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.
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…
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.
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.
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.