700HP in the Baltic Lands: Latvia Part 1 of 2 - LIVE AND LET DRIVE

Uploaded by drive on 25.09.2012

ALEX ROY: I like going to places that American tourists
don't generally go.
And of course we've been to Paris and London, but we've
done things in those places American tourists don't
usually do.
But it's high time that we go further down this road,
literally and figuratively.
Therefore, we're only going to go to places that American
tourists make a point of avoiding, and where I have
friends who've told me the nightlife is good.
That's why this week we're going to Riga, Latvia.

I was told that Riga was a very modern city.
In fact, was one of the most modern cities in the Baltic.

That's not quite the impression I got upon
entering the city.
He said the country was incredibly modern, that it was
industrialized, high growth rate country.
And it doesn't look anything like that to me.
It looks like the set from "Band of Brothers."
I can't believe how many wood houses there are.
Because everyone knows that wood is the finest insulation
material possible in a country that's colder than Iceland
man, come on.
There's no doubt that this was a city that saw warfare.
The buildings come in two forms of
construction material--
reinforced stone buttresses designed to withstand assault.
An excellent city to withstand, say, a zombie
But then you have the other buildings which are made of
wood, which is odd considering that the country's colder than
Iceland in the winter.
And wood is well-known as the finest
insulating material available.
Totally impervious to fire or flamethrower attack.

On the other hand, if you take a cab from JFK into Manhattan,
you might think you're in the middle of a battlescape from
"Fallout 3." It's tough stuff.
Riga looks a lot nicer than that.
It is beautiful, but I don't see any of the modern Latvia
he was talking about.
Is this supposed to be downtown?
This can't be.
I wasn't optimistic about how much fun I was
going to have in Riga--
not yet.

We're lost.
I'm turning on the GPS.
We were lost, which is rare for me--
except in places like Latvia, and Iceland, and El Salvador.
And our hotel was difficult to find until we found it and met
our old friend Otto Godfrey.
Otto better really deliver, man.
Otto, just like he promised, had brought us a car.
This has to be it because it's got blue trim.
Maritim Hotel, blue trim.
All right, let us pray he got a Skoda, DAF, Zilla, or Lada.
Otto Godfrey can get any car.
How many times has a friend of yours said oh yeah, come visit
and I'll lend you a car and said it was going to be
something amazing and it was.
Well, that never happens.

What the [BLEEP]
is that?
There is no way.
Who else would have a Gumball-plated M6?
If he talked the guy who owned that car into lending it to
him, then I am the biggest loser of all time.

This is a very famous, highly-tuned, notorious M6.
This car is owned by a man named Yannis who--
let's just say we have a history going
back to Gumball 2007.
How did you get this car?
OTTO GODFREY: I figured we take this if we
don't have our E39s.
ALEX ROY: It's great to see you.
How did you convince the guy who owns this car
to give it to you?
OTTO GODFREY: I want to make up so we have some speed.
ALEX ROY: This thing's got like 700 horsepower.
So take me to downtown Riga I've heard so much about.
Because this clearly is not it.
ALEX ROY: How far is that?
OTTO GODFREY: That is about five minutes away.
Riga is quite small when you're moving in traffic.
ALEX ROY: I noticed that just now when you crossed the train
tracks, you did not look in the mirror because
you don't have any.
How would you know if a train was
coming from that direction?
OTTO GODFREY: Well, that's a good question.
You've got me off-guard.
ALEX ROY: We're still alive, that's how we know.
OTTO GODFREY: And look at this, here are people that are
crossing train tracks as well.
ALEX ROY: What the hell's this?
OTTO GODFREY: I don't know what is going on.
I guess the police--
ALEX ROY: Is there a rule here?
Is that a police?
OTTO GODFREY: No, I think--
I don't know, that's a security.
ALEX ROY: Private security?
Normally when someone says don't worry, you're really
close, you've just got to cross a bridge, I assumed Riga
would have a very short bridge.
I was wrong.
It took a long time to cross this
bridge, traffic was terrible.
Worse than I've seen in New York in some time.
But at least we got to get a good look at the modern Riga
that Otto was talking about.

