Match day minus one. The clans are gathering, but we are doing culture and shit. Mostly.
After an early night, we are up at the crack of mid morning. After a quick back, sack and crack, we are out for breakfast. First port of call is a place recommended in le guide books and claims to do breakfast all day. It goes by the name of This Place Does Not Need a Name. Which is fine, but what it does need is more tables. It’s rammedio. We quickly decide to look elsewhere.
The old town feels, on first impression, to be big, cos there’s a lot squeezed into a small space. Like a Tardis Town. But Medieval. The more we wander around we find we are never more than five minutes from our apartment. Last night I found it easier to go back to the apartment than queue to use the pub toilets.
We soon find ourselves in a buffet type pub, helping ourselves to an omelette and rice. Like many east European countries, they are not big on vegetarian food.
Ten minutes later we are in a pub waiting for Posh and Becks, who are up unusually early today. Having previously planned to go on a walking tour to get out bearings, we spot a little electric ‘road train’ thing that looks like an easy alternative. We get to see all the old town, it’s long enough to get our money’s worth, but short enough to be back before we need a piss.
We drive down all the pedestrianised streets we couldn’t go down on a double dekker bus. We learn about old streets named after the trades that worked there, churches rebuilt after being burnt down and more unfeasibly tall wooden buildings. The more we see, the more it confirms how small the town is.
Once back we hit the forty-ninth best pizza joint in Europe again and meet up with the favourite son. After filling our bellies we go to Cosmos, a museum of optical illusions. We cannot believe our eyes. Some seriously weird shit going down in there, which keeps us well occupied for an hour.
All the pubs look chaotic, so we go for a wander along the canal. Then sit on a bench, watching the world go by. Drinking Latvian beer.
We watch boats, canoes, paddle boards, splash cats and all manner of aquatic transportation cruising up and down the beautiful canal. It is an oasis of calm and we only leave when our bladders tell us we need to. Then we head to the pub.
By now the town is full of red shirts and bucket hats. Although we were only allocated one thousand tickets, considerably more than that have travelled. There must be five or six thousand Wales fans in town. And there lies a big problem. I don’t think the town was expecting this. As lovely as all the bar staff are, and they really are friendly, they are run off their feet. They are seriously understaffed and under prepared. A ten minute wait for a drink is quick service. In one pub we waited almost an hour, before walking out without any sign of our ‘tower of beer’ arriving. That was probably the largest pub we have been in, called Two More Beers. It was jam packed and Wales were playing Fiji in the egg chasing on the telly. The crowd was mostly men and you could smell the testosterone.
We head back to the pub next to our apartment, which in fairness has turned out to be the best service. The pub is full of women, you can smell the estrogen. The conversation is not for the faint hearted though. We discuss pegging, rimming and debate whether it is appropriate to call someone Garry The Jew.
Eventually, they turn out the lights again so we head down the road back to The Cinema Bar. It’s now full of Welsh fans trying to out do each other on the punch bag machine. Lots of familiar faces drop by and the Jagerbombs start flowing again. I don’t actually remember going home, but I’m advised it was a lot closer to the next sunrise than the last sunset. And we had to literally carry one of the gang. But I’m not saying who.