It seems like only 10mins ago I was packing for Riga, but here I am again jet setting. This time only to London but it will cost about as much and take about as long to get there…
We’ll be there from Thursday 1pm until 7pm Saturday, and we expect it to be chilly but dry. I’m only taking a backpack (I do have a mini backpack just to use as a day bag), so it all has to fit in there. Continue reading
Just a quick post about the National Museum of Art in Riga. We popped in when it was pissing it down at the time, and it proved to be an enjoyable rainy day diversion. Much of the art initially was not to my taste, but the constructionist exhibit was interesting especially within the context of communist occupation. Continue reading
Latvia, in general, had a horrible time during WW2, initially occupied by the Nazis before being claimed by the Soviets. Under the Nazis, about 24,000 Latvian Jews were killed in 1941, which is fairly staggering. I mean the population of Latvia at the time was probably less than 2 million. The subsequent 5 decades of Soviet rule were fairly damaging to Latvia. So many native Latvians left, disappeared, were killed, or were expelled, and there was so much immigration from Russia and elsewhere in the Soviet Union that by 1989, only about 35% of the Latvian population were native Latvians.
Anyway, things are certainly better now! But while we were learning all these depressing facts at the Museum of the Occupation in Riga, I was thinking what a difficult transition it must have been for people in Latvian when they finally became free of the Soviet Union.
The Old Town in Riga is probably the reason my mum picked it as our destination. It’s got the beautiful, colourful buildings that belong on a chocolate box. It was damaged in World War Two, I’m guessing there was some reconstruction afterwards. But, apparently, the reconstructed and restored some of the buildings in the Old Town after Latvia became independent to restore the historic look. It became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997, and Riga was the European Capital of Culture in 2014.
It’s extremely quaint and atractive, and well worth a wander round. Dom Square, above, has the cathedral as well as a host of restaurants and some little shops.
The Fat Pumpkin in Riga is a vegetarian cafe in the Old Town, it also does a lot of vegan stuff. I had a falafel burger, with chips, and a smoothie. It was half price burger day which was very exciting (normal price 9.50euro. As you can see, the burger was fairly massive, although to be fair there was a lot of unnecessary salad it in.
It’s a shame it wasn’t also half price smoothie day as they were about 5euro, I did once (or twice) pay $10 for a smoothie in LA though (it was delicious). The menu consists of burgers, wraps, and tapas and I thought it was priced pretty reasonably. Although I do remember fondly the days when 1euro was about 60p.
Categories: Europe, Food, Latvia, Random
Tags: fat pumpkin, Latvia, riga, Travel, vegan food, vegetarian food, vegetarian food in riga, Vegetarian Restaurant, veggie burger
St Peter’s Church in Riga, was built before 1209 (the year it was first mentioned in the records). More building work was done in the 13th, 15th, and 17th centuries, but it was heavily damaged in a fire in 1721, and then again in artillery fire in 1941. Reconstruction was carried out after WW2 which finished in the 1990’s.
It costs money to have a looksie inside, where there was an interesting art exhibition as well as fancy church interiors. It also costs to head up to (near) the top for a great view over the old town and the river. For three of us it was a cool 27euro which seems a bit steep. It was also super cold and rainy when we were up there.
I had heard good things about the Riga Central Market, so we went for a visit. It’s quite fun to wander around and see the Autumnal gourds and squash. They were pretty crazy looking, we only get the sanitised ‘perfect’ looking ones. There were also lots of stalls outside selling berries and mushrooms, and ladies were carving the imperfections out of them.
It’s also quite interesting to see the building that houses the market, as it is reused German Zepplin hangars, and was built in the 1920’s. It was, apparently, included in the UNESCO World Heritage site in 1998. It was busy and full of local women, rather than tourists which on some levels in nice but on other levels makes me feel like I’m not supposed to be there. And it was one of the few places where labels and signs weren’t in English which made it harder to know what we were looking at.
We headed across the bridge and over the Daugava River to the National Library of Latvia, which is housed in an odd looking building which seemed a lot more attractive on the architects sketch. It is known as Gaismas Pils or Castle of Light, the Library was founded in 1919 but construction didn’t start on this building until 2008. I was pleasantly surprised that you could just wander around like bumbling tourists.
They have a campaign called, A Special Book For A Special Bookshelf. People donated books that were personally meaningful to the Peoples Bookshelf (that’s it above). New donations will supplement the ones from 2014 when Riga became European Capital of Culture, when people formed a ‘chain of book lovers’ around the library.
Whilst in Riga, we popped into the Fashion Museum. It’s quite small, and cost about 7euro each. The exhibition on when we were there was ‘The Secrets of the East. Western Fashion and China’, that’s closing on Oct 16th. There was some Chinese fashion, and Chinese themed objects such as horoscopes and hexograms (to get your fortune). But the point of the exhibition was to explore the influence of Chinese fashion on Western culture, particularly in the early 20th century.
Apparently, in the 1930’s and 40’s a lot of people left Russia and emigrated to China (don’t you always forget that Russia is near Asia?). One of them was Aleksandra Gramolina who was a fashion designer in Shanghai before moving to Riga in the 1950’s to become director of the Riga Fashion House.
There were also a few examples of fashion gone crazy; an actress with a 17.7inch waist, x-raying childrens feet to get their shoe size, and (of course) Chinese foot binding.
I just got back from Riga, Latvia, and am putting together my photographs. But I’ve got a few I can show you quickly of interesting Rigan graffiti.
First is the graffiti in our apartment block. We went Air BnB, and stayed in a real, creepy, Soviet era apartment. The actual flat inside was fine but the corridor and stairs were a bit grungy. Anyway, it was covered in ‘modern communication tactics’, you really can’t say they were ruining the wall.
We headed out to Miera Ielas or Peace Street, so named because there is a cemetery at the end (and there used to be a hospital at the other so you started and ended your life on peace street). Now it’s full of hipster bars, although only on one side of the street, the other side just seems quite derelict. The gentrification of the area has not been lost on our street artist friends.
On the side of a pizza place where we had lunch was some cute rainbow, liberal graffiti with messages of love and unicorns. It made me think Riga must be some liberal bastion but then it’s more likely that this is a reaction to more common right-wing conservatism. Well I dunno, I was there for four days…