To celebrate my birthday I have been invited by my friend in Riga. Since she lives in Latvia it is easier for us to meet than when I had to go to Vilnius. The city was a little warmer than Tallinn, enough to feel in summer!
Late planing but I got a seat
With her we have been talking a lot since some times about my coming to Riga. Also because I am slow I decided to go the day before I booked my ticket from Tallinn. Most comfortable time were full and I had to take the bus in the early morning after having took the first bus from Mustamae at 5:30! I got the last seat in the bus and wasn’t faced to the road. I felt strange. I could sleep four hours, as I needed it.
German park and Freedom square
I came in Riga before 11am and I carried my bags, the weather was hot and I rapidly felt not in best form with my stuff, so from the coach station we went to her apartment to put everything. Then we walked again to the center, I was wearing a simple Tshirt and short and burnt because of the sun! That took almost a hour but I discovered a district of Riga I never seen before. Partly broken, but which looks so « Riga style ». We walked through the Vērmanes park, the oldest public park of Riga had a scene and a group of Latvian performed traditional dance. We found the program and noted that various rock Baltic bands will play in the evening. The park is not located far from the Freedom square, where we have been next. I am not sure what was exactly happening but an official ceremony was going under the Milde’s statue, nickname given to the tall green lady holding three stars in her hand. On the Mc Donalds square (name given by me) we met a dynamic folk band playing revisited famous pop songs! Usually they are three and wear grandma’s clothes, but that day they were five and without any special looking. I still believe it was them.
The House of the Black Heads was destroyed during the past wars and rebuilt in 2001 for the 800 years anniversary of the city. It stands on the Town Hall square which has on its center the statue of Saint Florian, musicians were sitting there and playing. We jumped in an pizzeria for lunch, from my sit I could see the beautiful house.
A walk by the river
Riga is not a city by the sea but has a very large river, the Daugava, along which it is pleasant to walk. The grand street « 11 November » is on side to it. On that street a huge meeting was organised including many runners and rollermen. I don’t know what was the purpose of it, we just pass it and cross the larger river on the Stone bridge to watch the city from the Swedbank terrace. When we came back my friend made me realize how many bikes were out in the city! Just on the bridge almost ten people passed us.
The old Riga
After having reached the right bank of Riga, we had a small normal tour. We looked the Castle, the Swedish gate and the Powder tower tuned in a museum of the army. We continued to the old town and its churches of Saint John and Saint Peter as well as the Konventa Seta, the oldest part of Riga still alive. Then we check the Dom cathedral and its large square on which we took our desserts.
When we were walking around the Livu square we looked at the Cat’s house. The building that gave to Riga skyline its most notable element: the Black Cat. I noticed for the first time that on the building are actually two cats! Not one, but two! Twice more awesome!
The grand Riga
The old Riga is limited by the Daugava river on one side and the Pilsētas kanāls on the other. That small river crosses a nice park where you can see the National Opera House. Passing that canal is the newest parts of Riga, the soviet, the modern and the Art Nouveau style district. We have started by this one and especially houses situated in the Elizabeta street. We tried to look those buildings from the other side! For some it was possible to enter the yards, we saw ugly and grey walls in totals opposition with the fancy facades.
Let the music play
We keep walking in direction of the Vērmanes park and passed the Riga Kino, an old cinema, and the Orthodox Cathedral, an orthodox Cathedral on the Esplanade :p In the park was a lot of people. The first of the three bands to play was Lithuanian was some foldrock music. I liked it. Then Estonian came on stage and … I didn’t like. After few songs I got bored. Ona met her cowoker we stay a little longer, but we left all together few time after to home, with a quick stop at the Rimi to by food for our dinner.
A cloudy second day
Park and Independence Monument of 1905
After a good night I had forces for the new day. She brought me to her park situated right behind her apartment, we walked and talked until have reached Tallinn’s street, Tallinna iela (and an old advertisement for Lada). The street lead to a abandoned Red Cross hospital. The sad building is close to a park hosting a unknown memorial to the Revolution 1905.
Typical Riga down town buildings
From the memorial we had to walked to the central station and I liked to see the evolution of the architecture: from the not maintained modern to the classy baroque buildings. Among them are also wooden houses, a lot and quite imposing! We tried to enter in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Saint Paul, but due to the mess we didn’t.
We reached the train station and bought ticket to Jurmala, the sky was not better but the temperature raised.
After have spent almost all the day on the beach we had few hours to use in the city. It started with a coffee in Coffee Inn and was followed by a last tour on the Town Hall square. Finally she led me close to the bus station where she took a tramway, I was on time for my four hours bus ride to Estonia.