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Discover historic Riga

Riga Travel Blog

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The small red skinned pineapple at breakfast. All the pineapples we had on this trip were really good and sweet, and the kiwis were also delicious.
Today we first went to visit some Art Nouveau style buildings in Riga. These were not in old town, but in the newer part of Riga. These buildings were really beautiful!  There were a lot of details in carving of statues, faces on the buildings. The windows were not simple rectangles. Some building even ressembled medieval castles. The architects of these buildings wanted to have their own interpretations of art nouveau called National Romantic style in Riga and they certainly did a great job. It's amazing that they did not get bombed in WWII. They also survived under USSR because the Soviets simply did not have enough money to spend on destroying all these buildings. It's good to see a lot of them are being renovated.
A medieval castle inspired art nouveau building in (not old town) Riga, where many top notch art nouveau style buildings from the 19th century have been preserved.


We then walked through the central markets just outside of old town Riga where everyday residents shop. These are housed in  huge Zeppelin hangars, each hangar is for one category of product - fish, seafood in the first one we entered, meats in another, dried goods, fruits and also a pet store, and lots of flowers. Our local guide told us to ask for permissions if we wanted to take photos of the people, because they may mind. That's why some of my photos were crooked, since I just clicked the tiny camera in the direction and did not really know what I was getting!

Then a walk of the historic old town. There were many beautiful buildings, many churches. The Small Guild with its turret and spire, the art nouveau yellow building across the Great Guild with the 2 black cats on top.
Another beautiful art nouveau style building in Riga
These 2 guilds were for German merchants living in Riga at the time, and a Latvian merchant who wanted to join the guilds were rejected by them. So he put up the 2 black cats on top of his building across street, with their tails up, pointing at the Guilds. Of course that looked very bad for the guilds, so they eventually worked out a deal where he was allowed into the guild under the condition that he points the cats' rear ends in other directions!

We saw the oldest stone building in Riga, which was a warehouse with pulleys and doors on the wall at various levels. I suppose people can only get in using ladders or pulled up by the pulley. Through some back streets we ended up at the Convent's Yard, with view of the St Peter's steeple in the background. We then went through St John's Yard with the flowers on the railing of the 2nd story balcony.
Detail of a beautiful art-nouveau buildings in Riga,
This would not have been easy to find because the entrance was through some door that I wouldn't think to go into. Afterwards we emerged onto the St Peter's Church  has a tall steeple with a rooster on top. Actually there were at least 4 church towers with roosters on top. The roosters supposedly do not sleep and watch over the town of Riga. St Peter's was originally built in the 13th century, then in 1491 it had the tallest steeple in Europe at the time at 137 meters. It collapsed about 200 years later and was rebuilt twice before being bombed during WWII by the Germans. There was a tradition of having the architect of the steeple go up to sit on the rooster at the very top, and throw a wine glass down. The number of broken pieces predicts how many centuries the steeple would stand.
What lovely dragons guard this door in Riga
In 1491, the architect threw the glass down, and it landed on something soft and broke only into 2 pieces, hence it stood for only 2 centuries. The most recent time, the architect ensured that the steeple would stand for all eternity by breaking the glass into uncountable number of pieces!

They even had a street named after the famous composer Richard Wagner who lived in Riga for 2 years. The streets were cobblestones and not all that easy to walk in high heels, which many apparently local young women did with ease. They were often very tall, slender and pretty! I seem to remember somebody else blogging about this too in the Baltic nations.

There were many amber stores in town, and it pays to visit several and check the prices. The souvenir store which was kind enough to open its door to us after its closing time last night did not have very good price, it turned out, so it was a good thing that I did not have any money with me to buy anything!

We had some free time for lunch before our afternoon outing.

Another beautiful art-nouveau buildings in Riga,
So I walked around parts of old town Riga that we haven't visited so far. The 3 Brothers buildings were on a street behind our hotel. The buildings wee funky. The rightmost one has the top portion leaning to the left and asymetrical. The nearby St Jacobs Church was hosting a wedding, with sedans parked outside covered in flowers. In front of the church and the 3 brothers buildings were artists painting and selling their works. I walked to the Swedish Gate where the legend said a girl who was to elope with her Swedish boyfriend was not able to get out of the city because the gate was closed, and she hung herself nearby! Then along the longest building in Riga, the St James' Barracks, yellow buildings with restaurants, and amber shops in basements.
Same building, a bit to the right, beautiful art-nouveau in Riga,
Across from it was the remains of the city fortication walls and one tower. 3 lovely girls were singing Latvian songs nearby.

I paid a quick visit to the War Museum in the Powder Tower at the end of the barracks, and then quickly walked back to the hotel and boarded the bus with our tour group to see the memorial for the Jews killed during WWII by the Nazis.

The first stop was the memorial at Great Coral Synagogue, where hundreds of Jews sought refugee but only to be burned to death with the synagogue itself on July 4, 1941.  The memorial looked like the remains of the synagogue but was constructed afterwards. Then we went outside of town for the memorial in the Rumbula forest where 25000 Jews were killed on November 30, 1941.

