In the late northern summer of 2015 I spent around five weeks travelling around Scandinavia, Estonia and Latvia. Of this time I had around three days in Riga – three very full days. The weather was perfect for doing what I enjoy most, just wandering around. I wandered and wandered and wandered.
Riga, Latvia’s capital and largest city, was an absolute delight to visit. The city was easy to get around with most of it accessible on foot and the balance being easily visited using the city’s very efficient public transport system, particularly its trams.
While it has developed a reputation as a place for stag parties and such like, I didn’t come across a party or embuggerance of any kind. To be fair I visited mid week and, being of advancing years, I was securely tucked into my bed well before party time.
What I did find was a most welcoming, vibrant and cosmopolitan city, rich in history. While I delighted in visiting the UNESCO listed medieval Old City, admiring the city’s justifiably world renowned and flamboyant Art Nouveau architecture and partaking of the city’s varied and high quality culinary offerings what I enjoyed most was venturing away from all of this and delving into the city’s (and by definition Latvia’s) history – albeit a rather sad and turbulent history.
Latvia has, throughout the ages, been invaded and occupied more than almost any other country I can think of. In more recent times – since the 17th century the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, Sweden, Russia, Germany and the USSR have all occupied the country, some more than once. In this time Latvia has enjoyed only two short periods of independence (1920-1940 and from 1991).
In 1991 it severed links with the Soviet Union and has most recently (2004) joined the European Union. Some might say that in so doing it has lost its independence once again!
In terms of historical sights, outside the medieval Old City (which I loved, though much of it has been rebuilt or restored due to the ravages of war and natural fires) I concentrated on visiting sites associated with the city’s 20th century history and as such found places like the Moscow District (location of the Jewish Ghetto during World War II) the Museum of Occupation, the Corner House (former KGB building) and, on the outskirts of the city, the Salaspils Concentration Camp Memorial particularly interesting and worth visiting, along with many others.
I could easily have spent a lot longer here and look forward to a return visit at some point.
To assist the reader getting through quite a number of entries I have split them into three categories:-
This blog entry is the first in a group (loop) of General reviews on Riga, Latvia which I recommend you read in a particular order starting with my next entry – Getting from Stockholm to Riga by Ferry.