Letter from the editor
Public transport in the Baltic's is a very cheap and efficient way to get to any B. Pick any town, country house or place on a map and a bus or train will get you there and trams, buses, micro-buses, trains and trolleybuses, run frequently to all parts of the city.
Taking a ride is something people need to experience first hand to really appreciate the weirdness, to take in the sights, sounds and smells of Baltic Public Transport.
Here are a few things you need to be aware of;
The drivers are complete maniacs, driving erratically, speeding and dodging traffic. You will be scared half to death but will secretly approve of their tactics in handling the gridlocked traffic and driving through orange lights.
The conductors are a breed of their own, half are ex KGB officers and some are characters straight from â€žOne flew over the cuckoos nest." I was once waiting at a bus stop when someone threw some fruit out of a passing bus. The strange looking lady next to me said the young kids were aiming for her, I was thinking they were going for the two drunks lolling about the bus shelter. The lady next to me was a conductor â€žPeople always throw things at me; I even get women spiting at me from building windows."
Now the best part about traveling on public transport are the passengers themselves, there is a kill or be killed mentality and here is where you really notice that deodorant is not considered a daily necessity. Don't think of opening a window in case you will cause a â€žCaur vess" a cross wind, that causes 95% of all ailments. Getting off is the hard part, combat training is an advantage, in advance you must elbow your way to the nearest exit, when the doors open be prepared to push back the mob who are forcing their way on.
If you hesitate in stepping off, be prepared to lose a limb. A visiting friend had the misfortune of riding for a few meters with his head sticking out between trolleybus doors, quite funny from an onlooker's perspective. He made the mistake of checking before alighting, the doors closed around his neck, everyone started screaming and yelling for the driver to stop. My poor friend looked like he had tried to take his own life, although in shock, we could not help but laugh.
Lastly there are the ticket inspectors, they get on sporadically to check for fare evaders, and are brutal and unforgiving. A few years ago, my then two year old was partial to eating paper. It so happened that the old style trolley bus tickets were soft and an appetizing orange color. Two stern, brusque inspectors got on and asked for my ticket, I told them my daughter ate it, they did not think that was amusing, it was not until the conductress vouched for my buying a ticket and me volunteering my daughter to eat another that they hopped off as quickly as they hopped on. You can't mess with Baltic public transport employees; in 1998 a Lithuanian bus driver shot and wounded a passenger who refused to buy a ticket and had punched the driver in the face.
I almost forgot the micro buses. These mini vans zipping around town are all vying for a place in the Guinness Book Records for the most amount of people to squeeze into a twenty seater. I have had the displeasure of getting into a near empty van, to later find myself one of fifty sardines in a can. The smell of alcohol coming from the front is hopefully very stale or emanating from a fellow passenger.
This month sees Latvians celebrating the day in 1918 when they declared independence from Soviet Russia in 1918. Look out for Celebrations throughout Latvia.