The Riga city walking tour


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July 9th 2013
Published: July 14th 2013
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Cobbled streets and cars are not a good mix for a quiet surface and we were woken by the increasing amount of traffic going by the hotel as the day got underway.We did however have another good nights sleep on a comfortable bed and long may that continue.

Riga,being a compact city meant that we thought we could do our walking tour in 3 or 4 hours and so we didn't need to be in too much of a hurry to get out and about.

With the tram at the front door of the hotel we had that option to get into the city but we opted to walk the distance and take in the ambience of the older part of the inner city that we had found ourselves staying in.We found a more direct route to town than the way we went last night and on our way to our first stop we came across the Occupations Museum covering the period from WW2 through the years of Communism.We were tempted to go in but thought we had had a good history lesson of the period at the Tallinn museum and so gave it a miss.However we did take in the long wall of names of Riga's Jewish population who had lost their lives during the Nazi occupation.It was a different of depicting those who had died than we have previously seen.The area where the museum was located was part of the ghetto but today is undergoing a change to modernise the brick buildings and it looks like it is going to become a trendy area with boutiques and cafes etc.

A little further on and we got to the Central Market which is sited inside 5 Zeppelin hangars constructed in the late 1920's.The market is reportedly the largest in Europe and it is a record that we think it can boast of such is the size and variety of what you can buy there.The produce market spills out into the open air surrounding the hangars.It actually makes you wonder what is left to buy in traditional shops in the city.The place was a buzz with people of all ages.

Our trail then took us up one of the main streets to the Bergs Bazaar,a pedestrian precinct constructed at the end of the 19th century and now a place of trendy boutiques and cafes where we took a stop for lunch trying local offerings of pancakes and mushrooms and toast with spicy cheese,both delicious.

The avenues are open and wide giving an airy feeling to the city and together with a number of parks in the central area there is also a very relaxed feeling about it despite some of the rather severe looking older buildings from the period immediately after WW2.

The Freedom Monument was a sight not to be missed.With its three stars on top of the monument rising above the surrounding trees it makes a striking sight.We were fortunate to arrive just as the two soldiers on duty moved from their stationary position to do a parade march backwards and forwards and then returning to their standing position.And all of this watched carefully by a sergeant from the sidelines.To our amusement a group of cruise ship passengers clapped the march which didn't seem quite appropriate for this place of rememberance.

A short distance away was the Nativity of Christ Cathedral,the city's biggest Orthodox church which was converted to a planetarium and restaurant during the Soviet period when churches were discouraged but today has been restored to being the principal church in town.

Returning to the area near the Freedom Monument to continue our walk we noticed a van had just pulled up and three soldiers in smart formal uniforms had got out and were adjusting their clothes and guns preparing for a change of the guard.This was too good to miss so we waited for the event to happen and admired the goose stepping march as the two on current duty were replaced by the new soldiers.

Our walk then took us to the furthest corner of the old city and Riga castle although it turned out that it wasn't possible to take any photos of the castle where we could get the greater part of the building in one shot.The castle is used by the president of Latvia and didn't appear to be open to the public.

Just along the road however was the photographic trio of three houses from the 15th century known as the Three Brothers and then a further short walk on was the Dome Cathedral which was first built in 1211 but over the years had been added to so that what you see has several different styles including Baroque,Gothic and Romanesque.All in all though it is a very large and imposing church in the first of the old town squares we came to.

The main square which houses the Town Hall and an interestingly named building called The House of the Blackheads(and its nothing to do with pimples!)but more to do with the unmarried merchants of the city and dates back to the 14th century and has been built in the Dutch Renaissance style which is at odds with most of the other buildings in the old town.Here too are the cafes and bars that one tends to find grouped in the old town areas and we decided that we would come back to the area for dinner out tonight.

Much of Riga old town like that of Warsaw had been faithfully rebuilt following it being destroyed during WW2 and it is amazing to see just how authentic the rebuilt buildings look.

We left the old town area and walked back to the hotel for a rest before going back to the old town for dinner.This time though we caught the tram most of the way back to where we had completed our walk in the late afternoon.

After checking the menus at a couple of restaurants we decided on one that had lamb chops on the menu which had Gretchen salivating as she has talked often about what she is looking forward to when we get home in late October!(she does actually miss family and friends more than having lamb chops for dinner)

Anyway we placed our orders,I decided on the venison burger,and we waited for the meals to arrive listening to the three piece band plaing in the background and watching the tourists pass by.

When the 'lamb chops' arrived Gretchen noted that they did not have a bone but she put that aside thinking that perhaps they had boned the chops.The meat had the extras that the menu had stated including roast garlic,shallots and thyme.It was all very tasty and we both enjoyed our meal out............until the bill arrived.

We had calculated the bill,as we generally do when ordering trying to keep to a budget we set ourselves,and it was Lats5 more.On closer examination the price of Gretchen's 'lamb chops' was the reason but as the description was in Latvian we had to ask the waitress to explain.This was when she realised that she had ordered the Fallow Deer for Gretchen from the menu instead of the Lamb Chops.This then explained why there were no bones on the 'lamb chops'.Olga,the waitress seemed to expect us to pay for the meal Gretchen didn't order and when she could gather that we weren't happy she went and got the owner or manager(we weren't sure who he was) to come and talk to us about the bill.He spoke fairly good English but we had the feeling he didn't understand where we were coming from on the higher cost and while he was blaming the computer ordering system he also seemed to be indicating that a revised bill for the lesser amount would be coming.In the meantime he offered 'free' coffee,which we declined and then went away and came back with a local made liquer for me,which I really didn't want especially as sorting out their mistake was now taking more time than we wanted to spend on it.

In the end,when a revised account didn't come,we paid up,not leaving a tip for 'Olga' and vowed to complete a review of the incident on Trip Advisor.

What had been a very enjoyable and delicious diner had been soured in the end by the owner/manager not revising the bill as we thought he should have as he had acknowledged the mistake was theirs.

Anyway it gave us good conversation for the trip back to the hotel on the tram as we recounted similar situations of incorrect charging we had experienced over the years,mostly admittedly in NZ,but in all instances the amount charged had been revised and we had paid for what we had ordered.


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