Exploring Riga, Latvia’s Capital
Relaxing and Remembering in Riga, Latvia. Exploring part of the Baltic Region
By Frederika Rachette
Riga has always had a strange attraction to me. The tiny capital of Latvia is full of architectural wonder that it always manages to make me go back again and again. And for that exact reason I felt that, once again, it was time to visit this little place.
Riga is home of most of Latvian population, but keeping in mind that Latvian population consists of not even 2 million people it’s not really as drastic as you might think at first. And there lies the first charm of Riga. It is physically not possible to be stuck in a crown, and the only way to satisfy your longing for one is to take the rush hour public transport.
My only reason for the trip was for the architecture, summer and some cool drinks so there was no real plan as to my exact movements.
The main fascination with Riga is that there is not a single street that you can walk through without your head held high. The place that houses the highest collection of Art Deco style buildings has found a way to mix it with in a strange harmony from the old styles of days gone by and styles that are developing now.
Mix of the old wooden style homes that seem to be held together by the shear willpower of the inhabitants that it harbours, next to the beauty of Art Deco followed by the Stalin time splendor to the the Khrushchev implemented simplicity. And this is what has always fascinated me. Half of block walked and already three historic periods mirrored in architecture.
What is even more fascinating is the use of the houses. Filled with shops, some that have been deemed not worthy and now stay closed and abandoned, with a small reminiscence of the last call for ‘clear out sale’. Some harboring the old and tested ‘one shop for all’, the place where everything from bread to alcohol and new socks is presented in shelves and can be acquired only by the method of hoping the woman who works there will deem you more worthy than her cigarette break. But most of them still go for the tested and loved method catering for food, clothes, galleries and the ‘late night alcohol supplies’.
Like most of the European block Latvia could still be considered a young country, gaining independence only in 1991. And as I was once told you have to look at the country as at a child, give it time and let it evolve and find itself as it grows.
Riga’s Cobblestoned Streets
And as I zigzagged through the old cobblestone streets of the old town, getting lost and discovering new corners I could not help but marvel how things have changed, but at the same time stayed perfectly the same. Recalling places that once were considered ‘in’ have now disappeared and mostly forgotten.
Truth is that no matter how often I have been there the amazing detail of the buildings, the fashion and history behind them has always managed to leave me a little breathless.
After grabbing coffee to go I decided to take a look at the new library. A building that was once so controversial it seemed impossible to find someone who didn’t have a opinion about it. The glass building named ‘Glass Castle’ was introduced as a perfect show of the modern and new by the government and its size approved with ‘at least the homeless will have some place to sleep now’ by the people.
But the main humor point has always been the adding of solar panels, for a country that sees summer for three months a year the addition has been viewed as a waste.
As I looked on I became a willing participant of eavesdropping. Two women chatting about this and that suddenly turned they talk to the mythology of the land. “Well as you know, they can’t stop building. After all, who would want to part with this place?”
The obvious reference to the myth that as Riga was built the devil was constantly interfering by grabbing it and pulling it closer to him until the people made a deal that he would leave and not put claims on it until it was fully finished.
Even now, when someone asks you “Have they finished building Riga?” you are supposed to simply reply “No.”
With it mirroring another aspect of this hidden place. It is filled with myths, legends and history and it is holding it all in such small surrounding that you will be able to experience it just as you sit in a park and have a coffee.
As the evening took its grip over the town the only place for me to be was ‘Sky Bar’ the bar overlooking the rooftops of the town.
As I looked on the lights that decorated each and every one of the homes I had to admit, maybe this is the reason for the constant change and growth, the building and improving.
The country is filled with flaws but it is exactly that that gives it charm and gives it beauty, in the process making you fall in love with it. And at the end of it who would want to part with a pace like that.
Not a lot of people have given much notice of this place but it is truly worth the try. Filed with art, culture and amusement you will never be left bored. And as tickets to any desired entertainment are provided on nearly every corner you will not even have a excuse not to indulge.
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