Advents has for me been a time for preparing for Christmas with baking different types of small Christmas cakes, Christmas decorating my house, writing Christmas letters and figuring out what to by for Christmas presents to family and friends.
The last 5 years I have changed my Christmas preparations, less stress with cakes, presents and decorating.
Advent time now days means light a candle, relaxing with Christmas concerts, participate in Christmas concert and meeting friends.
Instead of making Christmas baking into a hardship, I use it for an excuse for a social gathering, inviting friends to bake with me.
This is a great way of getting into the Christmas spirit.
I make space in my calendar for a long weekend travel. 2005 I went to St. Petersburg and the World Championship in Handball with four friends. This year I went to Riga with eight friends for Christmas shopping and SPA.
Christmas celebrations are a serious business in Latvia. From the end of November until Christmas, the streets of the old town are filled with fantastic Christmas markets serving mulled wine, food, handcrafts and good old fashioned Christmas spirit. And with its boutiques and shopping centres offering low prices, Riga has become Europe`s new Christmas shopping destination.
Jürmala is only a 15 minutes drive from Riga, a seaside SPA resort. We used the hole Sunday in one of Jürmala SPA resort with different massage, manicure and pedicure. And I`ll promise you; all of us loved the treatment.
The Orthodox Cathedral
After checking in at Hotel Laine, we decided to have a walk in the Old Town, just to be familiar in the town.
Our hotel was a 5 minutes walk from the centre of The Old Town. The weather was not so nice, about 2 degrees and with a cold wind. But we were well prepared for the weather so none of us were freezing.
People tend to think that Riga is a small town. The statement is true, but considering the age of the town, it is lots to see. There is so much of history concentrating in the small area that you would have to spend at least a week reading it through. However we had only three days so we had to choose what to see this time, and what to leave to next time.
First stop was The Orthodox cathedral of the birth of Christ build in 1876.
This was the most important Orthodox Church in the Baltic countries. It is beautiful and impressive. The hight of the dome to the cross is 43 meters and there is a wall with three rows of icons. The walls and the ceiling is beautifully decorated by the classical Russian painters Shamshin and Vershchagin. I did not know that photographing not was allowed in the church so I got some nice shots before one of the guards told me………
Lots of padlocks
We walked along The Canal Park, and visited the bridge with lots of padlock placed on the bridge by lovers from all over the world.
We continued our walk at the Rätslaukums (the City Council Square) and admired the beautiful gothic House of Blackheads. Although it was completely destroyed during the WWII, now it is “reincarnated” from the ashes.
Walking around we bumped into the St. Peter`s Church, on of the dominant landmarks of Riga. Do not miss the opportunity to take the lift up to the observation platform and enjoy the beautiful panorama of Riga.
Swedish Gate (Zviedru Värti)
We passed the restored building of the Great Guild now housing a concert hall. Just opposite is the Small Guild. The present building was constructed at the end of the last century in eclectic English Gothic style.
Across from Livu laukums is a building with two towers on which two cat are perched, this is the Cat`s House.
In the heart of the Old Town you can see the massive Dome Cathedral, which has undergone multiple face lifts over the centuries. In evening you can attend an organ concert if you want.
From the Dome you can walk up to the Pulvera (Gunpowder) Tower. This is the only tower of the old fortification system that is still standing, and now houses the Museum of war.
House of Blackheads
Nearby you can see the old fortification wall and walk through the Swedish Gate, which were carved through an already existing dwelling house in 1698.
Cross Jäkaba Street and you will find the Parliament of Latvia, constructed in Renaissance style. Just opposite the Saeima is the only Riga church with a “balcony bell” in the cupola " St. Jacob`s Church. Walking further past the entrance you arrive Maza Pils (Small Castle) street just opposite to one of the Riga Symbols, three medieval dwelling houses, Three Brothers.
Continue walking along Maza Pils street, turn right at the beginning of it and you have reached the Riga Castle.
And here you can if you are lucky wave to the President.
Four Roms Restaurant
After this walking sightseeing you deserve a cold beer and a nice dinner. And if I can advice you, take the short walk to Four Rooms Restaurant. Enjoy your meal.