The city was clearly not designed for
high-end sports cars.
OTTO GODFREY: No, it was not.
I have been in first gear for the last 30 minutes.
ALEX ROY: But also from a suspension standpoint.
These streets put the stones in cobblestones, seriously.
OTTO GODFREY: The cobblestone is a couple of
hundred years old.
So you're driving on the same pavement of the 18th century.
And now we're in a very tech parking garage hoping to make
sure that nothing is scratched.
ALEX ROY: Bizarrely, there was a 7 Series in the garage which
had rims that looked like they came out of "Car Wars."
You know, I was thinking how cool these wheels look.
And then I realized that they're really
small for a 7 Series.
What's up?
OTTO GODFREY: It's actually a good Eastern European solution
to the rough roads and the dirt roads.
They're thick on the rubber and so it gives a comfortable
ride and you don't damage the rim.
ALEX ROY: They look really good on this car.
So the 19s we see on our G-power M6 and a few other
high-end cars are an exception?
OTTO GODFREY: Total exception.
ALEX ROY: I'm amazed, because in New York where the roads
suck, no one has the wisdom to get a smaller rim and a bigger
tire, like this guy.
Otto then brought us to the mandatory beautiful pedestrian
zone, mandatory in every European city.

It's clearly a little more exciting than Reykjavik.
It also has a chain of--
well, let's call it a Baltic Starbucks
called Double Coffee.
Image if Starbucks had a full bar and food.
It would be like heaven, and that's in Latvia--
Double Coffee.
Talk about something they should export.
I'll never go to Starbucks again, what a sham.
Of course, as soon as we enter the mandatory beautiful
pedestrian zone, we find another Double Coffee where we
enjoyed alcohol in our coffee.
It was wonderful.
But bizarre because a very peaceful troupe of performance
artists, harming no one, whom in any other country-- like
Holland, say, would probably be the mayor and his staff
having lunch break--
in Latvia were being harassed by the police.
In fact, the police were asking for ID cards from these
innocent street performers.
I'm not quite sure since the wall fell what possibly
politically would be so dangerous by the performance
artists here that the police would want to stop them.
I was curious about what crime was like in Latvia.
And Otto's answer was well, he grew up next to KGB
headquarters which happened to be around the corner.
And he remembered hearing screams
come from the building.
So like any urban explorer, I said let's go.

So this was KGB headquarters?
OTTO GODFREY: Yes, KGB of Latvia.
ALEX ROY: And what is it now?
OTTO GODFREY: It was a police station for a while.
It looks quite abandoned at this point.
ALEX ROY: Wait, stop.
These two guys crossing the street look like they worked
for the KGB at the time.
ALEX ROY: OK, so what is it?
It's not a police station anymore.
OTTO GODFREY: It was a police station for a while.
At this point I'm not sure what it is.
But it goes six stories deep, and you used to hear screams
at night of torturing people.
ALEX ROY: And you lived--
OTTO GODFREY: Across the street right here.
ALEX ROY: And you could hear the screams?
OTTO GODFREY: I was too little to remember that.
But we had to be very careful to bring foreign films home so
the KGB doesn't catch us or we disappear.
ALEX ROY: Really?
And they would mic your apartment?
OTTO GODFREY: Not that I'm aware of,
since I'm still standing.
ALEX ROY: So if it's not occupied now, what is the
likelihood we could find a way in?
If your knowledge of the Cold War is watching "Red Dawn,"
then you may not be aware that the Baltic states, like Poland
and East Germany, and other countries, countries like the
Ukraine, countries like Latvia, countries in which
there was a KGB headquarters in each capital city in which
people were taken for various forms of unpleasantness.
I tried everything to jimmy that lock open.
I wanted to get into this building.
To the credit of the Latvians, it had not been turned into a
standard hotel or some kind of resort, and obviously it
shouldn't be.
But one could see through the keyhole into the lobby.
And what I saw through that keyhole was scarier than
almost any horror movie.
Dim light cast on a staircase shrouded in dust.
It was time to go.

The injustices and the suffering that come with the
victim-assailant relationship are solved by focusing on
being the assailant, which is why I thought we should go to
a nuclear war bunker.

My first theory of wood structure popularity is that
they're rebuilt every year and then set aflame in order to
warm the population in the stone buildings nearby.
But that makes maybe as much sense as building them out of
wood in the first place.
Makes no sense.

At one point I thought maybe I should change some money I had
into local currency.
So I went up to the bank window and was told what kind
of currency would I like?
I said, well, I would like to get whatever you use here.
He's like, the lat?
I thought well--
He's like, the lat?
I'm like well, there's no way the Latvian currency
is called the lat.
So can I get-- you know, and I'm trying not to be an
ignorant American, but I need local currency.
He's like, the lat?
And I thought he was joking when he said the dickma.
And I said I'll take as many dickmas as you've got--
that's literally what I said and thank God he
didn't get the joke.
And he just handed over the lats I'd been asking for,
That's good for.

That's a true story.

In fact, I should have made up history about the history of
the currency.
Everyone knows the Latvian dickma is greatly undervalued.
And they wanted a new name, they called it the lat.
But in a country of people this cool, you can call it
whatever the hell you want, because no one's going to
fight with you over getting change for a dickma.