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26 floors above Riga – reflections on our journey during the last 24 hours

On April 6, 2009 we travel from Vilnius to Riga. We pass through moorlands, past wooden houses, through birch and pine forests and stop in the theater city Panevézys, where the famous director Juozas Miltinis used to work. Then we are stopped at the border between Lithuania and Latvia where we have to show our passports.
Immediately after the border we notice a clear change. Obviously the economic situation is much better here. Even before we reach Riga we see new concrete houses and factory buildings. Riga feels like a metropolis. Instead of the many church towers in Vilnius we see tall office buildings. The very broad rivers give us the feeling of being close to the sea. We reach the city near the old construction halls for zeppelins. Now they are remodeled as market places.
The next morning in the park of the academy for fine arts, Inge performs the second part of her project “Erden” in the beautiful sunshine.
We visit an exhibition of the final works of students from the academy: painting, sculpture, graphic, fashion, video, photography, textile art. We also visit the studios and work facilities in the neo-gothic building. The main focus of the academy lies on painting. Sajas Kristaps, professor for painting, exhibits his newest and very large paintings at a gallery in the old town.
Past the statue of liberty we reach the old town where we have tea, coffee, chocolates and magic at the Black Magic Bar, a place from the 18th century.
We enjoy the great view from the tower of the gothic Petri-church from the 13th century. “Only when you go up the tower can you really know Riga”, we are told by our guide. From the top we can see that Riga is nested between several rivers. The church was almost completely destroyed in 1941. It took 30 years to rebuild it.
Afterwards we go and see Sajas Kristaps’ exhibition. His colorful paintings remind us remotely of Matisse and Bonnard, but at the same time they have a very individual nature and a touch of Latvian identity.
We take a walk though the Kronwall Park, past several sculptures and memorial stones that remind of the dead of 1991, when the Baltic States won their independence. Cameramen and journalists were killed during peaceful demonstrations. The memories are alive and many flowers decorate the memorial stones.
One entire district was built in art nouveau style. In Riga there are more than 800 art nouveau buildings. Michail Eisenstein, father of the famous directory Sergej Eisenstein (Communist revolutionary film “Panzerkreuzer Potemkin”) has shaped entire city streets. It is now the embassy district where we see many rich people in luxurious cars.
We write our travel reports in the Skyline Bar, 26 floors above Riga, sipping balsam – a Latvian bitter made from 24 herbs. Riga took us by surprise. We were not prepared for the dynamic and cosmopolitan impression, or for the wealth.
Apparently the spirit of the history of the Hanseatic city is still alive. This is the home of „Homo Novus“ (Anslavs Eglitis).

Market day in Riga

The five former zeppelin hangars, which are a World Cultural Heritage, now serve as a market for the megacity Riga. This market is Riga’s belly where everything is available: fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, underwear, leather goods, flowers, strings, pots, fresh milk and cheese. We can see the ordinary day-to-day life of Riga as well as the fight for survival. After our visit to the market we take the bus from the nearby bus terminus and leave Riga for Tallinn.

Photos of Riga
Photos of Riga – Part 2

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