By Craig Stoehr Special to Published Jul 15, 2007 at 6:25 PM

Editor's note: When he isn't tending to business at the racetrack, Milwaukee Mile Chairman Craig Stoehr is an avid traveler who regularly visits exotic lands and major cities across the globe. He has agreed to share his adventures with readers.

RIGA, Latvia -- The day began with a quick stop for a photo at "Checkpoint Charlie," the former gateway from Russian-controlled East Berlin to American-controlled West Berlin. I had first visited in 1990, when I backpacked through Europe after college. During that visit, I took in the Pink Floyd concert celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall the previous November.

A quick and smooth Easyjet flight from Berlin took us to Riga, capital of Latvia, one of the three Baltic states, along with Estonia and Lithuania.

Latvia has experienced explosive growth since gaining independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991. It is one of the fastest-growing economies in Europe. It is also a popular tourist destination for both Western Europeans and Russians, and I would highly recommend it for a visit.

We were met at the airport by one of Kolja's friends, a former Latvian Government Minister and successful businessman, and, more importantly, a tremendously generous and hospitable host.

After checking in at the Hotel Grand Palace in Riga's Old Town (, we drove around the city a bit, then headed for Jurmala, a summer escape for Riga residents located 30 minutes away on the Baltic Sea.

Jurmala was packed with crowds enjoying a local festival, and we made our way to our host's private yacht club, where along with his fabulous family and friends, we feasted on smoked trout, prosciutto, steak, lamb chops and Ukrainian sausage among various other foods too numerous to mention. Afterward, we were treated to a boat ride down the river to the Baltic Sea, culminating in a fireworks display.

After several post-dinner Cuban cigars, we returned to our hotel, and I spent an hour wandering though the streets of the Old Town, the most charming section of Riga. Numerous restaurants, bars, shops and tourist sites line the narrow streets of the Old Town, which has a medieval feel, and it is a charming place, somewhat reminiscent of Prague. After that, it was time to turn in for the evening.

Next up: Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania.

Craig Stoehr Special to
Oconomowoc native Craig Stoehr is the Chairman of the Milwaukee Mile and is involved in several other business ventures locally, national and internationally. He is an avid traveler who has visited about 70 countries and will recount some of his experiences abroad with OMC readers.