My last stop on my travels before heading back to Italy to pick up my luggage and bid goodbye to friends was Riga, Latvia. It was the last of the Baltic countries for me to visit and my trip was very timely, coming in between a visit to Riga by Angela Merkel and Barack Obama. As a result, talk of politics was definitely on people’s thoughts, if not in the bar conversation. Riga was extremely interesting as a city because of its city feel. Despite the fact that it is comparable to Tallinn and Vilnius in terms of size (at least for the old town area), Riga felt much more like a cosmopolitan city than the other two, which seemed quieter, older. The first day I met the same organized free tours that I had done in Vilnius at the church below for a behind-the-scenes look at Riga.

IMG_2524Our tour guide was amusing, but not as knowledgeable, in my opinion, as the one I had had in Vilnius. Still, everyone is different, so despite the rain I stuck it out and gave him a chance.

The architecture in Riga is one thing that really differentiates the city. The building below is jokingly referred to as “Stalin’s Cupcake.”

IMG_2526Statues are a big thing in Riga, more so than most cities. The one below is of the former mayor of Riga. The dog? Not his. The sculptor’s.

IMG_2530There’s another major statue in Riga, one of an author. One thing that I really love about Europe is that there is so much support for the arts. When was the last time you saw a statue in the US of a famous American author? Or saw a ballet other than Swan Lake or the Nutcracker? I was able to see locally choreographed pieces because the state commits money to support the arts.

IMG_2594This particular statue is out of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. You’re supposed to rub the noses of all the animals for good luck. This is easier than it seems. If you’re short, bring a friend to help.

IMG_2614The ballet that I went to see was at the opera house. It’s just outside old town. Or maybe technically inside, depending on how they define old town. It’s really beautiful inside.

IMG_2531The second day I spent in Riga I went on a different walking tour that I’m not sure is just due to Riga being the capitol of culture this year or if it runs all the time. It’s called the Riga Culture tour and mainly focuses on architecture– specifically art nouveau, which Riga is known for. If they opt to continue the tours you should definitely check them out– the art nouveau district is pretty well known but our guide was really knowledgeable and it was really interesting to hear the stories behind the buildings as opposed to reading them from a guidebook. In addition, we got to go inside some buildings, an advantage of having a guide.

The three brothers are three houses that sit next to one another. They are built in different styles but their history ties them together.

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Pardon the lighting– it was cloudy/ rainy both days in Latvia and so sometimes finding the balance between the color of the buildings and that of the sky was tricky. But in general, enjoy seeing some of the photos of amazing Latvia architecture! If you have time, read up some on art nouveau in Riga… it’s been too long for me to talk about it cohesively but it was very interesting.

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Did you know that Riga has a piece of the Berlin wall? It’s a bit off the beaten track, but worth a stop by for the history there. The other pieces are from the barricades built in 1991 after Latvia declared independence.

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The writing reads:

The Berlin Wall separated us,
The wall unites us.
Let us love one another,
And pray to God for our enemy.
In a time where the certainty of the Baltics could almost be called into question, I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to visit these three amazing countries. Each has a unique story to tell and is so relevant to our world today. We can’t forget with everything going on in the Middle East that events in the Ukraine and the Baltics are still happening. Media attention diverts, but these issues all affect our world today. Be knowledgeable. And see it for yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

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