“Riga..? Where is it..? ” that is the first reaction of my coworkers, when I said I was planning a visit to this city. Riga is not a popular tourist destination, at least for the people of Asia. But, not famous does not mean not beautiful. City on the banks of the Daugava River is an important city, because it has a very active trading port since the Middle Ages.
Small Modern Harbor
Latvia is a unique country, because it had changed three rulers: Germany, the Kingdom of Sweden, and the Soviet Union, before finally free to be the state itself. The capital city, Riga, into a city with considerable industrial progress, especially as the port becomes an important place for the traffic of goods between the Baltic states and Europe. Riga residents generally use two languages, namely Russia and Latvia, but many young people who master the English language.
I went with two friends. We departed from Orebro, Sweden, towards Stockholm. Ship departs from Stockholm late afternoon and will arrive in the port of Riga at 9 am the next morning. We can enjoy the islands around Stockholm are skipped ship. At night, we were able to enjoy live music in the bar.
Promptly at 9 am, the ship docked at the Port of Riga. The wind and the scorching heat of the sun directly welcomed the four of us. When it was summer and temperatures approaching 30 degrees Celsius. Because I’m used to the hot summer temperatures tend Swedish cool and cold, summer heat that actually makes me kind of shocked.
Small town many years been a territory of the Kingdom of Sweden and later became part of the Soviet Union, it looks modern. Around the harbor is an office area with some towering buildings. There is a bridge connecting Riga region are separated by the River Daugava.
The streets were originally plated asphalt, now replaced with paving blocks. Tall buildings and modern now transformed into old houses walled, and only two floors high. A distance of several hundred meters away, there are offices and industrial center. It only takes 10 minutes to cross the passage of time.
Faces on the Wall
Along the way the old town, a lot of buildings with architectural art nouvaeu (commonly referred to jugendstill which means youth style, a flow of the art world that affect architecture). Marked with forms inspired from flowers or plants, in the form motif snaking or spiral-tendrils on a pole or building decoration. The number of old buildings make this city received the title of world heritage by UNESCO. Even old buildings in this area are well maintained.
Riga city hall is one of the buildings with architectural jugendstill. Which makes it unique is the presence of diverse human face carved on the walls. I imagine, might be intimidating if walking in the area in the afternoon or evening foggy. Fog can effect the faces are moving
Old Town Churches
Entering the old city area, we can walk freely without trepidation, because motorized vehicles are not allowed to enter this area. Cafes and souvenir shops occupy old buildings. So interestingly, I got stopped many times to take photos or simply looked inside. From the map, I saw there were dozens of pictures of the church in the old town area. Many churches could be caused by a number of people from various countries who arrive in this port city.
Our first stop is the Church of St. James. This is the only Catholic church were left standing after Riga was under the rule of the Soviet Union. Some churches converted to the Lutheran church, when Riga became part of Sweden. Others become Orthodox Catholic Church, when it became part of the Soviet Union.
I immediately saw the table displaying a variety of cards that contains a set of saints and various prayers in the back of the card. All the prayers in the card is written in Russian. There seller rosary beside the card tables. Church elongated space looks a bit congested because of filled with tourists.
Out of St. James, our next destination was Riga Dom cathedral. The cathedral church is a Lutheran church, which was built around the 13th century. Riga Dom is the largest church in the Baltic states, the church building is circular and roofed dome has experienced an improvement in their life history. Although built in different centuries of the Church of St. James, the main building of the church is using the same raw material, red brick. This makes the churches in Riga looks uniform. Just by walking a few meters, has four churches I visited.
Lured by Amber Stone
In the summer the open market can be found along the streets of the old town. The goods are sold in the form of knit gloves and various cooking utensils made of wood. Apple wood, wood ash and cedar wood is made into a variety of equipment, such as spoon, spoon of sugar, and a jar of herbs. The shape is nice and light.
A few tablespoons of sugar and coffee I buy for souvenirs. I was served by the son of the owner of the kiosk, with fluent English. With agile, he explained, of any wood furniture was made. According to him, the equipment can be durable wood. Because, more often washed, further strengthen the timber.
There are also a few vendors selling matrioska, Russian dolls is said to bring good luck. Seller matrioska and gloves on average mothers who are old. Although not speak English, they are friendly and greet the fans in Russian.
One item that is dominant in the market of the old city is amber jewelry. Orange red rock is a rock taken from the Baltic Sea. Usually tied with the silver pendant, or a few small amber stones strung into a bracelet. This jewelry to my attention because it is unique. Not just the type of stone, but also the shape of the pendant.
I saw the shape of a frog pendant that can be swayed, like a hand puppet and twin fish. Ulle warned me to be careful when choosing jewelry amber, because there are sellers who mix it with similar colored glass. Not only sellers in the street, but also in the gift shop that looks more luxurious. After a long pick, I finally decided to buy two pendants, frog hand puppets and twin fish. Both are decorated with amber tied with silver.
Frankly, language becomes an obstacle to make transactions on the open market. Some tourists bargaining in the old way, write down the desired price on a piece of paper, then repaid by the seller to write down the price he gave
Ukraine Food Tasting
While down the road along the Daugava River, we reached the central market Riga, Centralirgus. From a distance, the shape of the market building was a bit odd, has a ceiling high enough. I missed surprise when my friend explained that the market occupies a former airplane hangar.
Here are sold fresh fruit and vegetables sold on a wooden table. Tea, coffee, and pastries in one block; clothing and accessories, even in the other blocks. Market atmosphere similar to the atmosphere of a wholesale market in Jakarta. Only, the market here is not muddy. I buy an ounce of biscuits and drinks named latsvi, fermented oat using baker’s yeast.
The sun was higher, the air is hotter, and we started to feel hungry. We found a pizza restaurant on the roadside. The place is quite large and crowded. It turns out, not just pizza that is served here. There are a variety of typical food of Eastern Europe, such as alias pelmeny fried dumplings (typical food Ukraine) and borscht (beet soup cold with sour cream).
I ordered a serving of borscht and fries. A bowl of fresh and chilled borscht feels very creamy, suitable eaten while hot air like this.
- Riga is not too big, you can walk to enjoy the beauty of the city. Can also get around the city by bike. In some parts of the city, there are many bike rental places. You just put a coin in the machine at the rental facility. Once completed, you are free to return at a bike rental place anywhere.
- Riga also has some public transportation, such as trams, buses, and subways. Get tickets for trams and buses, complete with a map of the track at various kiosks throughout Riga, or at the Riga Central Station which is located not far from the main market. One-way ticket is 0.40 lats.
- The cost of a three star hotel in Riga ranging from $ 30
- Even if already a member of the European Union, Latvia retains its own currency, the lats
- The price of food is cheap. You just spent 10 lats for serving lunch.
- Jewelry amber you can buy at prices starting at 10 lats. Provide cash in an amount sufficient, because it is rather difficult to find stores that accept credit cards