Blat through the Baltics: Riga
13 Oct 2015

Blat through the Baltics: Riga

One further week, and one further Baltic country. This time, the minibus rattled along roads in northern Lithuania, past fields where farmers had erected stork-nesting platforms in hope of attracting the fortune-associated birds, and pulled up in Riga amid unseasonable sunshine.

Latvia, the brother-in-arms of Lithuania and likewise home of one of the oldest surviving Indo-European languages, was to be my home for the next seven days. These are my impressions.

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Taking a break from tourists… This tourism worker is one of many in the Riga Old Town, serving those drawn by Riga’s history as a powerful trading player in the Hanseatic League from the 13th – 15th centuries. Despite many  original buildings having been destroyed by fire and war, an eclectic and colourful range of architecture from the 16th Century onwards continues to charm plenty of visitors.

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Another country, another range of sweet temptations to resist.

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The changing of the honour guards at the Riga Freedom Monument, honouring those killed in the Latvian War of Independence.

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A compressed version of ‘The Baltic Way’, held on the famous Albert Street, home to many examples of the Latvian school of Art Nouveau architecture.

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One of around 800 Art Nouveau buildings in central Riga, making up around 40% of the central city and exhibiting lavish adornments, incorporating many references to Latvian traditions.

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Many of these buildings now have foreign owners, and this one hosts the French Embassy.

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Unsurprisingly, this is was one of my favourite spots in Riga and a daily haunt – the Riga Central Market. The market was the biggest in Europe on opening in 1930, features five halls with a huge selection of meat, dairy, vegetables, groceries and fish, and were built using former German Zeppelin hangars.

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Shopping like a Latvian grandmother… and loving it.

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Pickled cabbage, carrot, pickles, apples and anything else you can or cannot imagine.

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The River Daugava, the source of Riga’s historic wealth due to the nearby outlet into the Baltic Sea.

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One of many picnics – bell pepper filled with pickled carrot, Georgian grapes, Latvian cheese, flat bread and chocolate-covered curd cheese desserts.

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The National Library of Latvia, opened only last year and designed by renowned Latvian-born architect Gunnar Birkerts – looks equally impressive by night.

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Latgale Market in the Maskatcha (Little Moscow) neighbourhood. At least 50% of the population of Riga speak Russian at home and over a quarter of the country’s population are ethnically Russian in origin. The flea market is home to…

 

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Soviet relics, fishing gear, old suitcases, electronics from another era and god knows what else hiding in the alleyways and behind curtains…

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Kāds kurš saka… Those who say it can’t be done should not interrupt the person doing it. Thoughts from the Riga Old Town.

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Bypassing the military zone on the way to the beach.

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Becalmed on the Baltic Sea.

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Changing of the guards Pt. II: Riga Castle

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Crossing to Ķīpsala, the other side of the Dauvega

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One of many beautiful, but dilapidated houses in Āgenskalns

 

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And one of the better-kept ones.

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Stumbling across the gigantic Victory Memorial to the Soviet Army at sundown.

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Molten dark chocolate and truffles at the decadent Emils Gustavs Chocolate store; the truffles filled with Riga Black Balsam Liqueur, or the marzipan raspberry are outstanding.

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Evening paddlers on the Lielupe River, at Majori.

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Day’s end and season’s end at the empty Jurmala Beach.

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Homeward bound… One of Riga’s Soviet-era Elektrichka electric trains pulls up.

About the Author:Joe Dodgshun

Berlin-based Kiwi writer in innovation communication. Inspired by social enterprise, science and tech for good, responsible travel and climate action. Sharing the inspiration through journalism and brand storytelling.

2 Responses to Blat through the Baltics: Riga

  1. Great photos! I love the central market 🙂 I see that Riga is changing, now I’m attracted to visit it again 🙂
    By the way – the Freedom monument (the tall statue) is called Milda, hehe 🙂
    Greetings from Vilnius!

    • I see, but what does Milda mean in Latvian? The popular Lithuanian name of Egle apparently translates to Christmas Tree in Latvian 🙂 Thanks again for the great walking tour and for the kind words!

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