Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A GREAT Day in Latvia's Capitol City of Rīga

Monday, 8 May, 2017:

If it's Monday, we must be in . . .

. . . The Capital of Latvia!

After a solid night of sleep aboard our gently rocking ferry/cruise ship Romantika, I awoke hungry and ready to roll.

My hallway was still empty

It was 6:00 a.m. Latvian time after all, one hour later than in Stockholm.

Goofy shipboard clock gives you
both Stockholm and Rīga time
if you know their country's flag

Our rather large breakfast would not be served until 8:00 a.m. and we were not scheduled to dock in Rīga until 11:00 a.m., so I guess my fellow travelers were sleeping in this fine, chilly morning.

 Nobody on the Sun Deck either

I was able to read a few pages of my latest book courtesy of the Uplands-Väsby Public Library, Stockholm Noir.

 I said it was chilly

We all got lucky in that the predicted afternoon rain never arrived but it was cloudy off and on throughout the day. The wind made for lots of bundled up tourists and locals too. 

My first impressions approaching
Rīga via the River Daugava
were of a Soviet nature

Some modern sights as we
approached our dock 

 Latvian flags, we made it

Latvia would be the 23rd European country, large and tiny, that I have been able to visit due to my time coaching in EuroBall.

The other 22 countries I've previously visited thanks to my nine seasons of coaching American football overseas are: 

The Czech Republic


The Netherlands

San Marino

United Kingdom
Vatican City

Yes, the first decade of my retirement years have been blessed.

I had been led to believe that Rīga would be charming with a laid back river vibe to boot. I thought that this assessment was spot on!

Hard to believe after Rīga and its citizens had to endure wartime bombings, the slaughter of their Jewish community during the Nazi occupation and then the subsequent years locked up behind the Iron Curtain and the Moscow's dominance.

Nice canals in Rīga

 My first stop was
Rīga's Central Market

I boarded the #5 blue tram from near the dock area and headed straight to the Central Market as we had docked at 11:00 a.m and I figured the later it got, the bigger chance that the usual early morning shopping day would end if I delayed any longer.

Rīga's Central Market is housed mainly in a series of five former World War I Zeppelin hangars but spills outdoors as well.

Nice hangar indeed

Each hangar, more or less, specialized in one category of food.

I entered into the meat hangar first

Colorful butcher

On to the fruits and
vegetables hangar

Cranberries? Small cherries?


Bakeries were scattered
throughout several hangars

 The fish hangar

In all of the food markets that I have visited over my years coaching in EuroBall, the fish section always fascinates me.

There are a lot of denizens of the deep that are indeed good eating but I always wonder what damage they could do to me if they wanted to get even with humans?

By the way, Catania in Sicily has easily the best fish market in the known universe.

Red fish


Fish eggs abound in Rīga!

Cheese is more up my alley

It was too early for Fika Time.

Damn my scruples.

 Spices are always colorful

I like grilled peppers a lot!

How old are these stairs?

The Central Market was fun but it was time to explore Rīga's Old Town.

I couldn't have said it any better!

Now that's an old doorway

I'm starting to Love Rīga too

This tricycle is for a really
large child

 First church sighting of the day

 A branch of Scientology perhaps

St. Peter's Church

I did not go in.

These three Sentinels
guarding Rīga look . . .

. . . a bit Soviet to me

One of Rīga's many colorful squares

 The Cat House

I wonder why they call it that?

Oh, now I get it . . .

There is a frightened cat statue on each of the witch hat turrets atop this 1909 art nouveau inspired building. 

It was fun so far, here I'm in
front of the Bourse Museum of Art

For once, I did not go into an art museum in a new city.

The Powder Tower

Originally, it was designed to house Rīga's supply of gunpowder. I bet nearby houses were cheap to buy in those long ago times.

Today it is used as the home of the Museum of War. I did not go in as I had only one museum on my Rīga Bucket List today and this was not it.

I would get distracted five times before arriving at my museum of choice.

First distraction,
I came upon lovely
Kronvalda Park

Not enough time to take a cruise
on one of these canal boats

 The park had a man-made geyser

 Wait a second,
DANGER lurked in
Kronvalda Park!

Still, it had a nice wall

Second distraction,
Rīga's Freedom Monument
erected in 1935

Why three star's?

The Freedom Monument
had lots of interesting sculptures

An old knight

 And another

The strong helping the weak?

