Aside from creeping Swedish cottages, Riga was by far the highlight of our holiday. It seems Royal Caribbean saved the best for last. We were so taken back by Riga and unfortunately we [rather embarrassingly] knew very little about it or Latvia and didn't know what to expect. We boarded our tour bus, buckled our seat belts and proceeded to have our minds blown ...
One of the first places we drove past was the former KGB Headquarters. Back in the day they would roll a red carpet down the entry way and along the street outside of the building. Why red? To masque the blood stains leading into and out of the building, and thus was the origin of the phrase to 'roll out the red carpet'. Unfortunately we did a drive-by on this building and didn't have the opportunity to go in, or take half-decent photos for that matter. But you get the idea.
Our tour bus dropped us off in the centre of Riga and husband and I attempted to double-back to see all the incredible architecture again.
The city of Riga has the largest collection of Art Nouveau buildings in the world. 40% of the city consists of architecture from this era thanks to a boom in the economy in the late 1800's. And when I say the architecture is insane, it's IN. SANE.
To perfectly juxtapose the intricate and over-the-top Art Nouveau architecture, dotted around the city are old wooden buildings as well as ultra-modern sky rises. We learned that in the beginning, Riga was built strictly out of wood. The reason was that if the city was breached, the residents could easily burn the city to the ground, any intruders had nothing to claim and Riga could be rebuilt again. A few of these wooden buildings still remained. Seeing them along with the Art Nouveau and modern sky rises sit side-by-side complimenting each other so well was very cool.
One of the best streets we wandered down was Elizabetes Street, where Mikhail Eisenstein designed numerous buildings [above and below; a small taste of his mad skillz]. I think I have to stop typing because nothing will truly caption how beautiful the architecture is.
We had to board the cruise ship by 16:00, so we meandered along Kronvalda Park and daydreamed about ditching Dublin and moving into any one of the buildings. I'm not picky. I'll even resort to moving into the corner suite of this old place ...
Riga, there are no words. It took me a world of willpower not to upload every single picture from my camera. For anyone reading this, before you book your next holiday to Portugal or Spain, take a long hard look at Latvia first. Seafood, scenery, history and wine. It is well worth it, I promise. We will definitely be back.
So what's the most unsuspectingly amazing place you've been? I love when I visit somewhere that takes me off guard. Riga was for sure one of our all time favourite destinations. Having just written this post, I want to go back so badly.