Getting There - Aneel's Travelogue

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History Riga, Latvia, Saturday, 22 June 2013 11:06pm

Our plan for the day was to see some of Riga's famous Art Nouveau architecture. The guidebook said that there would be a free walking tour starting at the drop-off point of the Retro Tram, but it didn't materialize (because of the Midsummer holiday?), so we took the Retro Tram instead. The tram is a vintage car from 1901 retrofitted to work on the modern tram system, and the guidebook implied that it would do a circuit of the Art Nouveau-heavy areas. I was hoping that it would use its video screens to point out highlights of the buildings we were passing, but it appeared to just be giving information about the tram car itself. At the end of the trip, we found ourself in a park district that supposedly has a lot of Art Nouveau facades, but we didn't actually see any. We headed out to the lake in the park and had lunch at a cafe on the shore while watching swans try to intimidate ducks to get more bread.

We took a standard (non-retro) tram back into town and did the Art Nouveau self-guided walk ourselves. It started near the Art Nouveau museum, so we stopped in there and saw the interior of a house that once belonged to one of the leading architects of the city. There was an informative movie about the history and what to look for, and a houseful of period furnishings. The next few hours were spent walking around marveling at the impressive decoration.

We had dinner at a medieval themed restaurant, which was pretty amusing. It was in an old vaulted chamber below street level that might actually date back to medieval times. It was lit by candles and music was provide by a bagpiper, a hand drummer, and a recorder/lute player. The food and drink was themed to match. I had a pork shank that was served on a spit-like dish. It was kind of a challenge to eat with knife and fork. I think my medieval equivalent would have just grabbed the thing and gnawed on the bits he couldn't cut off with his knife.