Saturday, September 17, 2016

radiant Riga!

After about 10 PM on the night of our rough sail to Riga the waters got calmer- and looking at the map you can see why - we had entered a large bay area called the Gulf of Riga and were now more secluded from the open sea.  We were headed to the farther side of the gulf and down the wide Daugava river that is home to the port of Riga in Latvia. This map also shows why the trip to Tallinn won't be an issue either since we go from the Gulf of Riga through the islands and into the Gulf of Finland- our next stretch of truly open water -open seas will be from Helsinki to Stockholm.

My recollection of my previous visit to the Baltic countries of Estonia and Latvia and Lithuania was that they were very different.  Estonia seemed quite Nordic and Lithuania was quite religious but Latvia was sort of like Las Vegas- everyone seemed to be there for a party and many were dressed in what I would describe as circa 2000 euro trash style... and so I was interested to revisit Estonia and Latvia on this trip to see how they had changed....

among the first things we saw on this visit was the art nouveau section of town which was one after another or beautiful buildings in the Nouveau style - very grand and very European - of course in a way they were "preserved" (despite the massive subdividing of the spaces)  by the economic backwater Riga became under Soviet rule. Many of these buildings had been given face lifts since I was last here - but the party on "Vegas:" element could still be seen in shop windows -

clearly they view themselves as having an affinity to Paris...

The buildings - you can see why they have become so well regarded as a treasure trove of art Nouveau architecture.


our city tour then headed in the direction of the Old Town area- we saw a movie set and a number of landmarks but it was more an orientation walk - and ended up at the meeting point for shuttle pickup and drop off for independent exploration of Riga - we will be in port two nights - and the optional side trips were two. The first was an afternoon visit to the local KGB interrogation and holding tank house -  and sometimes execution grounds as well - a house of horrors to be truthful but still a bad name for a tour that didn't involve cheesy Hollywood horror movies - these were true horrors not the made up imaginary kind.... The second tour was for the follow day and was basically a full day trip into the country to see the Rundale Palace (which I had already visited) and there was a third option to take a train to a beach town nearby and hang out there (one of the guides was arranging the logistics on that one but it wasn't an "official tour.")

We opted in for the afternoon KGB interrogation offices and out of the full day tour - having made arrangements through our trip leader to see the local synagogue (an active one.) We would follow that up with lunch on our own in town and some more touring of the Old Town area (in better weather). The weather was improving and so we counted on a nicer day the following day.

But back to our orientation tour of Old Town-

a dispute between guilds leads to a rooftop commentary by one towards the other LOL

houses built up against the original wall of the walled city-

the town hall square - these buildings look better in sunshine (which I have from my prior visit- but the condition is terrific - they haven't deteriorated appreciably since my visit 14 years earlier)

these "three riflemen" are our meeting point designation- those who don't visit the KGB offices can return via shuttle bus to spend time in town. And yes there are three LOL - the other guy can't be seen from this point of view

I will do a separate post on the KGB office and the woman who spoke there about her family s I will end this one here - however the next post will be on the synagogue and our day in town from Day Two in Riga.   So as always - stay tuned...

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