Europe.

          I think the main issue with it is that people have some kind of image in their mind when they think of Eastern Europe and they think it is something to be ashamed of, but it isn’t. Show the world that you are proud of where you come from regardless of whether somebody calls it Eastern Europe (incorrectly or not).

          The author painted a very nice picture of this country with this article and to be honest that has been ruined by some of the big heads in the comments.

        • mg

          I can’t believe you people! Stop whining and playing ‘victims’!

    • tūdaliņš

      You seem to have never been more than 2km outside of Riga.

    • mg

      Absurd comment. I am sure he stated correct information. Democracy means letting people compliment your country without snarling. Your last sentence is silly. This is an ‘Eastern European’ attitude, irrespective of where your charming country is located.

  • Brigita Dambe

    I actually live not far away from the place, this is where we go when we just want to enjoy good food and peaceful atmosphere. And for the standards this place has, it is even cheap for Latvia, BUT SOOOO GOOOD.
    PS. It’s about hour and a half from Riga, not half an hour.

  • Erika A E Petersons

    Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are North-Eastern Europe and in the geographic centre of Europe…..

    • mg

      Oh I was waiting for THAT one! Centre..yep, EXACTLY what the Hungarians say!

  • Kayla

    For Kevin and all the others who still do not navigate in the map of Europe too well. Many people have already recognized the same fact Mr. Lucas does: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BcTOSxcv2_o

    • mg

      For MM, how about you try navigating in your own country. Before your comments I thought Lovely Latvia was part of the Baltics. Now I wonder if your mentality is the form of petty eastern nationalism one finds here and there near the Caspian sea.

      • Kayla

        You tend to use the attack behavior characteristic to East yourself as you just started to used ad hominem claim trying to link my person with some exciting place. I am only offering a certain view which is based on many evidences and modern view of the world. Have you watched the video with E. Lucas speech at all? Would you say he is from East, therefore always incorrect, too? After all, why does it matter to you if Latvia is placed East or North?

  • Inese

    Hi! Thank You Jamie for nice words. And everybody willing to see the mentioned caves carved in cliffs by the locals and also the top picture for this entry- come and visit us in Ligatne village. http://www.visitligatne.lv

  • Artis Filips Armalis

    Dear latvians it’s O.K,. if one of us explains geography, not everyone tries to point a finger on britis. It’s USSR to blame due to those f.ing 50 years of occupation, therefore everything is put in same bag.

    Further, Kevin it’s great that you enjoyed :) all I can say, spread the word even more. Have a nice day !!

  • Sandijs Liepa

    Dear Jamie, you have made some mistakes writing this very nice thing about my country. Sure it’s good to hear good things about places you’ve been and food you have eaten. I respect the beautiful words you are saying. Don’t be stopped by idiotic comments come and enjoy, there are lot more beautiful places and good food to enjoy.

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    no man, mcdonaldss better choice

  • Līvija Pujēna
  • Andreass

    In terms of east-west division, Baltic states clearly are in Eastern Europe. But they also can be considered as part of Northern Europe.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Europe

  • Gynts Iverts

    Jeezz! this is classical latvian coments. Whatever you do no latvian should ever be pleased!?! ehhehehe I guess russians butf*cked us for 50 or so years pretty well, huh? that we still to this day make sad faces and write stupid comments! :)

    • tūdaliņš

      We are never pleased, that is our hobby.

  • Mara Rekis Anderson

    Love the Baltics…especially, Latvia.

  • KK

    My eager compatriots, it seems that most of you are mixing together two concepts and being offended for nothing! You have to distinguish between political, cultural or geographical map of Europe. Geographically, yes, we are in Northern Europe, politically – Eastern Europe. Questions? Ok, a simple test. Compare political stability, corruption level, tolerance in Northen Europe and Eastern Europe and then honestly answer where Latvia belongs to!

    • tūdaliņš

      Don’t bother, they are too ignorant to accept this.

  • Mike

    Latvia is in North Europe.

    • mg

      Judging by the mentality of some comments, I might dispute that. It is about mentality, not geography. Latvia is south of the north pole.

