It was a sunny late October afternoon when we decided to visit the former concentration camp at Salaspils. It’s located only 20km from Riga and can be easily reached by taking bus No.18 to the last stop – or so we thought. The eccentric journey has been seared into our brains so permanently that even the ravages of age and disease could hardly erase its lasting impression.
Before we even left the Central Market bus stop on Gogoļa iela we were already bombarded by so many fascinating (and scary) people that we could write a book on their unusual appearance and behaviour alone. Indeed, if you’re low on cash during a visit to Riga you might consider the free entertainment provided at any random bus stop, but especially the ones in the Moscow district. The smell of fish bought at the Central Market mixes seamlessly with the aroma of fatty, shiny hair stuck to the pates of unhygienic passengers that haven’t seen the inside of a shower stall since the Soviets ruled the roost. People with glasses as thick as Coke bottle bottoms and civic minded citizens spitting out green balls of slime after they’ve inhaled the foulest of cheap cigarettes can all be seen just a few meters away from Riga’s clean and attractive inner city.
But just when we thought the worst was over, we heard an unpleasant and unmistakable sound behind us. An elderly lady quickly caught our attention. At first glance she actually looked quite normal, especially compared to the wretched examples of humanity queued up next to us. But after a small break of pleasant silence, we noticed that she wasn’t as innocent as we first suspected. She held a thin translucent bag in her hands, filled with a substance we could not look at for more than a second. While standing in between the morbid crowd of would-be mass transit passengers, grandma was calmly hurling her breakfast into the small, ever-so-thin bag usually reserved for holding pastries or yarn. Where are all the heavy-duty supermarket shopping bags when you need them?