Asking about Riga
When I arrived in Riga I had absolutely no idea what to expect from the city. Usually people will buy a guidebook and look up “things to do” on the internet. But I didn’t. I decided to keep it as a surprise, and now I was in the Riga without even knowing what to do. “Let’s change that”, I thought to myself. “I am going to explore the city.” Usually on my first days in a new environment I like to just take a walk and see where it leads me. But this this time I was going to have a little different approach. Why not ask the people I meet along the way? Asking about Riga should give me some interesting stories and inspirations. After all, the people here should know best what this place has to offer.
And that’s what I did. I started walking towards Riga’s old town, where I met Arthur. “Tell me anything about Riga, anything you like”, I asked him. With his hood up over his hat and his hands taking shelter from the falling snow in the pockets of his jacket the young man answered: “I really like this city, it’s an old city, and it has very beautiful architecture, it’s called ‘Jugendstil’ I think.”
Orphelia and Håkan, who I met the same evening, had some more details on that: “[Riga] was founded in 1201, more than 800 years ago. I know a little bit [about the city] because we had an international convention here. We are Jehovah’s Witnesses, and we had friends visiting from all over the world and then we had to learn some of the history to do a little guided tour. The old town is a nice place to be, it’s well preserved. In the world, it’s the city which has the highest concentration of buildings in Jugendstil or Art Nouveau style, from the late 19th century.”
Actually the architecture was something a lot of people mentioned. And as I walked further into the historic city centre, I truly started to understand what they were talking about. Small alleys with buildings elegantly decorated, each one more beautiful than the last. Everywhere you looked were ornaments of flowers, leaves, faces and even small statues. The city was looking like a big patchwork of art.
The Christmas market:
While wandering on through the streets I found my way to the Dome Square where people were setting up this year’s Christmas market. Here I met Arnold, who was setting up a hut together with his colleague. “We [have been coming here for] already seven years. This ‘Gingerbread House’ we built it 4 years [ago] and we make mulled wine from Latvian fruits and berries. We have three places here and in every location the mulled wine is different. We want to give the people the best taste, because for my Christmas feeling it’s all about taste. Gingerbread, mulled wine, all of this I want to give to the people. That’s why we made the ‘Gingerbread house’. We are also going to bake fresh gingerbread here. It has been two years without a Christmas market and now we are back, it’s going to be a really nice atmosphere.” Even without the lights on the square already looked incredibly atmospheric, and by the time I am writing this the market has already opened, so I went back to take some photos.
Outside of the historic centre:
I personally haven’t seen much outside of the old town apart from the area I live in so I was especially excited whenever someone mentioned things to do outside of the centre, like Karina: “I live on the west side of the river and in the summer evenings i like to go over the bridge at sunset because the view is really nice. I also like this place called “Robert’s books”. It’s a cafe but it’s also a book store at the same time.”
I also got some recommendations for interesting museums, “We have a very cool military museum near the airport (referring to the “Riga Aviation Museum”), there are a lot of military planes, if you like that of course, I am a big fan of military history and politics.”
And then I also met Gints, who told me about wakeboarding in Riga: “Generally, there’s loads to do if you are active, for example sports. We do have incredible Wake-Parks. Do you know what wakeboarding is?” He proceeded to show me some pictures on his instagram, which I recommend you to check out if you haven’t heard about this sport yet. “I am currently building a Team, this is my second job, plus I work as a personal trainer. If you are active in any kind of sport we do have a lot going on here in Riga.”
Of course I didn’t fit every answer into this post, and it is long enough already. But I was really surprised at the amount of diverse answers I got. And I was even more surprised about how open the people I met were. They all were friendly, welcoming and overwhelmed me with their positivity, even if they didn’t have time they were still being nice. And this makes me excited. I am excited to be part of this amazing city, be it only for a while, and I am excited to find out more about these peoples’ recommendations. I hope you learned something new about Riga while reading, i certainly did. If you want to share something about the city, please leave a comment. Спасибо за чтение, thank you for reading.
Finn Botjes, currently learning Russian at Liden & Denz Riga