  • Kevin Carr

    Hi guys sorry had no I telnet access last few days.

    Just to clarify I do not seam the term Eastern European to be a derogatory one, and certainly didn’t mean any offence to Latvians.

    However I’ve never heard of the expression ‘Northern Europe’ before, and I think most people outside of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia would fail to answer correctly “which countries are in Northern Europe”

    The main problem being that the world is split East-West not politically but but by the rotation of the earth.

    Your countries are 2hours ahead of the UK (Eastern European Time) as the sun sets here 2hours before us due to the rotation of the earth, and your position on it relative to the UK.

    Northern Europe? The UK in particular Scotland is further North than Lithuania and Latvia, are we Northern Europe rather than Western Europe?

    How about Portugal, the most western point of Europe, it is also one of the most southern, can Portugal refer to it self as ‘southern Europe’

    • Kayla

      What about Finland? It also is on the Easter European Timezone EET and is located in the NE corner. What’s more interesting, it shares many (especially cultural) characteristics with Latvia and Estonia.

  • Kevin Carr

    There are two ‘Europe’s the political one and the continent.

    Looking at the continent then West is Portugal East the Ural Mountains This places the geographical centre of Europe in Lithuania.

    However most people do not consider Russia to be European, just look at the trouble in Kiev at the moment!

    Russia forms the political border of Europe, Latvia Lithuania and Estonia all border here, you are as far East in Europe as it is possible to be without leaving Europe? Only a tiny part of Bulgaria and Romania protrude slightly further to the East.

    Lithuania is both south and East of Poland?

    • Kayla

      To end all arguments and retain the accuracy, how about referring to Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia as the Baltic states? But it’s not bad to introduce Northern Europe into popular colloquial language either: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Europe

      Foodwise, Latvia is essentially Nordic (but there also can be found many foreign influences).

      Thank you very much for your great article and I’m sure everyone is grateful to you and appreciates your compliments. Come again any time! Good luck with your foodie-travels! :)

    • Kayla

      To end all arguments and retain the accuracy, how about referring to Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia as the Baltic states? But it’s not bad to introduce Northern Europe into popular colloquial language either. You can view one of the many articles on what is Northern Europe on Wikipedia.

      Foodwise, Latvia is essentially Nordic (but there also can be found many foreign influences).

      Thank you very much for your great article and I’m sure everyone is grateful to you and appreciates your compliments. Come again any time! Good luck with your foodie-travels! :)

  • Kevin Carr

    I will from now on refer to your countries as Norther European, but I fear I’ll have to explain myself as I do so as most people will not be sure where I am referring to.

    It’s a little like me calling myself tall dark and handsome… I can refer to myself that way all I like but it’s plain to see I am none of the above!

    I’m short pale and ginger..

    You are fairly north within Europe true, on the political map, central on the continental map and as Far East as possible on the political map.

    Anyway the place is great and I’ll do my best to spread the word!

    Accommodation prices were accurate but I am looking for cheap places as most nights I camp in my tent anywhere dry and warm is a treat for me!

    • Kayla

      Hey Kevin! Once again, thank you for this article and compliments to Latvia. Everyone would love to have you here again. No one here reproves you anything just that in the past 10 or so years we hear the word Eastern Europe way too much and it has somehow hit the boiling spot. It would be very nice of you to refer to the Baltics as Northern Europe (which it has been historically except unfortunate 1945-91) also according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Europe
      BUT to avoid any arguments or misunderstandings just say the Baltic states or Baltic region (which is the most accurate). Thank you so much once again and good luck with your foodie travels!

    • Kayla

      To end all arguments and retain the accuracy, how about referring to Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia as the Baltic states? But it’s not bad to introduce Northern Europe into popular colloquial language either: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Europe
      Foodwise, Latvia is essentially Nordic (but there also can be found many foreign influences).
      Thank you very much for your great article and I’m sure everyone is grateful to you and appreciates your compliments. Come again any time! Good luck with your foodie-travels! :)

  • tūdaliņš

    My fellow latvians, we officialy nailed this post. I bet there will be few more to point out correct direction.