Showing posts from September, 2020

A Museum Explains it All

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

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!

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?

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…

Furry Felines in Riga

If you're a cat lover, you'll probably feel at home in Riga. Cats seem to roam the city whenever I go out walking. I'm not a cat-lover, but I'm sure that if you are one, you'd love it.

Last winter when we moved here, I remember seeing cats sit on the hoods of black cars parked near our flat. At the time, I didn't think much of it, but I bet that the hoods were warm yet, hence the perfect spot to take a nap.

The cats don't appear to be the wild type, afraid of people. I've seen tourists walk up to them and start petting them and even pick them up. I'm not sure if they are owned by people and roam during the day, or if they are just city cats in general. They certainly look like they are well-fed.

The most famous cat-related thing in Riga, however, is a building that is known as the "Cat House." This particular building has a very interesting story connected with it.

This building was built in the early 20th Century by a wealthy Latvian me…