Look at those faces on the top of the building!
Our guide told us these people were roused out of bed from the Jewish ghetto and made to march the 11km to the forest. The memorial was many stones standing in a small area, carved on the faces of the stones were names of some of the known victims. The leaves in the forest were rustling and it felt like they were whispering. It was a sobering visit.

Dinner at the Steak House, since the Lativian restaurnt Alus Seta off Dome Square we first tried did not take credit cards. So we just had a more ordinary dinner. The window seat at the restaurant provided us with great view of the street outside though, and apparently cruising in you fancy foreign car was a local pastime on a Friday evening, so we watched Ferraris, Porsches, Volvos cruising by again and again with young man or woman driving them.

These huge 3 dimensional faces sit atop another art-nouveau building in Riga
Later we talked to some people who went to the Alus Seta, and they had an interesting experience: they did not recognize some of the foods, and asked the worker there; they were told it was "chicken", but later a local old woman at the restaurant told them it was really "goat", by signing two little horns on her head!

I thought this was a fine city and liked it a lot.

portia says:
I wonder if that woman who was singing on the street at night (in my previous entry) is still there. I still regret not having stayed and perhaps talked to her a bit. Maybe you can try finding her!
Posted on: Jul 28, 2007
tvillingmarit says:
Thanks for sharein you`r experiences in Riga. I look forward visiting Riga in Nov-Dec.
Posted on: Jul 27, 2007
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The small red skinned pineapple at…
The small red skinned pineapple a…
A medieval castle inspired art nou…
A medieval castle inspired art no…
Another beautiful art nouveau styl…
Another beautiful art nouveau sty…
Detail of a beautiful art-nouveau …
Detail of a beautiful art-nouveau…
What lovely dragons guard this doo…
What lovely dragons guard this do…
Another beautiful art-nouveau buil…
Another beautiful art-nouveau bui…
Same building, a bit to the right,…
Same building, a bit to the right…
Look at those faces on the top of …
Look at those faces on the top of…
These huge 3 dimensional faces sit…
These huge 3 dimensional faces si…
Look at the shape of the window on…
Look at the shape of the window o…
In the fish market in one of the Z…
In the fish market in one of the …
Dried fishes for sale.
Dried fishes for sale.
Spices and who knows what.
Spices and who knows what.
In the market
In the market
Dried goods.
Dried goods.
A vendor in an interesting pose. I…
A vendor in an interesting pose. …
An elderly woman in the market
An elderly woman in the market
This is a pet store!
This is a pet store!
Changing of guards at the Freedom …
Changing of guards at the Freedom…
They marched to the officer anad t…
They marched to the officer anad …
Well, if I had taken a better phot…
Well, if I had taken a better pho…
The sqaure we saw last night now i…
The sqaure we saw last night now …
The building on the right was the …
The building on the right was the…
An interesting sign for a shop
An interesting sign for a shop
An old street with colorful buildi…
An old street with colorful build…
An old warehouse pulley and entran…
An old warehouse pulley and entra…
St Peters spire in the background…
St Peter's spire in the backgroun…
The pipe protected with its own ra…
The pipe protected with its own r…
Through this door we came out from…
Through this door we came out fro…
go through this passageway
go through this passageway
and onto this St Johns Yard
and onto this St John's Yard
The baroque style St Johns Church
The baroque style St John's Church
The 4 animals from a fairy tale, t…
The 4 animals from a fairy tale, …
The small open space between St Jo…
The small open space between St J…
The short stone wall shows the bou…
The short stone wall shows the bo…
Another angle. They cant really b…
Another angle. They can't really …
The 3 tiered steeple of St Peters…
The 3 tiered steeple of St Peter'…
Bottom part of St Peters front fa…
Bottom part of St Peter's front f…
Dome church at Dome square
Dome church at Dome square
A wedding going on at t St  Jacob…
A wedding going on at t St Jacob…
Signs on a restaurant wall
Signs on a restaurant wall
The Swedish gate
The Swedish gate
A restored fragment of the old for…
A restored fragment of the old fo…
3 Latvian girls singing next to th…
3 Latvian girls singing next to t…
The memorial site for the Great Ch…
The memorial site for the Great C…
The plaque marking the memorial.
The plaque marking the memorial.
The entrance of the Rumbula Forest…
The entrance of the Rumbula Fores…
The original marker remained, whic…
The original marker remained, whi…
The stones marking the victims.
The stones marking the victims.
The memorial at Rumbula Forest.
The memorial at Rumbula Forest.
The sculpture at the entrance to R…
The sculpture at the entrance to …
A historical photo of the Great Co…
A historical photo of the Great C…
Driving by another beautiful churc…
Driving by another beautiful chur…
A glass tea house by the city moat
A glass tea house by the city moat
The town hall square, with the hou…
The town hall square, with the ho…
An art nouveau house in old town R…
An art nouveau house in old town …
Door of the Dome Cathedral. They w…
Door of the Dome Cathedral. They …
The remaians of the fortification …
The remaians of the fortification…
The Powder Tower, now housing the …
The Powder Tower, now housing the…
A stree in old Riga
A stree in old Riga
The rightmost building of the 3 Br…
The rightmost building of the 3 B…
The 2 left buildings of the 3 brot…
The 2 left buildings of the 3 bro…
Riga
photo by: sarahthevegasbride