The Lions Gate

The Lions Gate
13 July 2016

Wandering through Old Town, you’ll find the area lends itself to a small city feel. With few exceptions, you can get lost in the small tunnels and alleys and back passages leading in all different directions. And as busy as it gets with other tourists and foreigners, there are always opportunities where you get to stop and drink in the beauty of a solitary alleyway.

Located at the end of Aldaru iela, the Swedish Gate represents the small city feel of the larger urban area. You can often find it either populated by large groups, or standing silently, showing a more still and peaceful side of the area. To the common tourist it hides in the plethora of back alleys and passageways, but to the educated visitor, it represents some of the oldest remaining architecture in Riga. Built in 1698, it and the wall that surrounds it are some of the last remnants of the former outer wall which predates the actual gate, having been built between the 13th and 16th centuries. All other gates that previously led through the wall were torn down through the years as developments in artillery machinery rendered them obsolete. While dated so far back in construction, the gate, and that portion of the wall with it’s 2nd floor living spaces were restored during the Soviet period, hence its rather “new” appearance.

The name “Swedish Gate” (Zviedru vārti) is in reference to “The Good Swedish Time” when the Swedish Kingdom used the city as one of it’s three major ports. Popularly regarded as a time of great prosperity for the city, Riga natives held relative autonomy from the Swedish rule but benefitted greatly from the huge influx of traders and merchants. While not originally built to celebrate the Swedish control of the city, it has been changed to reflect that time period.

Notable aspects of the gate? First off, it’s a beautiful gate: you can’t miss it. Second, two inverted cannons sit on either side of the walk on the side opposite Aldaru iela. Also can’t miss those. Over both entrances are also small lion heads, one of the national symbols of Sweden.

If you’re in Old Town, make sure to stop by this.

Mark Kennedy, currently studying Russian at Liden & Denz Riga

Posted by Mark Kennedy

Всем Привет! My name is Mark Kennedy, and I’m currently studying Russian at the Liden and Denz Language Center in Riga, Latvia! To say I’m excited to be here is a severe understatement. Currently I'm going into my fourth year at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, where I'm enrolled as a dual-degree candidate, earning two degrees in Russian Language and Literature, and French Horn Performance. I started my study of Russian during a two-year mission for my church in St. Petersburg, Russia. Probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever done! My language learning started off as kind of a trial by fire: with only 12 weeks of training beforehand, I was thrown into Russia and expected (to attempt, at least) to hold full on conversations with people. In the beginning it wasn’t pretty, but the sink or swim mentality of it all forced me to work hard from the start, and motivated me to really overcome any issues I had quickly. Combined with a personally guided plan of language study and some study materials, I came to love the language and the Russian people a TON! Two years later and I’m still studying it… Outside of Russian language, my French Horn degree keeps me busy. Favorite composer is probably Richard Strauss, and my favorite symphonic work is The Rite of Spring Suite by Stravinsky. (Debussy Piano pieces are my favorite non-symphonic works). I’m also into basically anything arts related: singing, dancing, listening to Maroon 5, drawing Sharpie art, going to art exhibits, going to orchestra concerts, etc. In terms of sports, I was a collegiate rower for the University of Michigan in 2011-2012, when we won the National Champions Team Trophy, and I play Ultimate Frisbee. I’m excited for this opportunity to write for Liden & Denz, and to share my enthusiasm and excitement about Riga and the Russian language!

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