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.
- Budget Travel
- Museum Visits
- Arts and Culture
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!!!
Lock your Love
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!
Greet your guests with flowers
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...
Most steeples of Riga churches are topped by gilded cocks. Contrary to the sinister biblical significance of this animal, in Latvian folkore it stands for vigilance and safeguards from evil, when the cock crows for the third time, the devil must retreat back to hell.
The practice of placing a cock on the spire of churches stems from Middle Age Europe, where the cock also had a practical use as a windvane.
Riga Black Balsam - Local Speciality
Riga Black Balsam opens a whole world of sensations with its 24 ingredients. Subtle hints of linden blossom, birch bud, valerian root, raspberry, bilberry, and ginger as well as touches of nutmeg and black peppercorn tease the palate and come alive in the glass.
Riga Black Balsam was first made in Riga in the middle of the 18th century. The legend has it that Empress Catherine the Great of Russia, having fallen ill during a visit to Latvia, was cured after drinking Riga Black Balsam.
During my stay it was so freezing that I tried it - and I did not get sick :-)
- Food and Dining
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
Smoking and drinking
It's not allowed to smoke in public places and public transport. If it's necessity to smoke better to check whether there are special signs which allowing to do that. Mostly in all restaurants and bars nowadays smoking is prohibited, you can smoke only outside.
It's not allowed to drink alcohol in public places, except restaurants and bars where it is served. It also isn't allowed to walk with open bottle. With alcohol I mean also beer.
Latvians don't rip you off, they are not rude and are down-to-earth people. But they ar different from many other Eastern Europeans in one way.. they are not the friendliest people around.
It's because of the Russian occupation according to them, and that's one way to recognize Russians from Latvians. Latvians don't smile and look rather grumpy. Sure, they are polite and helpfull and have a good attitude, but the looks on their faces are not that cheerfull. Don't let it scare you off.
Buy a bag
A good example of Russian culture in Riga is buying bags. Some people are ashamed they buy stuff at the market or just like that feeling that you are walking around with a bag of some expensive label. So here's the solution, for a few cents you buy a Dolce & Gabanna bag (or whatever fashion brand) and put your cheap vegetables and pork meat in this bag. That makes people think you just bought expensive fashion while it's just items from the market.
Walking around in Riga makes you think there is not much ethnical diversion. But Latvians are actually a small group in the population of Riga. Many people from the Ukraine, Belarus and Russia (as well as the other Baltic countries) live in Riga. You can see a fair amount of influenec as you will find quite a deal of Cyrillic writings around. And not to forget, the central market which is Russian style.
Also Russian food can be tried out. But when you want to drink a beer, stick to the Latvian Zelta..
Riga is supposed to be the city with the finest collection of art nouveau buildings all over Europe. Its historic centre, in 1997, was inscribed to the UNESCO world heritage sites.
Art Nouveau/Jugendstil is an international style of decoration and architecture which developed in the 1880s and 1890s - sometimes it is also called Liberty. Emphasis is on the decorative elements (sometimwa symbolistic) of the building's facades.
Two names, to mention the best-known ones are Gaudi in Spain and Wright in the USA. And, in case you are not interested in architecture... what about a designer like Tiffany? This is Art Nouveau/Jugendstil, too.
Latvian Lats and Money Exchange
The local currency in Latvia is the Latvian Lats (Ls). Cash can be exchanged at banks and exchange offices. Before exchanging money, I recommend you to check the rates and fees of a few offices. There are often differences in the rates.
The sign "0 % COMMISSION" does mostly refer only to "SELL" and not to "BUY" transactions. So don't hesitate to ask, how much you really get for your money.
Don't change your money on the street; these people usually cheat you with other foreign currencies.
- Budget Travel
Rings on the bridge in
This is a very nice tradition: couples who are getting married putting locks on this bridge in this parc as a symbol for their "unbreakable" love that will (hopefully) last forever! You can find this bridge in the Bastejkalns parc.
Mixture of Languages...
When I landed at Riga Lidosta International Airport I was convinced I would have found all the signs written in Russian... but I was wrong cause I found Latvian and English signs!
Latvian people is always mixing Latvian and Russian all the time... so it could be better if you know at least a little Russian cause English is not so spoken among adults...
I found Russian language really charming and I like the sounds of words...
The titular nation - the Latvians - are in Riga still heavily outnumbered by the Russians. Latvia’s autochthonous population suffered most of the 3 Baltic states of the 45 years Soviet rule. The result of deportation, genocide and emigration of Latvians and mass immigration of Soviet occupants resulted in only 51.7 % of Latvia’s population being ethnic Latvians at the beginning of independence. This has now slightly changed in favour of the Latvians because most of the Latvians who survived the deportations came back as did quite many who emigrated overseas. At the other hand some Russians etc. emigrated after independence, but mostly not to the neighbouring former homeland Russia. But the number of non-autochthonous residents (legal and illegal ones) is still by far the highest in Europe.
As a means to integrate the non-autochthonus residents the Baltic countries offer now the easiest way of access to citizenship of all civilized countries (in Switzerland for example fulfillment of these conditions would not even be enough for a permanent residence as a foreign citizen). It is more than generous and quite unique that citizenship is offered to occupants and this seems still not to be enough for the former occupants as the cases at the European Court of Justice show.
But nevertheless the integration seems partially to be successful, other than in 1992 I found in 2002 that many of the ethnic Russians living in Latvia today appear quite assimilated and far less “Russian” than the “Germans” from Russia who emigrated under the last two decades to Germany and are there living often in some sorts of ghettos and are still speaking Russian.
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