If you are starving and can not wait anymore for diner, thats would be for you. Try Latvian rye bread with smoked gammon!!! Usualy when i leave Latvia for a longer time i take one with me. Once i didn't and that was too bad - i never thought that one can miss bread as I did and my friends. It can last fresh for a weeks, but that doesnt mean that there is some preservatives in it. Try "Laca" bakery's bread and you will understand what I mean. You will find it shops or in bazaars.
Not much soviet relicts left in Riga till this time. Even pavement from Soviet Union times is removed and new put in the central part of the city. But some things left and it is because (I guess) that Latvia was a part of Soviet Union and you can’t change it, it is a part of history. Near the Daugava river you can see old sculpture from Soviet Era.
It is as interesting to me as in other towns I see much different religion churches in old town. In Riga old town there are mostly Lutheran and some Catholic churches. The main Orthodox Russian Cathedral is in centre, Brivibas iela.
Surely, in Riga much Russians by percents live (about 35%), but I haven’t had that feeling as I heard mostly Latvian language around, only in old town some English, German...
I was at the Ethnographic Open Air Museum during the celebrations of the Winter Solstice. An old Latvian tradition on this day is to drag around the Yule log, which represents all problems and bad things of the previous year. I followed the crowd around for the two hours the celebrations took place. The Yule log was two small log of woods dragged around in a long rope. People were holding on to the rope as we moved on. At several occasions we stopped and there songs, dances and other rituals were taking place. In the end we stopped near the entrance to the museum and there the Yule log was burned. We all got a small stick (our bad things) to throw in the fire. It was very interesting to see this tradition, which I didn’t know anything before coming here.
Coming back to Old Town in Riga I saw a procession dragging around the Yule log as well but it was a bit different.
Every year, with start on the first advent, there is a Christmas market on Doma Square. Around a big Christmas tree are stalls selling Latvian craft, linen, amber, glassware, sheepskin, hand knitted gloves and caps, wood craft and more. There are also things to eat and drink, like roasted almonds, gingerbread, sausages, smoked fish and hot wine. It is a nice time to spend some time walking around in.
There is also a small market in Livi Square.
Already in 1510 there was a Christmas tree in a public square in Riga.
A tradition for newly married couples in Riga (I also saw it in Sigulda) is to put a padlock on a bridge railing and then throw the key in to the water below. Many of the padlocks are engraved with the names of the couple. It is a way of declaring the bond between them forever. The bridges are cleared now and then though to give space for new padlocks. Footbridges over the Pilsetas canal are popular places to put the padlocks.
This custom is done in other cities as well, for example in Rome, Tokyo and Pécs. The custom is believed to have begun in Pécs in the 1980s.
While we waited to check in to our hotel we went to the "Double Coffe", just next to the hotel, to get something to eat.
Somehow I must have misread the menue (it is in Latvian but also in English) and ordered a cheese burger. A cheese burger in my world is a meat burger with a piece of cheese on top, but that is not the case in Latvia - there a cheese burger is a fried chunk of cheese having the shape of a burger. I'm not a big fan of cheese but this fried cheese chunk was not bad at all when eating it in the bun (with lettuce and tomato, and fries on the side).
This place was the best thing with whole our trip, the park is so beautiful and peaceful. The Pilsetas kanal runns right through and there is a small bridge in the park (look at the pictures) on this bridge it´s tradition to hang a padlock there with the names of those in love. It means that the love of the people who hang their padlocks there will last for ever, and the couple throw the key in the kanal when they locked the padlock.
This is one of the most beautiful parks I´v seen. It´s definatly worth a trip just to go to the park.
This bridge is located in Bastejkalns park just besides Freedom Statue.
I never had so much vodka in my life, as what I had in Riga in 4 days.
The barman of a place just around the corner was providing them almost every 15 minutes.
Not accepting was rude according to him. So instead of walking home, it was crawling home.
I'm not sure if this should be in the customs or the warnings and dangers section to be honest!
In Latvia they have symbols for Gents and Ladies toilets, in the shape of upwards or inverted triangles. This may seem really clever and logical to Latvians, but it totally confused me, and even after reading and re-checking my guide book, I still got it wrong and used the wrong loos in the hotel lobby almost the whole weekend.
This culminated in me hiding away in what had turned out to be the ladies loos for a good 15 minutes when I heard a group of women entering, all chatting away and doing whatever a gaggle of women do in the loo. I had to wait until I could hear no more noise and then make a dash for the door.
Thing was the staff had seen me go in there before and hadn't said anything, so either they were being polite or having a laugh. So perhaps best to ask if you're unsure, and don't always trust your guidebook!
Photo attached is important if you want to avoid the hazards of being trapped a cubicle by your shame at using the wrong facilities!
These signs are something you'll see frequently around Riga. Smoking is banned in most public buildings such as bars, restaurants and cinemas or at the least there is a separate room for smokers. This sign signifies that you shouldn't smoke closer than 10 metres away from a building.
You don't see groups of smokers huddled around entrances to buildings here. In fact even though cigarettes are so cheap, smoking really doesn't seem to be very popular in Latvia at all.
I read that at one stage they had intended banning smoking on the street even but this has been rejected.
In the Museum of Firefighting we were asked to wear these lovely slippers over our shoes. This was kind of difficult because of the large winter boots we were wearing, they kept slipping off, but rules are rules.
It's not often that you have to wear such things in museums, but these were even more bizarre than the plastic slippers that I had to wear in a philatelic museum in Budapest.
The old city of Riga is basically a pedestrian zone with only a few cars and trucks being permitted to drive here. There are barriers around the old city and you can only enter with a special permit! Very nice for pedestrians!!!
In the park next to the Freedom Column there is a small bridge. This bridge is full of padlocks. Young couples put a lock right there to evidence their never ending feelings! What a wonderful idea! Well, Heinz and I felt that after 8 years of marriage it would be a great thing to more or less renew our vows by putting up our own padlock there - and that was what we did first thing in the morning! What a fantastic feeling!
When Latvians meet guests, say at airports or similar, they always buy flowers for their guests. That is such a nice gesture and custom, it is worth taking up! That is also why there is a place to get flowers from at the airport arrivals hall. Naturally you can get flowers anywhere you like, but one good place to get fresh cut flowers is the Flower market in the city centre.
The Flower market is located along Terbatas iela next to the Vermanes Garden and it is open 24 (!) hours! It is especially nice to go there late at night, when few places are open, to enjoy the blossom. The Latvians are good at making beautiful arrangements, and they're not that expensive either. Makes you wish you could take them home with you when you leave...
see all Riga member meetings