WWI tableau I think

 The Freedom Monument
is big on swords and . . .

. . . Page boy haircuts

The Changing of the Guard
at the Freedom Monument

Given Latvia's dark times under
Nazi and Communist rule, I don't
know that I would have gone
with goose stepping

 Third Distraction
These golden onion domes



But what church is it?

I thought to get closer to get its name. 

 No help here for me

Close but nope

I checked my handy tourist map and, voilà, it is a Russian Orthodox church known as the Nativity of Christ Cathedral dating from 1883.

It was was even more beautiful inside but no pictures were allowed inside the Cathedral and the Russian Orthodox women working there looked tough to me.

Fourth Distraction,
a statue to the Latvian poet
known simply as Rainis

I made it to . . .

This interesting museum dealing
with 51 years of Nazi and
Soviet domination in Latvia

There was also lots of exhibits about the plight of fellow Baltic states Estonia and Lithuania during those dark days.


Adolf and Joseph
Just two fun-loving dictators

Nazi Anti-Semetic poster

 When you occupy a country,
you get to re-name the streets
to your heart's delight

Some of the panels
discussing the Nazi years

Some of the panels
discussing the Communist years

The Baltic Chain

Details about the Baltic Chain protest
made up of approximately 2,000,000
people in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania

As a teen-aged Estonian girl, Aiki Parts who is one of my flat mates back in Sweden, was a part of that historic human chain protest.

In Soviet times, you can not overestimate the danger that Aiki and her cohorts put themselves into with this bold, non-violent stance.

Aiki is a heroine if you ask me.

Good museum, glad I finally made it.

Getting hungry

What are you looking at?

Maybe but no


It looked like a great place for sustenance to me.

Interesting interior but the
main floor was packed

They sent me to the cool cellar

I was so disorientated that I took a rare selfie in the bowels of the Black Magic.

Did I mention that they specialize in chocolate?

The best hot chocolate I've
ever had, replacing several I
had in a small spot in Stockholm
last year

To be fair, I will go back to that spot in Stockholm this week for a taste comparison test.

The sacrifices that I make for this blog . . .

Now, I also had a chocolate and a red currant cake slice that was decadent by Soviet or any other standards.

As I left, I heard Aiki's voice in my head saying her usual, "Coach, that was Fika Time not lunch, you have to eat something more."

 Well, if Aiki says I need to eat,
I eat

I love pancakes.

The prices, in Euros,

Oh-oh, I had no idea what the
detailed menu had to offer exactly

Time to guess a bit as the English
was a bit sketchy and/or

Sparkling water, a banana blintz
and a cheese blintz with
delicious jams

Total cost, 3.40 Euros, about $3.75 USD!

I LOVE Latvia!

What the . . .

There are still homeless people
regardless of the cheap prices

How did they get a permit to
build this in the Old Town?

At the Blackheads House

Built in 1344 as more or less a fraternity house for the Blackheads guild of unmarried German merchants living in Rīga, the house was severely damaged by the Nazis in1941 and finally flattened by the Soviets in 1948.

By some miracle, the original blueprints survived from over 600 years ago and this exact replica was completed in time for Rīga's 800th birthday in 2001.

At the Blackheads
House Entrance

 This one too

 St. George is atop
the Blackheads House as well

A random tower

I liked the colors

 Peaceful Lady
pondering Latvia relation to
the European Union I think

Nice Architecture

Young Love

 Just hanging out in Rīga

Alcohol I believe

Why is this man smiling?

Joseph Stalin in chains

Not to be outdone,
Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov,
better known as Lenin, in chains

A full, great day in Rīga was coming to an end as our ferry/cruise ship was sailing back to Stockholm at 5:30 p.m.

Could I find the Tallinnk Silja Line ship again?

 Good sign, Tallinnk is
saluting Cuban culture this month
I must be getting closer

 There is the Romantik and . . .

Stockholm is that-a-way!

I am so glad that I was given the opportunity by the Wäsby Warriors to take this trip.

I have enjoyed every trip that we have made over the years to former Soviet Bloc cities like Prague, Kraków, Tallinn and now Rīga. They are all enchanting cities with interesting histories, great prices and warm, friendly people.

It was a day well spent.

Latvian Physical Fitness

Solid mileage for our day in Rīga but to be truthful, the cobblestone streets killed my feet by the end of the day. It felt good to lay down in my cabin for an hour once I got aboard the Romantika.

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