Sunday, 27 March 2016

St.Peter's Church - best views over Riga

Weather in early March does not spoil those exploring the windy streets of Old Riga - at times you need both your hands to wrap your coat tighter around you.

On a Sunday afternoon the street are eerily deserted. All of a sudden there's a wistful echo of a lonely cello. An old man, huddled in the corner of Riga Dome Cathedral's courtyard is playing a melody that stops me on my tracks: Finlandia hymn, an ode to my country and the struggle it had to go through in order to gain and maintain her independence against the Soviet.

All of a sudden I feel warm and proud. I wonder if he knows the lyrics? How do they make him feel? Then the patriotism gives way to sadness and solidarity. How differently things would have turned out for this nation, had they, too,  succeeded in their struggle against that same enemy...

Where ever you turn, you only seem to run into one of the many churches in Old Town. And there are many: Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran and Reform.

Their spires are a permanent fixture of skyline where ever you look.

The oldest churches, located on the bank of river Daugava form an interesting exception: instead of cross, their towers sport a rooster.

There are several explanations for this. According to pagan tradition roosters ward off evil spirits, whereas the more Christian interpretation explains roosters symbolize watchfulness and vigilance before the Lord.

For best, 360-degree panoramic views over the rooftops of Riga, you should head over to St. Peter's Church (for blog's walking tour on these picturesque streets, see here).

Built in early 13th century its architecture represents Gothic, Roman and Baroque features. The tower of this Lutheran church is the highest in Old Town. In 1997 it was included in the UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Admission to the top is €9. Luckily these days there's a lift in the third floor that saves you from a very steep and painful climb to the top (anybody remember Seville?)

It's windy at the top and with only a narrow corridor circling the tower you need to be prepared to fight for the best spots with Russian tourists waving their selfie sticks and the Asians armed with their state of the art Canons. But the views are spectacular.

I immediately spotted several monuments familiar from the last trip. 

That one in the middle is the Freedom monument, which I was told was so heavily guarded during the Soviet Era you couldn't even dream of approaching it. Even loitering in the vicinity for too long was considered so suspicious it could warrant you an interrogation (for more on KGB's head quarters in Riga which still today leaves a visitor silent with disbelief, please see here).

And hey - there are the zeppelins of the Central Market! (For a full tour of this glorious place, just click here).

And behind the market, there's that great love of mine: Stalin's Birthday Cake. Every bit as gorgeous as it was the first time around. 

Behind that, you can see the Old Jewish Ghetto, which I couldn't skip this time either. 

For a video footage from the top, just check my Twitter feed.

But no, Riga still had some surprises in store for us. As we exited the church, we were hijacked to play a part in a Dutch role playing game, in which we had to re-enact Rembrandt's Night Watch.

As a souvenir I was awarded the plastic machine gun I'd been given as part of my role. Just imagine the reactions the butt, sticking out of my hand bag for the rest of the day evoked in people...





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