Travelling to the Baltic Countries is always a dream of any traveller. This part of Earth is completely different from the rest of the world. They have a very turbulent history as a dependent territory and have their own culture to boast.
Among the Baltic Countries, Latvia is in the middle of two other countries Estonia and Lithuania. Thus most people visit Latvia in tandem with trips to surrounding Estonia and Lithuania. During my almost a year long stay in Sweden, I visited Estonia separately on a cruise trip and then visited Lithuania and Latvia on a short trip. I stayed one and half days in Riga, the capital of Latvia – it was enough at least for me.
As planned, I reached Riga in the morning and checked in to Hotel “Liberty Airy”. My hotel was right opposite to the Freedom Monument and on the edge of the famous Old Town. The Freedom monument was built for honouring the soldiers killed in the Latvian War of Independence from 1918-1920. The sculptures and bas-reliefs of the monument, arranged in thirteen groups, depict Latvian culture and history. The core of the monument is composed of tetragonal shapes on top of each other, decreasing in size towards the top, completed by a 19-metre (62 ft) high travertine column bearing the copper figure of Liberty lifting three gilded stars.
From Freedom Square, I headed for the Old Town.
Wandering the Old Town was undoubtedly the center of attraction for any avid traveller in Riga. Every day, a free guided tour is organised by “Like a local” in various European Languages.
I opted for the English one. The tour started from the St. Peter’s Church. The guide Vasia was a great orator. She explained the history in short. Coming to the history of the city, Riga was constructed in 1201 by the Hanseatic League(a commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds and market towns in North-Western and Central Europe). Gradually the city became a strong base of the league for trading. After getting devastated by the European tug of war Latvia achieved independence in 1921 with the help of the Soviet Union but it did not last long. During the Second World War again the country was attacked by the Germans followed by an inclusion in the Soviet Union. After Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the country finally achieved independence and sovereignty. Based on the architectural and cultural value the Old Town of Riga has been inscribed into the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Briefed in the history, we started to walk down the narrow cobblestoned lanes of the Old Town. The town features over 500 buildings with different architectural styles like Romanticism, Gothic, Mannerism, Baroque, Eclectic, Modernism, etc. Every step was not only unfolding unseen pages of history books but also opening distant memories and my fondest childhood fantasies.
The walk ended after one and half hours. Then I decided to wander the town on my own. My intention was to get lost in the colourful narrow lanes. I had a cup of coffee and started strolling around the town. The walk delivered a kind of fairy tale feeling. The fascinating architecture of the buildings with colourful facades was just as I had dreamt of in my childhood days. In most of the buildings, there were cafes, pubs, restaurants of different cuisines, cute curio shops, rocking night clubs. The town was planned and built in such a way that every lane always stays very windy.
Walking for a long time made me hungry. I went to a traditional Latvian restaurant and had lunch with Rye Bread, Speck (smoked bacon from pork belly) and Latvian Beer.
After the sumptuous lunch I felt so tired. So I decided to have some relaxing time in the park.
Latvian Park reminded me of the parks I read in various Russian books. Bastejkalna Park is near the Freedom Monument. I went there. The fresh air refreshed me and the landscape was a treat to the eyes. I imagined the riot of colour could be witnessed during fall. There is a canal running through it. Boating to the river could have been a great experience but alas! I do not know how to drive a boat.
Riga is famous for its parks and most of them are located centrally. Apart from Bastejkalna Park, Vermanes Park, Mezaparks, Kronvalda Park are also famous parks in the city. Riga is actually a green capital.
Dusk was approaching. I wanted to see the sunset from the top and thus went to the Park Hotel but unfortunately the service was closed on that day due to some maintenance work. So I opted to visit the bank of the Daugava River to witness the sunset alongside the city’s flamboyant architecture.
After a small dinner at the roadside sandwich corner I came back to hotel, got freshened up and went to a pub.
Nightlife in Riga is as expected – rocking! Famous pubs, cafes and nightclubs are like a paradise for the party animals. But my plan was to start early the next day. So after dinner with curry and famous craft beer I called it a day.
Next morning I planned to go to Jurmala, a popular beach located at a distance of 40 Kilometres from Riga. But due to heavy rainfall I had to stay back in Riga. But I spent the entire day in the Old Town and came back to Stockholm in the evening cruise.