Posted by: Mary | February 27, 2011

Day Two in Riga

    

It’s Sunday evening now in Latvia and I had a relatively full day, although it won’t sound like I covered much ground. Just about everything that was open today opened at 11am, except St. Peter’s Church, so I headed out around 10am and it was 14 degrees F. Talk about cold! The high today was 24 degrees F, which is 10 degrees warmer than it was a few days ago, but still another 10 degrees below normal for this time of year.

I walked to St. Peter’s church and bought a ticket to go up to the highest point for a wonderful view of the City. (see photo) It was a perfectly clear day, even if it was cold and the breeze made it feel even colder. From the top, you can see the entire Old Town, as well as the newer parts across the river and the TV tower on an island in the middle of the river. The Daugava River has pretty much frozen over, which is typical this time of year, and men are out there ice fishing on it. There’s also a canal that runs through the Old Town, which is also frozen.

From the church, I walked over the Museum of Latvian Occupation, and ended up spending almost three hours inside. I didn’t expect to spend so much time, but it is very well put together and has a great summary of the history of Latvia (and also covers Lithuania and Estonia where their histories are related) from WWI until 1991 when the country once again became free. The exhibits and summaries are provided in Latvian, Russian, German and English and they are very well written. They include artifacts that were excavated in the 1990’s from battle sites and camps, as well as photographs, paperwork, everyday items, propaganda, etc. I would highly recommend a visit for anyone interested in history. The only downside is that the museum isn’t really heated. I had to keep my coat, gloves and hat on and I was still a little cold.

My next stop was the House of the Blackheads. It is not the original building, as that was leveled during WWII, but was rebuilt in the same style and has a grand ballroom, among other treasures. The basement was excavated and you can see the original walls and some of the fragments of sculptures that were also destroyed during the war. As a part of the admission price, you also receive a ticket to a museum around the corner that has rotating exhibits. While I was there, it mostly focused on architects and their drawings, but also had some video and photography by a Brazilian-born artist living in Paris.

I had lunch in an Italian restaurant with paintings of Venice everywhere. The food was good and the hot mulled wine helped to warm me up! It was located just outside the old convent complex, which I wandered through to get to it. The convent has been converted to a hotel and shops and I had almost stayed there, but ultimately booked a small hotel nearby because reviews talked about the lack of air conditioning in the summer but no reviews were written about winter stays, so I was unsure about the heat being adequate. In this weather, that’s important!    

After my late lunch, it was almost closing time for all the sites, so I decided to wander around to see the Powder Tower, the black cat house (there’s a sculpture of a black cat on the roof), and a snow-covered park with a number of sculptures. The park surrounds the Freedom Monument and was a great walk back toward my hotel.

The hotel keeps two beautiful small birds in a cage behind the front desk and they sing periodically. They entertain me while I’m updating this blog with probably the most beautiful song I’ve heard from birds. Last night, I wasn’t sure I was hearing live birds, but this morning, I discovered them.

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