The International Writers Magazine: Latvia
Riga: Where the past meets the Future
“Riga is the capital of Latvia, a major industrial, commercial, cultural and financial centre of the Baltics” a few clicks on Wikipedia reveals about the Eastern European city, home for almost a million people. That’s almost half of Latvia’s total population.
For 15 years it was my home, too. I have lived in England for over four years now and my image of Latvia has been put into perspective. I am caught somewhere between a citizen and a tourist.
One image of Riga always mesmerises me. The house of the Black Heads and the view of St. Peter’s church in the Town Hall Square, standing proud even after centuries of oppression and foreign rule. Ironically, without the oppressors, Riga would not have any of its art nouveau buildings that the city is so much praised for.
The heart of the capital, Old Riga, holds a history of over 800 years, but nightlife is still booming here, too. Some bars and clubs are open until 7am, and the solemn church towers watch over people struggling to make it back to their hotels and flats.
||I find the most fascinating thing about Old Riga to be the same as that of London – next to a building that has gathered ghost stories for centuries, you can find a state of the art shopping centre, packed with brand stores and restaurants.
Street names provide a timeless account of the everchanging history of Riga and Latvia. The main street tells the story of a country that has always been torn between the more powerful forces in Europe. Born in the 15th century as Schalportenstrate, then renamed as Adolf Hitler Strasse, it is now Freedom Street and hopefully will remain as such for a long time.
You will find a street of the same name in another 41 cities in Latvia. The Monument of Freedom stands in between the historical centre and the rest of the city as a landmark and a link between the past and the future.
Trams, trains, trolleybuses, cars, pedestrians and even rickshaws all contribute to the noise of traffic in the busy city centre. Mercedes and BMWs mingle with USSR’s pride Moskvich that, in good few years, will probably be worth more than the technical innovations. I am hoping to inherit my dad’s green one, paint it in funky colours and cruise around London.
Within a walking distance, the old-fashioned Central Market with meat, fish and vegetable halls offers the freshest and cheapest goods in town. It’s 17:05 and the sun is starting to set. My stomach is rumbling, so I take half a loaf of truly Northern rye-bread and some smoked Huntsmans’ sausages. I set off for a ride in a ferry across Daugava and embrace my beautiful Latvian heritage with a digital camera.
ieva.lakute at bathspa.org
Ieva is studying Creative Writing at Bath Spa University
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