My dear travellers, how are you doing today? 2nd of September is a special day for me because that day in my calendar is marked as the happiest day in year – my birthday. I have to admit when I was younger I was not a fan of that date because that was a time when was school going to start. I always thought I was biggest jinx in the world because I was born on that day! Obviously, It was destined because I was unplanned and I came into this world exactly two months before the expected date.
What is the life… On this day twenty-something years ago, one little mumbled baby called Marko came. It’s much easier nowadays, my generation was warlike when inflation reigned in hospitals they didn’t even know what an incubator was. The nurses and the doctor who took care of me gave me the nickname “Crumb” because I was a little heavier than a loaf of bread, today the weight has changed a little! 🙂
But let me get to the topic of today’s post. A few days ago I promised you a new story and that we will explore the pearl of the Baltic, the capital of Latvia – Riga. By the invitation of the Riga Tourism Board – Live Riga and the National Latvian Airline airBaltic, little Marko and his photographer visited the capital of Latvia.
Riga for sure has marked this summer in a special way for me because it was also my last collaboration to close the “summer season” on my blog. The largest metropolis in the Baltic, Riga perfectly blends a timeless tradition and a superb modern atmosphere. In its turbulent history of almost 800 years, everyone from the German knights to the Swedish kings and Soviet commissioners left their mark, and today the capital of Latvia is an exciting European metropolis at the crossroads of Eastern and Northern Europe.
This visit would not have been possible without the help of the National Latvian Airline AirBaltic, which was one of the main partners of this project. The Latvian airline Air Baltic Corporation (airBaltic) was founded in 1995. AirBaltic is a hybrid airline that takes all the best practices from the business of traditional online airlines and low cost carriers in Europe and the world. In 2008, airBaltic changed its operating model from a carrier to a point – a network airline, making Riga a hub between east and west. AirBaltic’s main priorities are – safety, accuracy and quality of service.
Currently airBaltic operates direct flights from all capitals of the Baltic States – Riga (Latvia), Vilnius (Lithuania) and Tallinn (Estonia). AirBaltic offers convenient flights connecting North Hub Riga to its airline partner networks covering Europe, Scandinavia, Russia and the Middle East. It was a great pleasure for me to work with an airline such as airBaltic and to feel all the benefits of their business class.
As a business class traveler, you will receive outstanding service. Priority boarding, welcome drink, seating with additional free seating for more privacy, gourmet meal with three course menu, unlimited non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages, the latest printed media, as well as a quick priority exit upon the end of the flight.
Riga Airport is easy to navigate, because of its size and simplicity, trust me you will get out fast and head for exploring Riga. There are several ways of transportation to the center of Riga: by public transport – by bus or taxi. Since we had the transportation provided in advance, I can tell you the prices.
One-way bus fares cost € 1.15 if you buy in advance or at the vending machine or € 2 if you pay directly with the bus driver. When we talk about taxi services you have a Baltic Taxi and a special 15 euro one way fare, so if travel in the group of 3 or 4 people go you can split the cost.
The first thing I could see through the car window was the fact that Riga was a “green” city, on all sides there were green areas, squares, parks that were unusually arranged. Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, but Riga at very first sight brought a smile to my face. I knew this trip was going to be another beautiful adventure.
We settled into a hotel, freshened up a bit and were ready to go. Our Pullman Old Town Riga hotel was located in the heart of the old part of town. One thing I learned from traveling is that you should always start every city tour with a tour of the old town to get to know the city better. The old part of the city always has some special energy and that is what makes each city special, just like Skadarlija, the bohemian quarter gives Belgrade some note of the beauty where the cultural “creme de la creme” of high society gathered. I would love to write some basic information about the destination itself as I always do.
Riga is the capital of Latvia with a population of just over 600,000 inhabitants which is one third of the Latvian population. Being significantly larger than other cities in Latvia, Riga is also the largest city in Latvia. It is also the largest city in the three Baltic States and home to one tenth of the combined population of all three Baltic States. The city lies on the Gulf of Rome at the mouth of the Daugava River where it meets the Baltic Sea. Riga was founded in 1201 and is a former member of the Hanseatic League.
The historical center of Riga is on the UNESCO World Heritage List, known for its Art Nouveau – Jugendstil architecture and 19th century wooden architecture. Riga was the European Capital of Culture during 2014, along with Umea in Sweden. Riga hosted the NATO Summit in 2006, the Eurovision Song Contest in 2003, the 2006 Men’s Ice Hockey World Championship. An interesting fact is that almost one million tourists visit Riga every year!
There are more legends, theories about how the city got its name. One theory about the origin of the name Riga is that it is a corrupt borrowing that marks the Liv ring, and refers to an ancient natural harbor formed by the tributary of the Daugava River.
Another legend is that Riga owes its name to an already established role in trade between East and West. The English geographer Richard Hackluit in 1589 calls Rija a name, and the German historian Dionysius Fabricius confirmed the origin of Riga in 1610 from the word Rija. A third theory could be that Riga is named after Riege, the German name for the Riden River, a tributary of Daugava.
One theory is that the name Riga was introduced by Bishop Albert, the initiator of the baptism and conquest of the Livonian and Baltic peoples. He also presented an explanation of the name of the city as derived from the Latin word rigete (“irrigated”), which symbolizes “the irrigation of pagan souls by Christianity.”
