For james bond fans, Goldfinger brings back memories of a fat, blue-eyed, red-haired, and gold-greedy villain from the 1964 Hollywood blockbuster. But few recall that Auric Goldfinger was an immigrant from Riga, the capital of Latvia. At the time, Latvia was part of the erstwhile Soviet Union. The Union collapsed, and Latvia became an independent country but the Bond legacy continues. Latvia is fast emerging as a destination to experience being James Bond or John Rambo on missions to take on baddies in the Baltic forests.
For those who’ve dreamed of participating in daring escapes, driving fast cars, or living the glamorous life, Élan, a Mumbai-based travel boutique and concierge service provider, offers role-play experiences from Hollywood movies or celebrity lives in Latvia. The Baltic countries have been a popular vacation destination for Europeans and Russians, but the last few years have seen increasing interest in bespoke tours in the area from India’s well-heeled.
Élan is the only Indian travel company to offer Latvia as a destination, and it focusses on luxurious fantasies.The Latvian weekend getaway costs around €29,700 (Rs 19 lakh) for five people, excluding lodging and flights. Guests spend the weekend choosing different scenarios or experiences according to their tastes.
James Bond nights are more than sharp tuxedos: There are fancy cars, martinis, casinos, special gadgets, and, of course, Bond girls for company. Rambo fans, on the other hand, can create strategies on how to ambush the enemy, seize their guns and grenades (all fake) and crawl through the jungles after the baddies. Racing cars are available for Schumacher wannabes with international driving licences, and actual MiGs for those who want to a taste of Tom Cruise from Top Gun. Unfortunately, Maverick’s F16 is unavailable, and guests are passengers, not pilots. An intrepid few can also impersonate Superman through free flying.
Those who prefer to travel back in time can don medieval armour and wage a forest battle against a robber queen and her men who come armed with axes and arrows. Robin Hood never looked this pretty. The mission is to escort a princess to the camp safely. The celebration includes amber vodka accompanied by a pagan bagpipe and drum concert. The vodka itself is known for its peculiar taste and healing powers gained from the bits of Baltic amber, famed for its antioxidants and immunity boosters.
Niraj Jain, owner of Élan, says that as other European destinations have become crowded and “common”, Indians are warming up to Latvia. Jain does not disclose the names of his clients but hints that business honchos, investment bankers, shipping and hospitality magnates ask for the Baltic experience for their family as well as team off-site trips.
Private jets, limousines, butlers, and hostesses are a given. What takes the experience to the next level is a Michelin-starred chef: Alex Žiļuks prepares breakfast at his restaurant, Le Dome, with the best ingredients, often seasonal, grown exclusively by local suppliers. Dinner is at Vincents Restorans, whose famous clientele have included royal brothers Prince Charles and Prince Andrew, Pierre Cardin, and Elton John.
Those who prefer the active life can take a speedboat, pirate-style, to an Estonian island in the Gulf of Riga, holding the 100 odd residents hostage for an authentic local meal of rye bread, pork, potatoes and dairy products. There are vegetarian options too. “As a vegetarian I was impressed with the selection of restaurants and the awesome selection on the menu,” says Nimesh Sheth, founder and owner, Locksmith India which makes locks for luggage, who recently went on a Latvian itinerary. He adds, “The things we did in Latvia were a dream.”
But it’s not all action: There’s a private choir concert in St. Johns church in the heart of Riga or a medieval lunch at the ancient wine-vault and festival place of Riga City Council, dating back to 13th century. Another option is a chopper ride over the unspoiled countryside to a 19th century neo-Gothic manor for a drink with a family of former Baltic aristocrats.
“It’s true these experiences can be created anywhere. But Latvia offers a rare combination of good weather, unspoiled landscape, cuisine, as well as privacy that adds to the wow factor,” says Jain. “Activities such as free flying are available elsewhere but are no match for Latvian experts and their air tunnels.” At the time of the interview, he was preparing a 10-day Latvian itinerary for a textile tycoon’s family from Mumbai.
Leave a Comment
Your email address will not be published. Required field are marked*