Another city/country of the Baltic Region, formerly under Soviet Union domination, now independent–Riga, Latvia.  We had a city bus and walking tour with some time on our own.

Riga has one of the highest concentrations of Art Nouveau architecture with about 1/3 of all buildings in the centre built in this style.  Most built between 1904-1914.  Art Nouveau features natural forms and structures—flowers, plants, and human form.

On our walk we also saw the “Cat House.”  The building was built in 1909 and has two cat sculptures, with arched backs and raised tails, on its roof.  The story is that the owner wanted the tails (rear ends) to face the Great Guild which was nearby because he had a grudge against the members.  Later the cats were turned to face the guild house.

Some years ago the Mayor of Berlin presented Riga with a small section of the Berlin Wall.  For Latvian’s it is a symbol of the difficult times under the 50-year Soviet occupation.

We visited a very large market.  In groups we were given strips of paper with names of local foods in Latvian language and were asked to buy it.  We were asked to buy “zefir.”  Turned out it was sort of like marshmallow.  The market was fascinating.

There were outdoor musicians in the city squares.  There are a few remaining visible pieces of the medieval city wall.  Many churches in Riga — Protestant, Russian Orthodox, Catholic.

St Peter’s Church (Lutheran) is Riga’s tallest church.  We took a lift to near the top and had some great views of the city.  (in second photo below, our ship is the tiny white dot to the right of the church steeple.)  Inside the church also had interesting items.  It was built the beginning of the 13th century but burnt and was rebuilt and reconstructed over centuries.  On top of the tower, starting in the 15th century, there have been a total of seven different wind vanes—roosters.  The first was bent by a storm, the second was blown down, the third was removed because it was damaged, the fourth fell during a storm, the fifth collapsed, the sixth came down when the tower collapsed, and in 1970 the seventh was erected!  (Photo of the sixth.)

“Singing together brings nations together” is on the Peace Bell reminding all of the World Choir Game’s mission and goal: singing fosters understanding and peace amongst all people and cultures around the world.  The World Choir Games have been taking place since 2000 and occur bi-annually, each time on a different continent.  It was held in Riga in 2014.  The Chapel for Victims of Repression was meaningful.

A favorite drink of Latvians is Black Balsam made with many different natural ingredients mixed in pure vodka.  The drink is also used in traditional medicine.  We tasted some and decided it tasted like cough syrup!

Freedom Monument symbolizes independence.  At the base is the motto: For Fatherland and Freedom.  At the top is a young woman holding three stars above her head, symbolizing the three historic provinces of Latvia, and national unity.  Nearby is a lovely park.

In the evening a small group of young Latvians entertained us with traditional songs and dances.

On our second day in Latvia we took a 1 ¼ hour drive to Rundale Palace.  It was especially nice to be in the countryside for once.

Rundale Palace was built for the Duke of Courland in mid-18th century.  Since then it has served as a hospital during World War I, a grain storehouse, and a school.  In the early 1970’s it was decided to restore it as a museum and work continued until 2015.  The grounds include a French baroque garden which as been restored to its original layout.  At the time of our visit, the rose gardens were in full bloom—about 2 weeks early.  Lovely.

In the evening we got to visit the galley.  After dinner entertainment was “Baltic fairytales.”  Hilarious.  Ron played the part of the White Horse who carried the prince and later the prince and princess to safety!  (Sally Jo didn’t have her good camera so the photos were not good.)

Set sail for Visby, Gotland, Sweden.


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