Day 23 - Riga (LV)

Recommended! If you want to try Latvian cuisine but you don't want to spend a fortune, then go to Lido. There are branches all over the city and it is amazing value. It is always packed with locals and they serve up delicious Latvian dishes at a fraction of the price you would pay in any restaurant in the old town! Great decor and atmosphere too!

This Lido is in the old town and closes between 20.00 and 21.00 hours (depending on the day)!

There is also a Lido in the Origo shopping centre right next to the train station and this one stays open untl 21.00 hours every day! I would also recommend the Ibis Riga Centre hotel which is very comfortable and not too expensive!

St Peter's Church dates back to 1209 and its pointed baroque tower is one of the symbols of the city. The tower has been struck six times by lightning and until World War II, it was the tallest wooden tower in Europe. It burned down during the war and it was rebuilt and completed in 1973. We were so lucky to have a beautiful sunny day and we were able to take the lift up to the viewing platform. The views over the old town and the Daugava River took my breath away! It is a must!

Die Stadt Musikanter von Bremen - how did the statue get here? The Bremen Town Musicians is the title of a folk tale first published by the Brothers Grimm in 1819 and the original statue stands in north-west German town of Bremen! It was a real surprise when I turned the corner and saw it! Apparently, I have since learned, Bremen and Riga are twinned and this statue was gifted to the city by Bremen in 1990. However, the animals are not facing the bandits as in the original and they are looking through a crack in a wall, the symbolic Iron Curtain. This opening was created during Michael Gorbatschow’s Perestroika, the reforms within the Soviet Union. Perhaps they are looking at a new and undiscovered world and checking it out! By the way, rubbing the noses of the animals is supposed to bring good luck - that is why they are so shiny!

Some more pictures of the beautiful old town.

The newer centre part of the city is also very interesting and there are a number of parks here as well as many important buildings and monuments.

The Latvian National Opera and Ballet dates back to 1782 when the Riga City Theatre was opened. The well known composer Richard Wagner was working at the Riga City Theatre from 1837 to 1839 when he was starting to compose his third opera Rienzi.

The Freedom Monument is made of granite and copper and symbolizes Latvian statehood, national unity, independence and freedom. The monument by sculptor, Karlis Zale, was funded entirely by donations from residents and is a memorial to those who fell in Latvia’s struggle for independence.

It is 42.7 metres high and is made up of 56 sculptures, divided into 13 sculptural groups on four levels, which depict Latvian history and culture. At the bottom of the monument is the motto 'For Fatherland and Freedom' and at the top is the nine-metre symbol of freedom – a young woman holding three stars above her head, depicting the three historic provinces of Latvia, and national unity.

There are two guards who stand at the base of the monument and who depict Latvia’s sovereignty.

The Cathedral of the Nativity of Christ is the largest Russian Orthodox church in Riga. The interior is very elaborately decorated and has many works of art and icons. During the First World War, German troops occupied Riga and turned the cathedral into a Lutheran church. In independent Latvia, it once again became an Orthodox cathedral in 1921. In the early 1960s, the Soviet ahteist authorities closed down the cathedral and converted its building into a planetarium. The cathedral has been restored since Latvia regained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

The Riga Radio and TV Tower in Latvia is the tallest tower in the European Union and is 368 metres high. It was built between 1979 and 1989 with funding from the central government of the Soviet Union. There are similar towers in many former communist cities such as East Berlin, Tallinn, Prague, Vilnius, Budapest, Sofia etc and they served as a functional broadcasting facility as well as a symbol of Soviet power.

In the afternoon we travelled by luxury coach again from Riga to Vilnius and it was a very comfortable and fast journey at a very reasonable price!

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