The locals you see in the picture above in Riga are called the House of the Blackheads (Latvian: Melngalvju nams,) is a building located in the old part of town. The original building was built during the 14th century for the time of the Brotherhood of the Blackheads, as a kind of association for the unmarried, shipowners and foreigners in Riga. The main works were made at the beginning of the 17th century, adding most of the mannerist decoration. The sculptures were made by August Volz’s workshop. The building was bombed by the Germans on June 28, 1941, and the remains were demolished by the Soviets in 1948. It was restored between 1996 and 1999 and what we have today to see is an identical replica of the original building.
Riga is an exceptional city and very organised. Besides being able to enjoy the beauty of the city and make beautiful pictures for your album, you can also do some nice shopping. In addition to the many interesting shops that have local and Baltic designers, there are plenty of outlet shops. In the heart of the city, there are at least 50 outlet shops that have different brands from street brands to some more luxurious, prestigious brands.
You should not hesitate, believe me I found such a beautiful turtleneck sweater and sweater from one brand I adore and I paid it only 35 euros, the full price would be much, much higher. That is my most sincere recommendation if you find yourself in this beautiful city.
The streets of the old town are paved with cobblestones, so it is very important to wear comfortable footwear. In the old part of Riga there are the most beautiful restaurants, museums and hotels. Most interesting to me were street musicians and artists who were entertaining the tourists. Riga is a city of culture and art, believe me in this city you have time for everything because the city is well organised and you can easily find everything that interests you.
You can see the church of St. Peter in the picture above. It is first mentioned in records from 1209. The church was built and went undamaged in a major city fire in Riga that year. The history of the church can be divided into three distinct periods: two related to the Gothic and Romanesque styles of construction, and the third to the early Baroque period. The middle part of the church was built in the 13th century, which covers the first period of construction. The only remnants of this period are found in the outer walls of the nave and on the inside of several columns in the winding, around which larger columns were later built.
During World War II, the church lost its status as an important cultural heritage – an impressive bronze candelabrum made in 1596 – which was taken by the Germans from Riga to the city of Vłocłavek and moved during the Heim ins Reich campaign to Poland. The candelabrum, called the standing lantern, was commissioned by Riga City Council from Riga Foundry Founder Hans Meyer. To give an idea of the order of size of this standing lantern it was about 3 m high and about 4 m wide.
After the war he was exhibited at St. Mary’s Cathedral of the Assumption in the Vłocłavek Basilica. On March 1, 2012, this work of late Renaissance art returned to its home, as a result of an agreement on the repatriation of cultural property. An interesting fact is that the rooster statue that you can see at the top of the church weighs about 160 kg, and it’s made of gold.
Freedom Monument (Latvian: Brivibas piemineklis) is a monument honoring soldiers killed during the Latvian War of Independence (1918–1920). It is considered an important symbol of the freedom, independence and sovereignty of Latvia. Built in 1935, 42 meters high in granite, travertine and copper, it often serves as a focal point for public gatherings and official ceremonies in Riga. The sculptures and reliefs of the monument, divided into thirteen groups, depict Latvian culture and history.
The core of the monument consists of rectangular shapes that are arranged one on top of one another, decreasing in size towards the top, complemented by a 19-meter (62-meter) high travertine pole bearing a copper figure of freedom that raises three gilded stars. The concept of the monument was first publicly announced in the early 1920s, when the Latvian prime minister ordered the conceptual designs to be drawn up and a competition for the design of a “memorial column” opened. After several public competitions, the monument was finally built in the early 1930s under the scheme “Mirdzi ka zvaigzne!” The construction work was funded by private donations.
There were already German-language theaters in Riga, which also had opera and ballet. The first attempt to create the Latvian National Opera was in 1893, when the “Spoku stunda” by Jekabs Ozols (“The Hour of the Spirits”) was performed. The Latvian Opera and Ballet (Latviešu Opera) was founded in 1912 by Pavuls Jurjans, although almost immediately during the First World War, the opera group was evacuated to Russia. In 1918, the opera was restarted (Latvia Opera) led by Jazeps Vitols, founder of the Latvian Academy of Music. The debut performance, January 23, 1919, was Wagner’s “Der fliegende Hollander”.
Since 1944, after the occupation of Latvia by the Soviet Union and its incorporation into the Soviet Union, the Latvian National Opera became the Latvian S.S.R. State Opera and Ballet Theater. In 1990, the theater was renamed the Latvian National Opera, but the building was closed almost immediately until 1995 for renovation. In honor of its reopening in 1995, the first opera was Uguns un nakts by Janis Medins (Fire and Night).
My dear adventurers, once again we have come to the end of our post. Time just flies so fast when you are having a good time! At the end of this post, I would like to thank my friends from Tourism Board of Riga – Live Riga and airBaltic for this incredible adventure and Pullman Old Town Riga Hotel for their huge efforts to make our stay unforgettable and I felt like at home.
How do you like this story about this gem of the Baltic? Have you maybe had a chance to visit Riga and to enjoy in the beauty of Latvia? I would like to share with me your experience! In a couple of days we will continue our adventure in Riga. I will show you one art treasury, the biggest one in Latvia, so be ready! I am sure you will like it as I do. 🙂
If you have a question, comment, suggestion or message for me, you can write me down in the comments. Of course, as always you can contact me via mail or social media, which you can find on the CONTACT page.