Me: Why is there a cat on everything?
Random local: I don’t know.
Me: Why is the cat the symbol of Riga?
Tourist Information Office chap: It’s not official. It’s something to do with a story…or something.
Me: Do know what the cat on this magnet symbolises?
Market vendor: *shrugs*
A word to the wise, Rigans – if the tourist is asking, the tourist doesn’t know. So make it up! There are cats everywhere. On magnets, in pub names, on graffiti, on postcards – everywhere. Surely someone must know why? And if not, is it beyond the realm of reason to suggest that someone could come up with a plausible story? It’s not like I’m not going to believe you. I do it all the time in Budapest when someone asks me what such and such a building is… I spin a yarn, their curiosity is sated, no one dies. It’s a perfect win.
It’s a scary world when I have to resort to Google over local lore to find an answer to what seems on the face of it to be a relatively simple question. Apparently back in the fourteenth century, an architect applied for membership of the Great Guild and was turned down. He was so upset that he put a black cat on the roof of his building with its backside facing the guild. The famous Black Cat of Riga, complete with arched back, symbolised said architect’s displeasure. Easy enough to remember eh? So why then did 100% of those I asked not know about it? Okay, admittedly, it was a small survey, but still! And by the way – said architect got his way in the end and turned the cat around.