Sublimimal messages

As I was reading Henning Mankell’s The dogs of Riga in January, I never guessed for a minute that I would end up in the city a scarce three months later. I’ve always known I was gullible. I’m every advertisers dream. I go into a store for milk and come away with every product I’ve seen advertised that week. Which is why I don’t have a TV. Am way too impressionable.

IMG_3531 (800x600)What I knew about Riga last week could have been written on an ink-repellant beer mat. Okay, I knew it was the capital of Latvia, but that’s it. I didn’t know, for instance, that the Old Town is listed with UNESCO as a world heritage site. Or that it’s the biggest city in the Baltic States (in fact, I’m not sure I could name the Baltic states!). I had some vague notion that it will be European Capital of Culture in 2014 but didn’t know that it is the only city in Europe where five religious churches are located. I also didn’t know it was the cleanest capital in Europe in 2007 and I wonder how they worked that one out…

Sun Stone building on the left; Vansu bridge, right.

Sun Stone building on the left; Vansu bridge, right.

The Sun Stone building is the tallest in Riga and the second-highest in the Baltics (122.78 metres)  and the first of its kind to be built after the Russians left. Located on the west bank of the Daugava river, it’s known locally as Saules akmens or  Swedbank’s Central Office.  The Cable bridge (Vanšu tilts) is 595 meters long and was built during the Soviet era and originally named Gorky Bridge (Gorkija tilts) after the man himself  Maxim Gorky.

Latvian TV skyscraper

Latvian TV skyscraper

The TV skyscraper is a mere 22-storey construct, built on the island of Zakusala. It reminds me a little of the Needle in Dublin – even if it looks nothing like it.

Library (left), stone bridge, and Central market (right)

Library (left), railway bridge, and Central market (right)

The National Library of Latvia (NLL) is home to 4.1 million books in 50 languages. I could get lost in there. I’m not at all sure though whether I like the building. It only opened to the public this year and what I find most remarkable is that back in 1999 almost all 170 UNESCO member states adopted a resolution to ensure all possible support for the implementation of the NLL project. What registers on people’s order of importance in the grand scheme of things is truly subjective.

Up until the eighteenth century, a common pronouncement heard in Riga was ‘as impossible as a bridge over Daugava’. The Swedes put paid to this, though, when in 1701, they constructed the first floating bridge that connected Vecriga with Pardaugava. This was replaced by a pontoon bridge and in 1872 and 1914, two more bridges were built, including the Iron Bridge which was destroyed in WWII. The Daugava River in Riga now has five bridges: the Railway bridge (Dzelzceļa tilts); the Stone bridge (Akmens tilts); the Cable Bridge (Vanšu tilts); Salu Bridge (Salu tilts); and the Southern Bridge (Dienvidu tilts).
IMG_3485 (600x800)
These photos were taken from the seventeenth floor of the Latvian Academy of Sciences, a 21-storey building thought to be the first skyscraper in Latvia. It took ten years to build (1951-1961) and strangely enough was built on the site of a Lutheran cemetery and church. I’m superstitious … I’d have trouble working there, magnificent and all though the building  is.
Interestingly, when I Googled it, I came across a page listing the mind-boggling achievements of science in Latvia that doesn’t appear to have been updated since 2007. I wonder if there’s a message in that? And speaking of science … apparently some doctors in Riga have opened a restaurant called Hospitalis where the dining room looks like an operating room and the waitresses wear nurse’s uniforms.  There are syringes and operating tools for cutlery as well as test tube and beakers for wine glasses. A skip or a must-see?
5 replies
  1. Rosemary
    Rosemary says:

    I think you sure get around ,Lady..What in the world are you doing in Latvia ? It isn’t a place people put on their Bucket List …LOL

  2. Dani
    Dani says:

    great post, Mary.
    I spent 2 months there earlier this year. The central market is huge, the biggest indoor market in Europe, i heard, and the pomegranates from Azerbaijan are amazing and really cheap. I was living on them for most of the time.
    just my 5 cents, in case you go back there…


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Talk to me...