RIGA: Pearl of the Baltics

My trip to the city of Riga, capital of Latvia, is one of my most unforgettable travels. I just turned 24 and I wanted to be more independent, more decisive, and more socially and culturally aware that I booked that solo trip to the largest city of the Baltic states. The Baltics consist of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia. The three countries are in my bucket list, and it made me super glad to tick one of them off, finally. So, today’s entry : Riga, Latvia.

Off to Riga, Latvia
Off to Riga, Latvia

That wasn’t actually my first solo trip (hint: Philippines to Europe), but it was the first one I took for leisure purposes. So, how’s the Baltic city on a hot summer day?

Riga‘s historical center, with its magnificent Art Nouveau/Jugendstil architecture, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Founded in 1201, the city has been a major economic and financial hub of the Baltic States. According to sources, Riga Port handles millions of tons of cargoes every year, with “wooden products, IT, food and beverage manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, transport and metallurgy” as the major national exports.

Welcome to Riga, European Capital of Culture 2014
Welcome to Riga, European Capital of Culture 2014
At Riga airport
Riga International Airport, the largest in the Baltics

I had a really early flight, but I wasn’t disappointed at all. From the airport, I took an express van with a very humorous driver! I remember him saying, “I am not bus, but I am express!” and teaching me some useful Latvian expressions like “paldies!” [PUHL-dyes], which means  thank you. Latvians don’t speak good English, to be honest, but they really try and that’s what matters!

During the trip, I gazed out the window and wondered how different the city was compared with the other European cities. While it is true that many Latvians immigrate to richer European countries, I could see that the city was gradually recovering from the world wars and Russian occupancy. It was also notably clean and green, as my Latvian classmate proudly told me.

Another good thing about the city is that it is relatively cheaper! Much cheaper than Denmark or Norway, no doubt! I stayed in Irina Hotel, which was located right in the city center! It makes me smile to think that I really did pamper myself during my trip. I spent €133 for four nights, with breakfast buffet. I also met interesting people in the hotel, but more about that in the later entries. 😉

Irina Hotel, my bed can fit 3!
Irina Hotel, my bed can fit 3!
Breakfast buffet
Breakfast buffet

I carefully planned my stay — I’m joining couchsurfers in the annual Riga Good Times series of events in summer. As it was still early for the meetup dinner, I decided to spend the day familiarizing myself with the streets and the sights. Here are some of the things to expect to see in Riga:

Riga's trams
Riga’s trams
Cobbled streets
Cobbled streets and beer gardens
Beautiful architecture!
Beautiful architecture!
Beautiful architecture!
Beautiful architecture!
Museum of the Occupation of Latvia
Museum of the Occupation of Latvia

One of Riga’s most important landmarks is the Freedom Monument. It symbolizes freedom, independence and sovereignty of Latvia, and it commemorates the soldiers who died during the Latvian War of Independence from 1918-1920.

The Freedom Monument
The Freedom Monument
Standing by the Freedom Monument
Standing by the Freedom Monument

Another interesting building I saw during my walk was the Cat House, a medieval building built in 1909. Legend has it that the person who commissioned the building was refused membership of the Riga Tradesmen’s Guild. Out of spite, he had two statues of angry cats with their backs arched be placed on the rooftop!

The Cat House in Riga
The Cat House in Riga
A pedestrian in Riga
A pedestrian in Riga
Cobbled streets
Cobbled streets
Cobbled streets
Cobbled streets
Latvians in their costumes, to later reenact a pagan tradition
Latvians in their costumes, to later reenact a pagan tradition
Riga's shop of secret potions XD
Riga’s shop of secret potions 😄

It was just the first day and Riga has already made an impression. I just have to say that the city is more than just the beautiful Art Nouveau architecture, landmarks and cobbled streets. It is also very rich in history! I was lucky enough to visit a KGB headquarter, where I learned a great deal about the terror of the repressive Soviet system in the country in the mid-1900s. More about that in the next entries! yay! I’m super excited to write the rest of my escapade. But for now, I have to take a break. 😉

Cheers!

The Cat House in Riga
The Cat House in Riga

 

 

 

 

 

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15 thoughts on “RIGA: Pearl of the Baltics

  1. I haven’t tried going on a trip alone but I am planning to but not yet for outside the country. But much pretty soon. I like their streets, it seems so clean and people look responsible. Oh, I was scrolling about the comments and it just so nice that they have free wifi accross the place.

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  2. I’ve heard about Riga a lot, can’t wait to have a chance to visit it. The architecture is beautiful indeed, and you took some lovely photos. I love cities that are rich in history, so much to explore and learn. Glad you had fun.

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  3. Thank you for touring us within Riga. Truly, Ive been to many places through reading travel posts like yours. You are such a brave soul to travel alone. when I was 24, I travelled less because I would want to start a family already. Now that I have a family, I would want to travel and experience the world. Unfortunately, with boys attendifn school and with no yayas to look after the kids, we cant travel as of yet. But good thing somehow I have seen that part of Europe through your post.

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  4. Wow! I’ve only heard about these places when I was still studying. I majored in European studies back then in the hopes of visiting Europe. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to. Thank you for bringing me there with your photos and stories. The architecture may not be as elaborate as the top European countries, but it’s beautiful nonetheless. How was their food in general?

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  5. I love seeing other people interested in UNESCO World Heritage Sites too! I was an active member of the first UNESCO accredited org in our university back in Bicol. Since attending a conference in Laguna in January 2013, I have decided I want to visit a lot of UWHS while I’m still alive. Glad you had fun in Riga! 🙂

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  6. Looks like you had an amazing time! I’ve actually never heard of this place before. Lookd lovely though. Lovely architecture!!! Would love to visit one day ☺

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  7. I love that you decided to tick things off your bucket list and that you had a chance to see this beautiful city. I love the pictures that you took. Riga is also known as the pearl of architecture – because in the city at one location you can see the churches that were built at the city’s origin by the founders of Riga.

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  8. I envy people who get to travel for fun and leisure. Especially young people like you! I wish i had the time and luxury to travel during my single days, coz today travelling is really a pain in the pocket with kids! But it was a different kind of fun.. I still wanted to do solo backpacking/travelling and was wondering how? I love the architectures on your post! Parang nakarating narin ako kahit sa photographs lng! 🙂

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  9. I’m happy for you that you got to travel for leisure. When I was single, most of my travels were work and pleasure. It was the best of both worlds. These days, most of my travels with my family are for leisure only.

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    1. Aha! Difficult question, sir. Nobody knows who first gave that nickname to Riga. Just like PH being the Pearl of the Orient Seas. BUt hey, I’ll just drop another fun fact. Riga was European Capital of Free Wifi in 2014! 😀

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  10. I am pretty sure there’s posts on Riga coming soon. My impression is that the city’s general architecture is beautiful and it looks super clean too. I am intrigued by the KGB headquarters and hope you could do post on that soon. 🙂

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