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Our Danish Neighbors

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The picture on the left was taken out of the fourth floor window of our apartment. It's looking at the Danish flag in the tiny courtyard of the Danish Embassy, which is across the street from us. The yellow building you also see is the pre-school that was remodeled over the summer. 
The courtyard in the foreground belongs to the Danish Embassy. The plants and flowers surrounding the tiny space shield the staff from onlookers when they are outside eating their lunches during the summer. 
The embassy is a small oddly-shaped building. Since it was built in 1901, it has a bit of the Art Nouveau style with flourishes in the architecture. It fits on this small bit of land near the Anglican Church which accounts for the very narrow structure. 



There is a symbol of Denmark next to the door that faces our street-Anglikanu. That was the clue that tipped us off to being an embassy when we first moved into our flat. We often see large black important-looking cars parked in front of the door. 



Fro…

More Buildings, Another Tale

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Last week I wrote about buildings in Old Town Riga with different histories. This week I'll take you on a tour of a newer section of the city and explain Riga's Art Nouveau architecture.Art Nouveau, or Jugendstil in the German language, was a style of architecture that was very prominent for only 20 years from about 1895 to 1914. Since Riga was expanding at that time, it has gained a reputation for Art Nouveau style. Over one third of Riga's buildings were built during this short period of time. Art Nouveau is most easily spotted by the extra flourishes added to the outside of the buildings. Often they include figures, animals, plants or faces from Greek mythology.

Nature was very important to the era of Art Nouveau. All buildings have some aspect of nature in their edifices. An owl can be seen perched on top of the door in the picture below. 




This form of architecture can be seen on most of the buildings on Albert Street in Town Center. Most of these pictures were taken whi…

Buildings Tell a Tale

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Buildings in Old Town Riga tell the story of this great city. Just the shape of the building can tell a person how old it is. The building on the right is very old, probably late 15th Century, with several hints to that fact. First, the protruding wood at the top tells us that originally there was a pulley system installed there to lift heavy objects to the different floors of the building. The items raised by pulleys would be pulled into the building through doors on each floor. Those doors are now just wooden boards. 
Another hint of it's age is the size of the windows. Tiny windows kept in the heat during winter. Imagine how dark the rooms would be, however. The ancient door is hard to see in the shadow, but it is crude wood planks fastened by an iron bar. The door was large to allow the horses and wagons to be brought into the basement. 
 The late 16th Century saw this next type of house. Notice the windows are larger. The old door can still be seen on the left of the building. …

A Museum Explains it All

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During our beautiful fall weather last Saturday, my husband and I had a chance to check out the Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation. From the outside, the museum isn't too impressive, as you can see in the photo on the left. It's in a building adjacent to the St. Mary's Cathedral in Old Town Riga.




But, inside the treasures we found brought life to many of the items that I've written about on this blog. For one thing, we saw the original Big Christopher statue that I wrote about in my May 6th blog. This original statue was built in 1683. No wonder they keep it in the museum now. 



We also saw items dating back to the 1200s. Among them were logs from a wooden bridge. These items were discovered in 1939 while doing excavation work in Old Town Riga. The items were buried about 10 feet below the ground surface - as I described in the August 19th blog. 


Also displayed from the early 13th century was the outer planking of a Riga ship. The ancient single-masted ship was …

One Castle, Two Events, Two Centuries

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Last week I introduced you to the castle in Torgau, Germany - the one with the bears in the moat. This week I'm going to tell you about two important events that happened at the Schloss Hartenfels 400 years apart. 
The first event happened in 1544 and is important to Lutherans. Duke John Frederick, nephew of Frederick the Wise, commissioned Martin Luther to design the new chapel in the palace. It was the first space specifically designed for Protestant worship. 


The free-standing altar was unique at the time, allowing the pastor to consecrate the Lord's Supper facing the people. The simplicity of the design was in contrast to the ornate decorations in Catholic Churches in Europe.
The same design became the model in other churches built subsequently for Lutheran worship. 


The pulpit was built in the middle of the worship space, as was common in many churches, so that the preacher could be heard throughout the chapel. The choir loft was built in the rear of the chapel area. 

Luther h…

Yikes, Bears!

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When we were in Germany last month, we visited a castle that had a unique way of defending itself since 1425. Instead of filling the moat separating the castle from the city with water, the duke living in the castle was protected by a bear pit.

When the enemies were approaching the castle, the duke could raise the drawbridge and have the enemy face a moat with bears in it. I'm guessing that the threat of a bear attack kept most enemies from climbing down the twenty foot wall to cross over to the castle walls. 



Protected by the bears, Schloss Hartenfels was located in the city of Torgau along the Elbe River in eastern Germany. Over the 500 years of its existence, the castle has seen many phases of construction. Today it is a beautiful fortress with a spacious courtyard in the center.







One of the unique things about the castle is the tower protruding into the inner courtyard. It was built between 1533 and 1537.  The highly decorated tower holds a spiral staircase, leading to the ent…

Why Roosters?

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Last week I wrote about cats being on the roof of a building, but today I'm going to share the reason that we have roosters sitting on the tip of churches in Riga. When we first moved to Riga, we noticed that some churches have the usual crosses on the top of them, but others have roosters sitting on top of the steeple.


I couldn't recall ever seeing a rooster on top of a steeple. On doing more research, I was wrong to think that other countries don't have these on steeples. I found out that's it's common in European countries to see roosters on top of Lutheran churches.


The more common cross on the top of a steeple is found on Catholic churches in Europe. We have a couple of them in Old Town Riga as well. And, some Catholic churches in Europe have roosters sitting on top of crosses.



So, the question popping into my head is why a rooster? After looking at several sources, it seems like there are three reasons for this steeple top. Almost every site mentioned the st…