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Latvia: Riga Old Town

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Riga Old Town | Latvia | Europe

[Visited: June 2013]

The entire week in Latvia, the weather had been brilliant; while most others in Europe had suffered the worst spring in decades, Latvians had been lucky with the warmest summer in a long time. But my luck was coming to an end when I stepped off the bus in Riga. Raindrops were falling from the sky, which looked like it would stay overcast forever. I had visited many different places in Latvia the preceding days, and only had one long evening and a morning left for Riga. I had hoped for a beautiful summer evening, but when I walked out of my hostel, the weather did not seem to improve. I walked around the old town, criss-crossing the streets without any particular plan, just to get the feel, and ideas of where to return.

Picture of Riga Old Town (Latvia): The Three Brothers of Riga

The famed beauty of the city had not escaped me, and even with the grey light on the Latvian capital, I quickly found out its fame is well deserved. I saw tall buildings adorned with exquisite sculptures sticking out of its facade, I saw remnants of the old city wall, I saw towers covered by plants, I noticed the old town has a high density of churches. When I came to the Town Hall Square, the rain was getting a little too much for me, and I sought shelter at the entrance of the Town Hall. Right across the square with a statue of Roland in the middle, I now had time to look at the richly decorated facade of the House of Blackheads, originally built in the 14th century, but destroyed in World War II and completely rebuilt between 1995-99. If anything, the rain was getting worse, and I decided to have a quick dinner in a traditional Latvian restaurant. Indeed, it was a little better when I got out, and I walked to the northern part of the Old Town, where I saw Riga Castle, now house of the president, and walked one of the narrow cobble-stone streets to the Three Brothers, three buildings of Riga, one of which is the oldest dwelling in the city. When I reached Jacob's Barracks, a row of restored yellow buildings, it was simply not pleasant anymore to be outside, and I took shelter in one of the many bars of Riga.

Picture of Riga Old Town (Latvia): Narrow cobble stone street lined by colourful houses in the old town of Riga

The next morning, I was out before sunrise, to find the streets still wet. It was an early Saturday morning, and the streets were full of people who had been going out Friday night. I got more than one stare, walking the streets of the Latvian capital with my camera, where most people out there were trying to negotiate the slippery cobble stones with the insecure feet of the drunk; especially the women on their high heels were having a hard time. The rain had stopped, but the sky was grey; the beauty of the city shone through anyway. Faces were looking at me from the facades of the buildings like they had been doing for centuries, the golden details of the House of the Blackheads glistened, and I tried to imagine what the city must look like in sunshine. Good thing: apart from the few drunks, the streets were empty, where the day before, the small old town had felt overloaded with visitors. I could now enjoy looking at the medieval doors and windows, facades and churches with the feeling of having it all to myself. Time was running too fast, though, and when it was time to leave, the city was slowly waking up, while I hoped to be back one day with better weather conditions.

Picture of Riga Old Town (Latvia): Example of the rich decorations on the buildings of the old town of Riga
Picture of Riga Old Town (Latvia): Row of houses on cobble stone street at one of the many squares of the old town of Riga
Picture of Riga Old Town (Latvia): Richly decorated building in the old town of Riga
Picture of Riga Old Town (Latvia): Building with two narrow cobble stone streets in the old town of Riga
Picture of Riga Old Town (Latvia): Some of the buildings in the old town still need repairs
Picture of Riga Old Town (Latvia): White woman sculpted on the facade of a building in the old town of Riga
Picture of Riga Old Town (Latvia): The Powder Tower covered by climbers in the old town of Riga
Picture of Riga Old Town (Latvia): House of Blackheads and the spire of the Church of St. Peter in the background on a very early summer morning on Town Square, or Rātslaukums
Picture of Riga Old Town (Latvia): Statuettes adorning a building in the old town of Riga
Picture of Riga Old Town (Latvia): A row of houses, Jacob's Barrack, on the northern side of the old town of Riga
Picture of Riga Old Town (Latvia): Building in the old town of Riga
Picture of Riga Old Town (Latvia): Pink, yellow and light blue houses in the old town of Riga
Picture of Riga Old Town (Latvia): Decorated facade of a building in the old town of Riga

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