Posted by: Mary | March 1, 2011

Last Day in Riga

Today was my last day in Riga. Tomorrow, I fly to Lithuania! I started the morning with a visit to the Central Market, which has been held for over 70 years in four airplane hangars that were abandoned by the Germans after WWI. There’s a fish market, a meat market, a produce market, a breads/pastries market and a household goods/clothing market. Prices here are supposed to be cheaper than the grocery stores, so most of the locals do their shopping here. If you’re staying in an apartment where you can do your own cooking, this would be a great place to buy things!  It was a Tuesday morning, so I assume most people were at work, but the market was busy with elderly shoppers carrying full bags of produce, breads and meats as they have done for years. I wandered the stalls and bought some small jars of honey to take home. The owner of the stall was an older woman who spoke no English and of course the labels were in Latvian, so I’m not sure exactly what kinds of honey I bought.

From here, I walked along the main boulevard that follows the river until I reached the area that was once the old Jewish Ghetto. It is now an outdoor museum, consisting of a list of all the Jews in Latvia who were victims of the holocaust, as well as a photo exhibit similar to the one that was in the Jewish History Museum I visited yesterday. In addition, there were many photos of the synagogues around Latvia, as well as photos from “current times” of the buildings that were once a part of the Jewish Ghetto. It was a moving exhibit, although small. According to the booklet provided, it only opened in September 2010 and this is the first phase.

I walked across the river around noon to get a good photo from the other side. Unfortunately, because the riverfront is a busy street on the Old Town side of the river, it wasn’t a very good photo opportunity after all. I wet into the Radisson Hotel and headed up to their “Observation Deck” on the 10th floor for a better view, but of course, the photos are through a window that isn’t very clean. So much for that idea….  The best you get is a photo like this:

When I returned back to the Old Town, I headed to an Indian restaurant that was recommended. It was located behind St. Peter’s Church & looked out onto a cute little street where I could people (and cat) watch. The food was made by an Indian chef & I have to wonder how someone from India ends up in Latvia, unless it’s to open a restaurant. There isn’t much ethnic diversity here, except Russians, as well as some people from Poland and other former Eastern bloc countries.

Before I left for this trip, I had lunch with the former Director for my employer, who is from Lithuania. She indicated that I would fit right in, as I could pass for Lithuanian. It seems to be the case here, as everyone I meet speaks to me in Latvian, even when they start out in English to the people ahead of me in line. I guess I don’t stand out as much here as I did in India & China where people were taking photos of me because I was a novelty!

People here have been extremely friendly and most spoke at least a little English. Where they did not, my limited recollection of German came in handy once again. I am always amazed when I travel to Europe and see how many different languages people are able to speak fluently. It’s definitely something that is lacking in our education system in the U.S.  I was in a store where a man announced that he was Russian, but could speak English and German fluently as well. He was wondering which language the clerk would prefer to communicate in. She spoke English and German fluently, as well as Latvian.

Three and a half days in Riga was perfect to see the Old Town and the Art Nouveau area. Had the Foreign Art Museum been open, I could have used another half day. There’s so much more to see in Latvia, including the coast, which is only a half hour away, but it will all have to wait for another trip! Tomorrow, I fly to Lithuania….

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