I was able to get a lot accomplished today.
The first place I went was the Riga Cathedral. The church, which once Catholic but is now Lutheran, was founded in 1211 as the seat of the Riga diocese. It is the largest medieval church in the Baltic. The oldest portion of the church has Romanesque features; the tower is 18th century baroque and the rest, dating back to the 15th century, is Gothic. During Soviet times, services were not allowed.
I went into Our Ladies of Sorrow Church and saw St. Savior’s Church. I would also go into St. Mary Magdalene’s Church later.
The next stop was Three Brothers, which are three old stone homes. One is 600 years old and the oldest dwelling in town. The other two are 17th century. Then to St. James Cathedral, which was built in 1225. The church has switched between Catholic and Protestant. It is currently a Catholic Church. Then to see the Riga Castle, which is the official residence of the president.
From here, I took the Torna Iela to see the Swedish Gate, which were medieval walls built in 1698 by the Swedes. It is the largest surviving section of the town wall. Saw the Latvian War Museum, Jacob’s Barracks, which is the longest building in Old Riga, and the Power Tower, which dates back to the 14th century. It’s the only of the 18 original towers that survived.
I then did a quick beeline to Central Riga and walked along the city canal. There is a nice park around it. I went up Bastion Hill and went to the Freedom Monument. The Freedom Monument was off limits during Soviet occupation. Placing flowers on it was a crime with the punishment of being sent to Siberia. It is around this time I ran into the Malaysian woman from my bus tour here, and I laughed because I bemoaned yesterday how I would never see any of them again. I saw the National Opera.
I went back into the Old Town and saw St. Peter’s Church. It is thought to be 800 years old, thus one of the oldest medieval buildings in the Baltic. Then saw St. John’s Church, which is a mixture of 13th to 19th century Gothic and baroque styles.
This is when I did a beeline and saw somethings I meant to see tomorrow. I saw the Central Market, and so I went there. It is wonderful! The market is housed in a series of five WWI Zeppelin hangers and has outdoor markets as well. You name it, it’s there. I read that it has space for 1,000 sellers. It’s one of the largest markets in Europe.
I explored the Maskava Forstate, which is Riga’s “Moscow Suburb.” It was once the site of the Jewish ghetto when the Nazi’s occupied Latvia. There are parts that are still in recovery.
I saw a building I walked to because it reminded me of a very Russian like building I saw in Poland. There is an orthodox church near it that I went to. It was magnificent. It was adorned to the highest degree. When I first walked in, the father gave me a second look and walked out. I looked around and then went to buy a candle to pray for my sister/friend’s aunt who lost her husband. While I was in line, the father came up to me with a big smile. Gave me a piece of candy and shook my hand. It made me smile. It was only after I was leaving the church that I saw a sign asking women to borrow a scarf from the church when they entered. I felt bad because I feel it’s so important to respect sacred spaces in the manner of their beliefs. I know to cover my hair in a mosque and to take off my shoes (and leave them outside) before going into a Hindu Temple.
I then went to the Riga Ghetto & Latvia Holocaust Museum. There are some moving pieces. I think it’s always so powerful when faces and stories are connected. The people who were murdered in the Holocaust are not nameless. They have stories and histories that were wiped out too soon because of hate and supremacy. I also went to a Holocaust Memorial near there. It’s the site where a large synagogue was burned to the ground during WWII. The congregation was trapped inside the church when it happened. None survived. What do you do with such senseless hate?
Then I saw the Jezus Baznica (Jesus Evangelical Lutheran). It took me a minute to find it even though it was right in my face. It said it was a church made up entirely of wood, so I assumed it would be brown. It was grey and soft blue.
Next I went to Spikeri. It is an area of brick warehouses, which used to be filled with slabs of hanger meat. The warehouses are now being converted into stores and companies. It made me think of gentrification, which can be good if you take areas that were not developed and repurpose buildings that are falling down. The other side is when people who historically lived in the neighborhood are forced out because they can no longer afford to live there. It’s happening all over the world, including my neighborhood at home, and is unfortunate.
Then back to the Old Town. I went to the Cat House. I wanted to see it because of the backstory. “What had happened was” according to legend, a man was rejected from the Great Guild. For revenge, he turned the cats’ butts toward the hall. Of course, the guild was outraged. There was a court battle and the merchant was let in the club, but he had to turn the cats in the other direction. High drama!
I saw the Mentzendorff’s House, which was built in 1695 as the home of a German glazier.
I went to the Riga Synagogue. It was built in 1905. It only survived because setting it on fire would have put other buildings at risk. After the Soviet occupation ended, it was reopened for service. Then in 1995 and 1998, there were bomb attacks by neo-Nazis. In 2009, it was restored with funds from the EU.
Finally, to Ratslaukums where I saw the Blackheads House, which was originally called the New House. The house was for unmarried German merchants. It was built in 1344 but decimated in 1941 and flattened seven years later. It was rebuilt in 2001 based on the original blueprints. Saw the Town Hall. The original was destroyed during WWII. It was rebuilt in 2003. Lastly saw the Latvian Riflemen Monument. It’s controversial because it honors Latvia’s Riflemen, who were the core of the Red Army in 1918. Some served as Lenin’s personal guards.
Today has been the warmest day. No hat and scarf needed for me. It’s supposed to be 60 tomorrow. Late next week, snow is in the forecast.
Today’s step count equals 24,738 for 9.2 miles.
I will edit when I get home.