Through the Middle Ages and into the modern era German traders and merchants, via the Hanseatic League, were generous to Riga and indeed were instrumental in the building and prosperity of the city for centuries. During World War II the German Luftwaffe was equally generous when it came to dropping bombs on the city and destroying many of its historic buildings. Some of these bombs demolished buildings in the area that was subsequently cleared to create what became Livu Laukums (Square).
Despite its sad origin, today I think this is the nicest of all the squares in the Old City of Riga. Surrounded by many colourful buildings in an eclectic mix of architectural styles, old and new, including the Small Guild, the Cat House, and the Riga Russian Drama Theatre, the centre of the square hosts welcoming grassed areas, flowerbeds full of colourful flowers and other greenery not found in other Old City squares. Many of the buildings around the square open out into inviting sidewalk cafes, restaurants, bars and clubs making it popular with tourists and locals alike.
The flowers are laid out in ‘waves’ to remind visitors that the Riga River, an important shipping route up to the 1600s, ran through where the square now is. In 1735 it was decided to bury the river because, by then, it had turned into a fetid swamp where the townsfolk disposed of their rubbish.
In the corner of the square, near the Cat House, is a copy of the so-called Salaspils Stone Head (pictured above) which was uncovered in the Riga Cathedral yard during archaeological excavations in 2000. As I have written in my Riga Cathedral review, ‘the head, possibly an idol for heathen worship, was carved in nearby Salaspils (to-day sadly best known as the site of a former Nazi concentration camp) in the 1850s and shortly thereafter given to Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation. Why it was buried and not uncovered until 2000 is unknown though presumably it was to avoid it being carted off by Soviet and or German occupiers for ‘safe-keeping”. The original Salaspils Stone Head can be seen in the Riga Cathedral Cloister, a short walk from this square.
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 – Time to Get Catty – The Cat House – or to start the loop at the beginning go to my first entry – SamaraH Hotel Metropole – Riga.