Baltic Sea Cruise, Country #2: Riga, Latvia

Sorry it took a little while between these posts – we’ll try to get them up sooner!

Saturday, 12 August 2017:

Our Day #1 on the Royal Caribbean Cruise was a cruising day. We just relaxed by the pool/hot tub and explored the ship. This was our first formal night, where we got a bit dressy and simply enjoyed our night.

Sunday, 13 August 2017:

  • Arrival: 11:00am (Clearance at 11:30am)
  • Departure: 6:00pm (All Aboard at 5:30pm)
  • Port: Zila Street 22/24, Riga

The first stop in our Baltic Cruise was Riga, Latvia. Riga contains one-third of Latvia’s population and its one tenth of the Baltic states’ population! Old Town Riga (Vecrīga) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was founded in 1201.

We first stopped by the Doma laukums (Cathedral Square). Doma laukums is the largest square in Riga and has several architectural monuments dating from the 19th century to early 20th century. The cathedral for which the square is named after was closed when we arrived, so we decided to return back to it later.

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Cathedral Square

The next site we saw was the House of the Blackheads. It was first constructed in the 14th century for the Brotherhood of Blackheads, which were a guild of unmarried German merchants in Riga. In June 1941, it was bombed by the Germans and the remains were demolished by the Soviets in 1948. I can’t even imagine how people must have felt when two different countries came in to bomb, then completely demolish a building. It must feel very violating and unsettling.

What we currently see was created in the late 20th century. Of course, as it seems with many places in Europe, the building is under construction.

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House of the Blackheads

After the House of the Blackheads, we visited St. Peter’s Church. This Lutheran church dates back to 1209 and was damaged by a city fire in the same year. Less than thirty years later, lightning struck and set fire to the church once again. Restoration began, but then artillery fire destroyed the church (again) in 1941. Restoration began again in 1954. Wow!

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St. Peter’s Church

Inside the church, we noticed that bricks were the main focus of the interior design.

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With this church, you can also go the top to get a 360-view.

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Being at the top, I first noticed that the city of Riga is kind of a mismatch of buildings and houses with no clear street pattern. This was probably due to the fact that the city was under control by others and didn’t gain their independence until recently.

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The Riga Central Market was next, where there are plenty food and homemade goodies. There are both indoor and outdoor parts to this market. Of course, we got a little unknown pastry treat. 🙂

Afterward, we made our way to Vērmanes Garden, which is the oldest public garden in Riga. Originally named Wöhrmann Park in 1814, it was burned down a couple years afterward during the French invasion of Russia, before the Siege of Riga. After some restoration and expansion we have the garden we see today.

Near this garden, there is the beautiful church of Nativity of Christ Cathedral.

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Nativity of Christ Cathedral

Between 1876-1883, this Orthodox church was built when the country was part of the Russian Empire.

When the German troops occupied Riga during WWI, the church went from Russian Orthodox to a Lutheran church, but then back to Orthodox. Lots of changes! When the Latvians gained their independence from the Soviet Union, the church was restored.

Here is a sneak peek of the inside:img_0512-xl

It’s difficult to see from the picture above, but we’ve learned that in Orthodox churches, there are no pews/benches for people to sit or kneel. When services are held in Orthodox churches, the church goers would stand for the amount of time that the service was held sometimes longer than an hour for certain occasions.

And here we are:img_3433-xl

The thing that really struck me was that the city of Riga gained its independence in 1991. 1991? That wasn’t that long ago. We did pass The Freedom Monument, which signifies this city’s independence. However, it was literally 100% covered from top to bottom (under construction) and you couldn’t physically see any part of the monument. There isn’t a picture because there wasn’t anything to see, lol.

Making our way past this church, we visited Alberta St., which is most known for its Art Nouveau. Art Nouveau is a style of artwork that was popular in 1890-1910, but its popularity quickly decreased after this time period. This type of artwork is done on multistory apartment buildings, and here are a few examples in Riga:

A little closeup of a piece of artwork on one of the buildings…perhaps a bit disturbing? :/

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Afterward, we found the Cat House, where the legend of the black cat is represented.

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As you can there are black cats on top of this building. Legend has it that the owner, Blumer, was refused membership to the Great Guild of Riga. In revenge, Blumer placed cats on the roof of his house and had their tails turn toward the Great Guild building. This pose was considered offensive since the building was on the opposite side. This caused a scandal in the city, and this legend has become one of Old Riga.

Well…it’s a legend. Perhaps not a very exciting one, but a legend nonetheless, lol.

One of our final stops was the Three Brothers, which represents the different architecture throughout the years. Together, they are the oldest complex of houses in Riga.

Our final stop in this city was the Lutheran Riga Cathedral.

What’s interesting about this church is that it’s famous for its historical pipe organ. But…remember how I have mentioned sometimes that things are always in construction in Europe? Guess what was under construction in this church? If you guessed their famous organ, you are correct!

The organ is behind all that construction in the picture below. Oh boy. If we would have known before, we would not have entered the church, but the sign that states it’s under construction wasn’t posted until after we waited in a decently long line and paid to enter…

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Part of why it was so historical was the fact that this church once held the largest organ in the world. Unfortunately, it was destroyed in a fire during the mid-16th century. Later on in the 16th century, a new organ was constructed. Throughout the years, the organ has been reconstructed and restored.

Currently, the church holds several musical events and houses several artifacts from its original construction.

*Fun Fact*

Most ancient churches have a weathercock instead of a cross or a typical weather vane on its roof. The most common story goes back to when Jesus was alive and stated that Peter would deny him as his savior three times before the rooster crows. The rooster then became known as a symbol, and eventually an emblem, of Peter in Christianity.

Around the 9th century, Saint Nicholas declared that a weathercock had to be placed on top of churches. It was to symbolize Peter’s betrayal of Jesus. Time passed and this rule became less strict, but you can still see some of these weathercocks on top of certain ancient churches.

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Who knew? Well, I had no idea, but I’m glad that we learned something new!

After visiting the church, our visit to Riga came to a close since we had to board the ship at a specific time to move onto the third country. It was a good start to a fantastic trip!

On the cruise ship, we simply relaxed a bit, had dinner, saw the live show, and prepared for the next day!

Thank you for for tuning in and look for our next post where we visit Tallinn, Estonia!

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Click here for more pictures of Riga, Latvia!

Thank you for reading! Until next time!

 

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