Showing posts from June, 2020

Midsummer Festival

In Latvia, June 23 -24 are national holidays where the people of the country celebrate the longest days of the year. Because we're so far north, the sun doesn't set until until 10:30 and rises again at 4:30. The hours between are twilight - never getting totally dark. The Latvians use these long days to celebrate.

Traditionally, Latvian citizens gather together with family and friends and sing Latvian folk songs around bonfires that go all night. The women weave flowers and boughs into a crown that they wear for the occasion. They also wear long flowing dresses with sashes.

Of course, this is usually done out in the woods or in parks. We didn't witness any of these parties because all the city festivities were cancelled due to the epidemic. The celebrations last all night during the twilight hours between 11:30 and 3:30. They wait for the sun to rise again before the party breaks up and everyone gets some sleep.

Old Riga was very quiet those days because everyone was out …

Flowers Galore

A couple weeks ago, some Latvian friends took us to a Rhododendron nursery. It was the 29 acre University of Latvia Botanical Garden built in a pine forest. 

In 1980 a professor of botany started this collection of Rhododendron plants in a town about five miles from Riga. He worked with the UL to expand his collection until his death in 2017. Now his son has taken over the care of these beautiful plants. 

When they bloom during late May and into early June, about 25,000 visitors come to see the many blossoms. We walked through the paths around the gardens for almost an hour. It was amazing to see thousands of Rhododendrons in so many colors. I'll show you as many as I can. 

I was amazed to find the bushes so large. Some of them reached at least twelve feet tall. We wondered if the tall pine trees growing around them helped to shade the plants from the hot sun, encouraging them to grow so large.

As we wandered among the plants, I noted that there were Rhododendrons brought to Latvi…

Another View of Riga

Since we had a lovely sunny day last Saturday, my husband and I decided to do a bit of exploring in Riga. We boarded a city bus and headed north to Mezaparks. We knew that the zoo was located in this area, and I'd heard that there were some beautiful houses up there.

What we didn't know is that this part of the city had a beautiful lake bordering Mezaparks. After our wander through the streets of the neighborhood, we found a cafe where we could relax and have a few refreshments. The wind was strong with whitecaps on the surface of the lake, but it was beautiful.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself. When we found the correct bus stop, we did indeed find the area where the rich people of Riga lived. The massive houses were all locked behind gated fences, but I managed to get pictures of some of them to share with you.

I found out that this neighborhood was originally built in the 1920s and 30s. I wasn't surprised to see that several of the houses were very different from t…

The Hill of Riga

Like most of the Baltic States, Latvia is a very flat country hugging the Baltic Sea. It does have some hills inland that we hope to go see someday, but the city of Riga is very flat - generally about 3 or 4 feet above sea level. This fact makes walking anywhere in the city very easy to do, especially for long distances. 

However, Riga does boast of one hill in the city, but it's man-made. Bastion Hill is located along the canal that used to be the moat for the ancient walled city. 

In 1856, the rulers in Riga determined that a wall around the old city was no longer useful. The city was growing outside of the walls and the walls would not keep out any enemies because of modern warfare. They decided it was time to demolish the walls.

When the  walls were demolished, the remaining chunks of walling were piled into one location to make a hill for the city. Today it's the focus of the beautiful park around Old Town. 

Soon after the hill was created, the city planners started land…

One Building - Many Stories

The Latvian National Library sits across the river from where we live. Built in 2014, the shape of the building is very unique. We've heard several versions about why it was built in that shape.

One book says that it is the shape of the Duchy of Courland - the area around Riga during the 1700s before Latvia was formed. See the yellow area in the map below.

Another version that we heard is based on a story called "The Glass Mountain" where the sons of three noblemen tried to rescue a princess on top of a mountain. Two of the princes climbed up the steep side to try to reach the princess but died while they were climbing since it was so steep. The third prince took the long way and climbed up the much longer but easier part of the mountain and managed to reach the top to rescue the princess.

The third story is the nickname for the library: "The Castle of Light." This is a metaphor for the wisdom that was lost when the darkness of war, invasion, and occupation oc…