Showing posts from 2020

Riga's White House

The president of the country of Latvia lives about three blocks from our house in a castle that doesn't look anything like the US White House. His house is called Riga Castle or Rīgas pils in Latvian. The castle is located on Pils Iela - Castle Street which runs past our street.

The Riga Castle is a bit older than the White House in Washington. In 1515, the current castle was finished being built. It had another part added to it in 1641. The previous castle was burned down in the late 1400s. The castle today also holds a museum of Latvian history.

Riga has been governed by several countries during these centuries: including the Lithuanians, Poles, Swedes, Russians and Latvians while this castle stood. It has seen many changes as the rulers changed from one country to the next.

The president of Latvia has lived in the castle since 1922. Of course, during the Soviet era, the government administration was located here, but there was no president then. When independence returned to La…

Where is Riga?

I've had a couple people ask me where in the world are you now? So I thought I'd get down to basics this week and show you a bit about the city of Riga.

Riga is the capital of the country of Latvia - one of the three Baltic countries. It's in between the other two Baltic States of Estonia and Lithuania, all of which border Russia.

To the west of Latvia is the Baltic Sea which is located between the Baltic States, Sweden and Finland. The Daugava River (which is a block from our flat) empties into the Gulf of Riga and out into the Baltic Sea. As a result, Riga's port is very important to the economy of the country of Latvia.

The history of Riga goes back to the early Middle Ages. The Vikings traded with the people who lived along the Daugava River, establishing the first village on the site of Riga today.

When we first visited Riga, we were amazed by the number of large, old churches that we saw. Notice all of the steeples in the top picture. Riga was one of the first c…

New Place, New Space

Now that we're pretty well settled in our flat in Riga, I thought I'd share a bit about our new living arrangements.

We're in a much smaller (and cozier) building this time - a house with only four flats in it. The stone house was built in 1800s so has very thick walls. Hopefully, that will keep out the heat in the summer.

As you can see by the picture on the left, our flat actually has two floors. The upper floor has our bedroom, bathroom and family room, so we have lots more space than any of our other apartments in Europe. We have lots of room for guests (hint).

The lower level has the living room, office, kitchen and another bathroom. It's actually the closest to a US apartment that we've had to date. We have a dishwasher and garbage disposal in the kitchen. The laundry area in the basement has a washer and a DRYER!! First time in years that I have some of these luxuries.

During the last week, I have found a couple quirky things about the kitchen. One of them i…

Tales of a Train Ride

Our busy week is over. We're living in Riga, Latvia. I won't say settled, but we're at least in our apartment. Getting here with our belongings was quite a trip, however.

Pictured on the left is the huge stack of luggage that we moved from our St. Petersburg flat to our new one in Riga.

We had decided a month ago that we were going to move on the train this time instead of a plane. We surmised the cost for checked luggage for the airlines was so high that I did research on the cost of luggage on the Russian trains. Their website said that they would allow 200 kg (which is 440 lbs.) per person, so I thought that was fantastic. I even called them - and found someone to speak English - who said yes that was the case, but extra charges may occur.

We booked our train tickets a couple weeks ago. I even went down to the train station and asked about help loading all our luggage onto the train. I was assured there would be someone to help us and even met with the porter who agree…

Surprises in Russia

This week we will be using several days to pack up our belongings and head to our next home in Riga, Latvia. Before we leave the great city of St. Petersburg, I wanted to share with you a few things that we saw here that surprised us. Things we never expected to see while living in Russia.

Shortly after we moved into our apartment, I was walking through a mall nearby. I nearly laughed when I saw a vendor selling Tupperware at a kiosk. I would have never guessed that I'd see that here. I didn't find out the price of the items since I didn't know enough Russian to ask at the time. I imagine it was very expensive to ship Tupperware products to Russia. That proved to be the case when the kiosk was filled with a different item a couple months later. Tupperware wasn't the big hit that someone thought it would be.

We were surprised to see advertisements in all the stores for a special day of sales - Черная Пятница. Translated that mean Black Friday. The date of this special …

Painted History in Padua

This week I'll continue a description of fantastic art in Italy. In the city of Padua, near Venice,  we toured a small chapel that was built in 1305 called the Chapel of Scrovegni. This chapel is famous because the entire interior walls were painted by Giotto di Bondone. The paintings tell the Biblical story from the Virgin Mary to Jesus' birth to His death and resurrection.

Since the art is more than 700 years old, the visits to the chapel are very limited. In order to see the chapel, our time slot had to be reserved online, weeks ahead of time. Then when it was our turn to visit the chapel we only had fifteen minutes inside the chapel. Before entering the space, we viewed a video about the chapel during which the temperature of the viewers was stabilized to equal the temperature inside.

When we finally got our chance to view the chapel, we used the entire fifteen minutes taking in the beautiful scenes. At first, I was impressed with the blue painted ceiling overhead. I don&…

The Beauty of Ravenna Mosaics

While we were in Italy, we stayed for two days in Ravenna where we saw the most beautiful mosaics in the world. These amazing mosaic pictures and ceilings were built 1400 years ago.

There were five buildings, constructed in the 400s and 500s, that displayed the amazing mosaics. Of course, the pictures, constructed entirely of mosaic tiles, depicted Christian religious history since the buildings were two basilicas, a mausoleum, a baptistry, and a museum that was formerly a cathedral.

The mosaics were still as clear to see as if the tiles had been attached to the walls only a few years ago. The one mosaic pattern that I thought was most beautiful was the blue ceiling pictured above. This was located in a mausoleum built to hold the body of Galla Placidia, the daughter of the Roman Emperor Theodosius I. Not surprisingly, the building is very small.

On the other hand, the Basilica di San Vitale is very spacious and beautiful. The entire chancel is covered in detailed mosaic pictures tel…