Latvia is one of the last places I ever expected to find myself. (Okay, maybe Yemen or Afghanistan are less likely.) Having no idea what to expect, we decided to download a self-guided walking tours and explore on our own. Boy am I glad we did!
Come with us now as we visit the historic Old Town of Riga, Latvia.
One of the most notable buildings in Riga is the House of Blackheads. The Brotherhood of Blackheads was a guild for unmarried merchants in the 14th century. Apparently being unmarried made one ineligible to join the Great Guild (whose building is much less impressive).
Unfortunately, the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia was closed. It details Latvian occupation by the Soviets and Nazi Germany. It was also our first look a genuine Soviet-era building where functionality was clearly much more important than design.
We left the medieval old town, and walked past Freedom Monument to Riga’s Art Nouveau district. This area of town is recognized by UNESCO as having the largest collection of Art Nouveau buildings anywhere in the world!
As a bonus, a local Latvian butterfly decided that Stephanie’s shoulder was a good spot to take a rest for a bit.
On our way back to the ship, we passed the ruins of the old city wall as well as the famous Cat House. The legend goes that a merchant who was denied membership in the Great Guild commissioned the building and placed two statues of angry cats with their raised tails pointed towards the Great Guild Hall. Eventually, he was accepted, and had the cats turned around.
We also checked out the Swedish Gate which runs right through the ground floor of a 17th century house. It supposedly brings good luck to wedding couples who walk through it. We walked through it just in case that luck is still good 13 years later.
We brought our visit to Latvia to a close by starting a new “tradition.” Up until this point of our transatlantic cruise, we happened to purchase a local treat (or two) in every port we stopped at. I declared to someone that it was our tradition to sample the local treats in every port. When Stephanie responded “It is!?” I declared, “Well, it is now.” We went easy in Latvia. Only four items to sample…