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In the Brothers Grimm fairytale, The Bremen Town Musicians, the musicians, a donkey, a dog, a cat and a cockerel, all past their prime and rejected by their owners, set out to make a new life for themselves as musicians in Bremen, Germany. They never made it to Bremen.

En-route, and in need sustenance and rest, they came across a cottage. Looking inside they saw a table laid out with a feast but, alas, the cottage was occupied by robbers. Intent on scaring the robbers away and claiming the cottage the musicians stood on each others shoulders, looked in and in unison created such a commotion that the robbers were scared and fled the cottage. Later that evening the robbers returned but were once again scarred off, this time for good.

This sculpture, created in Bremen by artist Krista Baumgaertel, is a copy of a similar one in that city. It, as much a political statement inspired by Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika as the recreation of a scene from a fairy tale, was a gift from the City of Bremen to the City of Riga in 1990. Bremen is a twin city of Riga and the former home of Bishop Albert who is credited with founding Riga in 1201.

Rather than peering through a cottage window at a feast laden table the musicians can alternatively be seen as peering through the Iron Curtain on a world as unfamiliar to them as the scene in the fairy tale – hence the look of shock, or is it wonderment or anticipation, on their faces.

Latvia was well along the road to independence in 1990. The independence that the musicians were starring at was within reach – a little more commotion and they would have it, as they did the cottage.

Things had been stirring since the mid 1980s and on 4th May 1990 the Latvian Supreme Council adopted a declaration (138 votes to 0 with 1 abstention) restoring independence to the country. On 9 September 1991, the Soviet Union recognised the independence of the Baltics, including Latvia.

Today the Bremen Town Musicians sculpture is very popular with tourists, many of whom come intent on rubbing the noses of each of the musicians for the luck it is purported to bring. The decreasing level of shininess of the noses of the musicians as you move towards the cockerel shows that not all make it to the top – but in attempting to do so they sure as heck frustrate visitors like me who merely want a photo of the sculpture uncluttered by caressing good luck seekers.

Life is so much easier for good luck seekers in Bremen where, on the corresponding sculpture, it can be attained by merely touching each of the musicians legs – a somewhat easier feat.


This blog entry is one of a group (loop) of entries on the Old City area of Riga. I suggest you continue with my next entry – Indian Raja: “Unexpected Quality” – or to start the loop at the beginning go to my first entry – SamaraH Hotel Metropole – Riga.


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