This small hill within what is now called Bastion Hill Park (Bastejkalns) is an artificial hill created between 1857 to 1863 when the city ramparts were dismantled after the Crimea War. By that stage, due to advances in warfare and weaponry, the ramparts no longer served any useful military purpose. Material from the ramparts was used to build up the banks of the former moat, now the winding Pilsētas kanāls, and create the 15m high Bastion Hill. The whole area was planted and developed and became Bastion Hill Park (Bastejkalns), now a delightful park between the Old City and the more modern city.
In 1860 a pavilion was built on the top of the hill and in the 1880s the hill was further landscaped and paths added to better incorporate it into the park.
I visited the ruins on the former pavilion and in so doing came across a very modern piece of art entitled ‘Benches’. This piece of art, which comprises twelve different height benches located in a circle at the top of the hill, by Ēriks Božis’was ‘opened’ on 13 November 2014.
It is expected (by the artist, if no-one else) that the normally reticent and unforthcoming people of Riga will sit on the bench best suited to their feelings and thus mix with other people.
Unfortunately, for some reason the good people of Riga were being particularly taciturn on the day I visited and were not interacting with the benches. I wondered why, as did another tourist in a similar state of bewilderment. Incidentally, I didn’t find the people of Riga particularly taciturn. While my review may not have enthused you to walk up the hill to see ‘Benches’ I do urge you to go up for good views across the park.
While, in time, Bastion Hill may become famous for this piece of art it is already famous, or more correctly infamous, for another reason.
If you have read my ‘Barricades Memorial” review you will aware that on 4 May, 1990 Latvia announced its independence from the USSR. The declaration was not accepted by the Soviets and over the next 8 months various attempts were made to thwart the independence movement. In January 1991 barricades were set up throughout the city in an act of defiance against the USSR and in protest against the massacre of unarmed protesters in Vilnius, Lithuania on 14 January.
On the night of 20 January 1991 forces loyal to the Soviet Union, in Latvia, stormed the barricades and broke into the Ministry of the Interior building. Five people (two journalists, a school boy and two policemen), at the foot of nearby Bastion Hill, were killed in this attack.
In addition to being commemorated on the Barricade Memorial, a memorial stone, symbolically reddish brown to represent blood, and simply inscribed ‘Shot on 20th of January 1991’, was placed at the foot of Bastion Hill where each person died. My final picture attached, of one of the memorial stones, is courtesy of http://www.dailymotion.com.
Address: Bastion Hill
Directions: Immediately to the north east of the Old City