Showing posts from March, 2020

A Lavtian or Soviet Monument?

The Freedom Monument When I first saw this monument standing in a square in Riga, I thought it was a left-over of the Soviet era when Russia ruled the Latvians. I was actually surprised that the Latvians hadn't torn it down after the occupation was over in 1991. I now admit that I was wrong. This monument, labelled The Freedom Monument, was built in 1935 by the Latvians to commemorate the freedom that they won in 1920. Before that, Latvia was ruled by Russia, Poland, Finland, or Germany in different periods of time. Finally, after World War I, the Latvians managed to throw out the foreign armies and gain independence. Two years later they wrote and adopted their constitution. The people of Latvia collected donations to build this monument as a remembrance of the people who died in the battles of 1919 and 1920 to gain the freedom. The 42 meter tall monument is inscribed with the words "For Fatherland and Freedom" on the pedestal. The base of the statue is sur

Dining in Medieval History

Ancient chair and helmets When we moved to Riga, we knew that we were going to be living in a much older city than St. Petersburg, but we had no idea that we'd be able to experience the history first-hand. A couple weeks ago, we went to a restaurant that took us back to Medieval times. When we first walked in the door, a banner with a knight greeted us. Other ancient artifacts from Medieval Times decorated the area. How would you like to wear one of the helmets on the left? Wine cask located outside the building We found out that this basement restaurant was first a wine cellar built in 1293. Today it's a restaurant named Rosengrals. The low arched ceilings and squat stone pillars attested to the history of the building. The lighting in the restaurant was mainly candles which caused a  dark, mysterious atmosphere. In the middle of the restaurant was an original well, built to help in the wine-making process. Used as a wishing-well today, it adds to the anc

Europe's Solution to Toilet Paper Shortage

We've been hearing about the toilet paper shortage in the US and other countries over the last week. I must say that here in Latvia, we don't have that problem at all. Maybe it's because of the prevalent use of bidets here in Europe. When we were searching Riga for our apartment in January, we noticed that all bathrooms looked like they had two toilets in them. On further research, we saw that the two weren't alike at all. The smaller one was a bidet (pronounced bi-day). The bidet in our bathroom While we were in Italy over Christmas last year, we also noticed that every flat that we stayed in had a bidet, although I never saw one of these while we lived in Russia. So, the question that we're left with is just what is a bidet and how is it used? After spending some time on the internet, I can explain that bidets are hard to explain. They are used for a purpose that people usually don't want to talk about - at least Americans. To put it briefly,

Theorbo? I Learn Something New Everyday

Small chapel at Dom Cathedral  We attended a Baroque concert a couple weeks ago in the Dom Cathedral very close to our house. The concert was located in a small room off to the right of the main worship area. The room was packed with people who came to hear the music of a cello, violin, and organ from the Baroque era 1600s - 1700s. The other instrument was a surprise for me. It was called a theorbo, which is a lute-type instrument from that era. Theorbo being played The uniqueness of the instrument is the length of the neck. It's a fourteen stringed instrument that looks similar to a guitar. Because of the length of the neck, the theorbo has two distinct length of strings attached to it. The higher notes are plucked from one pegbox in the middle of the neck. The second pegbox at the end of the long neck allows for the low notes to be played along with the higher notes that a normal lute can play. As you can see from the picture on the right, the theorbo was as ta

Majestic Churches in Riga

St. Peter's Lutheran Church Spire of St. Peter's Church The two largest churches in Old Town Riga are both part of the Latvian Lutheran Evangelical Church.  Both of these churches have history back to the 13th Century. Of course, they were part of the Catholic Church when they were built. The tallest spire in Old Riga belongs to St. Peter's Lutheran Church, started in the early-1200s. It was the main house of worship, or city church, for the residents of the city back then. Many changes and additions have taken place since the original building, including a baroque-style facade added in 1692. The massive red brick interior is shown below. Pictures can't do justice to the enormous size of this church. Interior of St. Peter's The Dom Cathedral The other large church in Riga is the Riga Cathedral also known as Dom Church. It sits in a large empty square a ten-minute walk from St. Peter's. Built in early 1200s, the Dom Chu