we had 3 days and 2 nights in Riga, and only 1 of those days was actually rain-free. in this sense, it was good that our plan was that we had no plan. 😀
i have to admit that i didn’t know much about Riga, or Latvia for that matter, before i went there. i knew a bit of the history, but other than that, i had no idea what to do or see there. but after googling about it, we decided that we at least would go around the old town and the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia. i also wanted to try eating local food somewhere, and maybe, if we have the time, i’d like to see the Art Nouveau museum, but that was about it. we had no other destinations or plans, and just planned to go along with the flow.
when we arrived there, as i said here, we had to wait several hours until we could check in to our room. during the last half an hour, we were tired of walking in the rain so we went back to the hotel and waited in the lobby. we found lots of tourist maps and guide booklets, so we took those and read them to kill more time. that was how we found out about more things to see there in Riga, which i will tell about later.
since we took too many pictures to fit in one post, i am again going to divide them to 2 posts. this post is solely for the museums we visited while in Riga.
anyway, we spent the first day just walking around the hotel, which was right where the old town is. it was so convenient to be able to walk everywhere as it was raining the whole day, everything was nearby and if we got too cold, all we needed to do was walk back to our hotel.
the next day was sunny! right after breakfast, we went to our first museum. it turned out that the Art Nouveau museum was a bit closer than the other one we planned to go to, so we headed there first. the walk there was so nice, we got to go through lots of parks with all kinds of statues. we found the museum with no difficulties. 🙂
the admission fee for this museum was 5€ per person, which is like half of the price of admission fees in museums in Finland. to take pictures with any camera, you need to pay an extra 1.50€, which i happily did, because it’s only 1.50€! yes, please.
so here are the pics, some more crappy than others since it was only taken with my mobile phone camera, but nonetheless, i think i can share a bit of my happiness with you. 🙂
a bit of a background story: i have always been interested in art nouveau ever since i knew what it was. there is just something romantic about the swirls and curves of this style, and though i can’t really be friends with real life plants, i like seeing them implemented in the design of everyday objects.
there is a few of buildings with this style in the whole Finland, but not nearly as much as in Riga alone. so visiting this museum was like heaven to me. the building was built in 1903 by Konstantīns Pēkšēns, who was also a Latvian architect, as an apartment building in which he himself then lived until 1907. the museum part is where this said architect lived in, which is on the first floor. some objects in the museum were originals, meaning that they actually were objects from the house, and some of them were from other sources but also originally from the same era. there was actually another exhibition in the upper floor, but we didn’t go there this time.
there were mainly women visiting this museum, the few men who came were husbands of these women. it had a very cheery and joyful mode throughout the museum, especially in the kitchen where there was a “maid” serving self-baked cookies, and upon seeing the old-fashioned toilet. 😀 my husband enjoyed this visit as much as i did, because we also learned a bit about history and art/design here. so do visit this museum if you have time in Riga! it’s definitely worth the 5€ you’ll spend! for more info, click here.
our next stop was the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia. we chose to walk from the seaside, passing the harbour and back to the old town.
we found out from the internet before going to Riga that this museum did not have a specific admission fee, but instead we pay with donation. since we paid 5€ each for the other museum, we figured it was only sensible to pay the same amount here.
it was almost dead quiet there in the museum. not because there were no visitors (there were plenty), but because of the topic of the museum itself. it was such a different atmosphere than the previous museum, and it’s no wonder. even though we could take pictures (so long as we made a donation), i decided not to. not even of the building, but if you want to know more, feel free to go here and view the photo gallery.
as i said before, i almost had no clue at all about Riga or Latvia. this museum provided information of everything i should know about the history of Latvia from 1940-1991, and more. as the name suggested, it was the era when Latvia was occupied by the Soviet Union, and on to the hands of the German Nazi, and back again to the Soviet Union.
we went here because we thought it would be interesting to know what happened. and it certainly was interesting, but also quite heartbreaking. we could clearly see how the country suffered & struggled for many decades, stayed strong through it all, and finally reached its long deserved freedom.
i can’t really explain all the emotions i had during this visit, it’s hard not to get emotional seeing all the injustice and go too deep about this matter. i don’t think anything i write or say will do any justice to the actual history, so once again, i urge you to visit this museum when you’re in Riga. you will feel blessed and appreciate your own life more after you do this, take my word for it. 🙂
we thought that was all we could do for this holiday trip, since after this museum, we only had time to eat (real late lunch/dinner). the next day was the last day of our time in Riga, and we didn’t plan on going anywhere, but ended up going to an area where another small museum was.
it’s called the Riga Ghetto and Holocaust in Latvia Museum. we got to know about this museum from one of those booklets we found at the hotel’s lobby, and since we were already walking to that area, we decided to stop by.
just like the Occupation museum, this one also only accepted donation for admission fees. this museum was of separate buildings and in one big area, but we only went to a few of them.
again, i’m sure from the name you can pretty much guess what this museum is all about. Riga Ghetto is an area where Jewish Latvians (and later Germans) lived during the time when Nazi occupied the country. some buildings in this area were prisons, and some were “houses”, though there really wasn’t that big of a difference between the two back then.
as it was our last day in Riga, we didn’t have much time to do a thorough visit of this museum, nor did we take the guided tour. we went to 3 different parts, first of which was the front part, that had walls bearing the names of the victims of the holocaust period and also a bit of the history. they also had pictures of the non Jewish Latvians who helped hide some Jews in their houses (bless them!).
the next place we went to was a small house that–if i’m not mistaken–was an original house that survived. the inside had been renovated though, and the upper part of the house showed examples/models of how a typical Jewish house looked in those days.
then lastly, we went to one of the prisons that was holding a small exhibition of its own, collecting stories about the victims of the Latvia holocaust from the things they left behind, the letters they wrote, and just bits and pieces of information they could find about them. it was eerie, sad, and yet we looked upon them and knew that their story, what they did, was not for nothing. it was again a one of a kind experience that you just have to go through yourself to understand what i mean. i recommend this museum with warm heart, and for more info, please go here.
covering 3 museums in 2 days was quite an accomplishment for us who did not even have any plan. it was made possible thanks to the fact that everything was so close to each other there in Riga (at least in the downtown & old town area), that even when you do not plan anything beforehand, you can just find something interesting and go along with it. had it been better weather on all 3 days we were there, we could’ve probably covered more, but all in all i am very satisfied with these 3 museums. 🙂
next up is my experience in Riga (minus these museums) & Stockholm!