Europe

London Packing

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

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National Museum of Art- Riga, Latvia

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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

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The Old Town- Riga, Latvia

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.

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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.

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The Fat Pumpkin- Riga, Latvia

to print2The 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.

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20171004_130259It’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.

 

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St Peter’s Church- Riga, Latvia

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.

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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.

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Riga Central Market in Latvia

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.

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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.

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Riga, Latvia- Graffiti

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.

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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.

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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…

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The Food of Edinburgh

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Here we have the food of Edinburgh.  Bottom left is vegetarian haggis pie, there’s plenty of Japanese food; sushi, tempura, and gyoza. I had a veggie hotdog, a green tea latte, a giant garlic bread, and the absolutely essential Irn Bru.

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Edinburgh Alleyways

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Just a quickie with some snaps of the interesting names of some of the old alleyways in Edinburgh.  I rather like fleshmarket close…but it’s name that as there used to be an abattoir at the other end.  We ate at World’s End Pub, which, like World’s End Close, is situated at the old Edinburgh boundary.   Edinburgh was a walled city, and the gates were locked each night.  The ‘world’ was everything inside the walls, so they represented the end of the world.

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Edinburgh- The National Museum

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Whilst in Edinburgh we meet up with my sister and niece and needed a nice, family friendly activity  for us all to do.  It’s free, although the temporary exhibit had a charge.  Following the schedule of a two-year-old we had lunch at about 11:30am, then headed to the museum.  There’s an eclectic mix of things to look at.  We looked at the skeletons of extinct animals, we learnt about camouflage with an interactive fish game, and we explored robotics by programming a robot arm to spell out my niece’s name.

My niece enjoyed seeing the planes hanging from the ceiling, although asked where the stairs were so we could get on board.  We liked seeing the crazy shoes in the fashion exhibitions, and feeling the samples of the different fabrics that designers use.  It’s hard to go into more depth as we spent most of the time running after a toddler (running along the corridors is the best game ever obvs).

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Renowned brick artist Warren Elsmore (why did I not become a brick artist???) made this 3m long replica of the museum out of lego.  It’s pretty cool, and hard to photograph due to glare on the glass case.  But he’s recreated some of the key items on display, like a dinosaur and a whale jawbone.  There’s also a couple getting married, the groom is wearing a kilt!  And it’s generally very cute!  But I do love models of things.

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