Bastejkalns Park, Riga
Riga's semi-circular canal, which loops the Old City, was part of its historic fortifications with the River Daugava completing the city's encirclement. In 1857, whilst part of the Russian Empire, the eastward-facing defensive embankments were deemed redundant and the former moat redesigned as a city park.
On an early summer evening, with the sun shining, this proved to be a more than pleasant wander after dinner - a pleasure for both us visitors and for the local people.
I'll let the pictures tell their own story:
This lovely park was created in the late 1800s on the site of Riga's old town walls and, in effect, divides the old town from the newer (but not new) Centra district. It is divided by Brivibas Bulvaris (although the canal continues underneath the road) where you will find the Freedom Monument.
The Pilsetas canal snakes through Bastejkalns...you can take boat rides, or hire one of the small boats....and there are mature trees, grassy banks, pleasant walks, benches, bridges and flowerbeds. And a couple of cafes too, of course.
It has its sadness too. in 1991 Russian Special forces attacked the Ministry of the Interior building, killing several reporters, two policemen and a schoolboy in the process. Their monuments lie on 'Bastion Hill' (not a bastion at all but an artificial mound created with the remains of the city walls when they were demolished).
I really enjoyed wandering through and past Pilsetas park on my way to and from the old town. It's a lovely place and felt very safe, in the daytime at least (I wasn't there after dark, for obvious reasons). It's an oasis of green calm in the heart of the city.
Stretching from the Daugava to the train station, the Riga canal snakes through some beautifully landscaped parkland. The water is filled with boats and fountains, and on hot blue sky days the banks are lined with sunbathers. Criss-crossing the canal across the bridges makes for a nice escape from the tight, tourist-clogged streets of the old town.
Coming over Bastion Hill you’re greeted by an outdoor dance floor filled with energetic couples. Welcome to Bastejkalns Park. A little further on you come to Lover’s bridge (second picture) where locks have be placed and keys tossed into the canal to pledge eternal love.
Following a tradition that, according to popular belief, started in the 1980s in the southern Hungarian town of Pecs, the Latvians now have their own Love Padlocks. This tradition now spans the globe, from Turin to Taiwan and from Montevideo to Moscow. The Latvians have their own twist on it, with the lovers throwing the key into the river under the bridge after locking.
There is a bridge where for some time now romantic couples have been engraving their names onto a padlock and then locking the Padlock onto the ironwork on a bridge.
Location - in the Park near the Big Statue for Latvian Independence - near where the boats leave.
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 small bridge located in the Bastejkalns city park is a centerpiece of a tradition. Couples fallen in love take a lock, attach it to the bridge and throw the key into the channel. Some of the locks have engravings showing the names of the couple, some have some other small thing which makes them special.
The Peace Dance Statue was created during the 1970s and on first sight does not appear to be anything out of the ordinary. However, on closer inspection you can see that there are bullet holes in the statue - these date from the struggles of January 1991, when the crumbling Soviet Union was desperately trying to cling on to Latvia - as Latvia tried to gain its independence, which it did successfully. The ethereal nature of the statue is given an added poignancy by the bullet holes.
Riga has a very green centre with many well tended parks. They are the perfect place for people watching and relaxing after or during sightseeing. If you want, you can even go paddleboating on the canal.
And for all you loved up couples out there, in Bastejkalns park, there is a bridge, where lovers attach a padlock on their engagement day or anniversary.
My favourite park is just behind the Freedom momument and stretches northeast of Vecriga, Oldriga that is to say. There is a canal running through it, and a little hill called Bastejkalns. I really like walking the park on a nice day, sit on a bench, smoke a fag and down a nice beer. But make sure the cops dont see ya, it's illegal to drink alcohol in the public nowadays. What a shame.
Pãrsla Zalkalne created this work of art, and as one can obviously see, it is a sculpture of three nude young women dancing in a circle. It was made around 1970 and fits well with the trees and green plains surrounding it in summer. In the 60s and 70s all the sculptures and paintings were supposed to symbolize the peace and ideas that the Soviet Union had brought. When this sculpture was made, the Soviets did not like the idea of the nude women, so Pãrsla Zalkalne had to create a soothing name for his sculpture. Therefore it is called "Peace Dance."
Are those bullet holes?
If you look closely at the Peace Dance sculpture, you will notice bullet holes. The are from January, 1991 when defenders of the barricade were killed by the Soviets.
The return of Latvian Independence did not come without victims. On January 20th 1991, at the edge of the Riga calan at Bastejkalns, special units of the Soviet army shot and killed 5 Latvian patriots: the two camera men Andris Slapins and Gvido Zvaigzne, a schoolboy called Edijs Reikstins, and the two policemen lieutenants Sergei Kononenko and Vladimir Gomanovic. At the spots where they fell, the sculptor Arvids Voitbabs placed five reddish-brown stones representing blood drops from the five Latvians.
They were unveiled on the 10th of August 1991, and each stone has a polished surface on which it has the inscription??"Shot on 20th of August 1991" and is cut in half - a life interrupted.
The gardens which stretch along Riga's Canal dividing the old and new town areas are a very pleasant place for a stroll and a spot of people watching.