Where they love hockey and basketball.

Riga, Latvia. This city has a sign, better go check it out! Side Note: the city name is pronounced like Ree-Gah
But first lets back up a little bit. How did we get to Riga, Latvia? We drove this trusty VW all way from Estonia, a solid 2.5h drive. Believe it or not, this is the Estonia-Latvia border. This is looking back into Estonia. We chose to drive as there are no trains connecting the Baltic capitals. All train tracks previously built would lead back to the motherland, Russia.
Looking the other direction into Latvia. As often happens, the true name of the country has been anglicized from Latvija to Latvia. Off the top of my head, other countries this has happened to, like Hrvatska (Croatia) or Nihon (Japan), and so on.
Just beyond the border we stumbled across this very long road made with rocks that leads out into the ocean. Built in 1912 the idea was these rocks would help protect the local pier from wind and waves. They laid train tracks down the middle of the rock road and were hopeful that they could easily unload cargo from ships and become the next major port in the area. Unfortunately, world war one happened and the plans for the area to become a major port never worked out. Instead, the next town over, Riga, became the major trading port for the area. On to Riga then!
Might as well start our Riga tour at the most popular site, House of the Blackheads. The House of the Blackheads was built by a group of influential merchants who ran most of the trade in Riga. They claim that in 1510, the worlds first decorated Christmas tree was placed just outside this building. Unfortunately, the house of the Blackheads was destroyed by the Germans and Soviets in the 1940’s but the Latvians rebuilt the house in the 90’s. It is now illegal to display any German Nazi Symbols or the Soviet hammer and sickle in Latvia.
Founded in 1201, Riga was a merchant town. And as a result of that, much of it is no longer original. When a building was no longer useful for conducting trade, it was demolished and replaced with a new building. Today, Riga is home to many bars, restaurants and drunk tourists from the UK singing Hey Jude. Na na na na na.
Another example of three buildings from different time periods. Called the three brothers, the one on the right is the oldest, likely built in the 15th century. The middle from 1646 and the left from the 17th century.
Another example of the different architecture that is present in Riga.
More modern architecture in Riga, the National Latvian Library. Built in 2008 it is called the Castle of Light apparently based on Latvian mythology about a mountain made of glass.
Riga is home to over 150 parks. In the Baltics, they feel that green space and natural areas are important and should be preserved. This particular park is what would have been the moat that protected the town. There was also a castle wall surrounding the city but it was torn down in the 1850’s when they figured it was blocking trade and no longer had any military value.
Another park in Riga. Half of the people that live in Latvia call Riga home. With roughly 600,000 people, Riga is the largest capital city in the Baltics.
Riga is also home to the oldest, and largest market in Europe. Originally built in 1920, these buildings were German zeppelin hangers. After the war, they were converted to a market that covers 72,000 square meters (775,000 sq feet). Unlike many other European markets, this is still used by locals today. Roughly 100,000 people visit the market each day (including more drunk British trouists).
Each zeppelin hanger has a different type of good for sale, with meat being sold in the this one.
This hanger was dry goods and convenience type items for sale.
Outside the hangers were even more market space selling flowers and plants as well as fresh produce from local farms.
This is St. Peters church, which was the tallest wooden spire in the world when it was built in the 17th century. Fortunately for me, you can take an elevator to the top, which should give you a clue as to what is coming next.
Traditional Summit Selfie!!
A look at the zeppelin hangers that make up the local market. In the background is a TV antenna tower. At 368 meters tall it is the tallest TV antenna tower in Europe, but only in the summer. The reason for the seasonal record is because there is a TV tower in Berlin that is exactly the same height. However the Berlin tower is made of concrete. The Riga TV tower is made of metal and expands by 3cm in the summer heat, making it the tallest for a couple weeks each year.
A look over Riga in the other direction from the spire of St Peters church. The river that passes through the town is the Daugava River.
The freedom monument is dedicated to the people that died fighting the Soviets during the Latvian push for independence. Latvia has a long history of being invaded and occupied. It has been held by Sweden, Poland, Nazi Germany (who executed 25,000 Jews in Latvia) and most recently the Soviet Union in the 1940’s. Latvia didn’t gain independence until August 1991.
Riga was the most expensive city we visited in the Baltics. Significantly more expensive (maybe 10X as much for a hotel). We would later find out the reason it was so pricey was the 2023 Ice Hockey World Championship was going on at the time. The main square had large TV’s setup and places to sit, have a beer and watch the game. Although Canada won the competition, Latvia came in third. The country went crazy and the president of Latvia gave every citizen the day off to celebrate.
How about food and language? In Latvia they speak their own language, called Latvian (clever, right). Despite their close proximity to Estonia and Lithuania, the three countries all have different language and cannot understand each other. Latvia also doesn’t really have a traditional food, but this pickle and bacon pizza was amazing.
As the sun sets over the Daugava River, we head back to our overpriced hotel (thanks hockey) and get ready to drive down the Latvian coast the next day to look for suitable summit selfie locations…. more to come.

1 Comment

Teditor · October 10, 2023 at 1:35 am

Cool, particularly the 2 competing TV towers!

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