Archive for the 'Latvia' Category

Worldwide Pop-up Restaurant Day August 17

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

An international idea celebrated in 50 countries, Restaurant Day is a food carnival created by food-loving people setting up one-day restaurants. The idea of the day is to have fun, share new food experiences and meet others in our community. People offer their family cuisine, favorite recipes, desserts or whatever in their backyard or a park.  Prices are very inexpensive.RestaurantDay

Check the maps to see if there is one in your city.

Date: Sunday, August 17

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Recycling Cannons – Cosmos Tour

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

Even way back when, when cannons were the preferred weapon of destruction, there came a time when they were no longer useful to fire. So in Riga, Latvia, the Baltic States, Finland, you will find cannons that were stood up on their edge to protect corners of buildings. When horse drawn carriages made their way down narrow streets, they often bumped into the corners of buildings and damaged them. This way the cannons took the hit and the buildings were saved.

Masterpieces – Cosmos Tour

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

Guilds were formed back in the Middle Ages to bring like-minded tradesmen together and to form a teaching method for continuity of the trade. In Riga, Latvia, there are 19th century guild buildings still standing – one for big companies and one for the small merchants.

The guilds set the standards of hours, quality, number of masters, apprentices, etc. Each apprentice had to prove his competence to become a master by creating a “masterpiece” which was judged. Sometimes apprentices faked their credentials by just marrying the widow of their master and continuing his work.

Wagner in Riga – Cosmos Tour

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

In 1839, composer  Richard Wagner was a conductor at the Court Theatre in Riga, Latvia. His extravagant lifestyle and his wife Minna’s retirement from the stage led him to run up huge debts. He devised a plan to flee his creditors by escaping to Paris (via London) where he could make some money by getting Rienzi performed at the Paris Opéra.

Unfortunately, his plan turned to disaster when his passport was seized by the authorities on behalf of his creditors. Undeterred, he and Minna made a dangerous and illegal crossing over the Prussian border, during which Minna suffered a miscarriage. A ship’s (Thetis) captain agreed to take them without passports. Traveling through storms (the ship at one point took refuge in the Norwegian fjords at Tvedestrand), the 8-day trip plunked them in London 3 weeks after leaving Riga.

Food Markets in Riga – Cosmos Tour

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

In Old Town of Riga, Latvia there are food market pavilions that have been open since the 1930’s. In Soviet times they were important because it was the only place a free economy existed. Farmers were allowed to come here and sell excess vegetables.

Nowadays it is full of butchers, groceries, cheeses, fish, pickled condiments, baked goods and some cooked food. We loved the meat dumplings in the tiny booth just to the left of the main door so much that we bought one and then turned around and came back for more. They were only about $.50 and I wish I could have one right now.


Baltic Art Nouveau – Cosmos Tour

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

If you like Art Nouveau buildings, Riga, Latvia has over 600 examples. Following the design style laid out by Victor Horta of Belgium, this last decorative style done up here in 1903/1904 is full of garlands, female faces, wrought iron and stained glass.

Mikhail Osipovich Eisenstein, who graduated from the Institute of Civic Engineering in St. Petersburg in 1893, was the designer of a number of the Art Nouveau buildings here. His works were characterized by decorative, odd-shaped or asymmetrical windows, often with large female head shapes, bright glazed brick or ceramic plates, glass and metal tiles etc. His son Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein was a well-known Soviet film director.

Lady President in Latvia – Cosmos Tour

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

Latvian President

Vaira Vike-Freiberga was the 6th President of Latvia, the first female President of Latvia and the first female leader in Eastern Europe. Vike-Freiberga’s family fled the Soviet takeover of Latvia after WWII, moving to Germany and Morocco before settling in Canada in 1954. All of this moving around led to her to being fluent in English, French, Latvian, Spanish and German.

In Canada, Vike-Freiberga  married, had kids and led a regular life after earning degrees in Psychology from the University of Toronto and then in 1965,  a PhD in Psychology from McGill in Montreal. She became a prominent professor of psychology at the Universite de Montreal, teaching psychopharmacology and psycholinguistics and authoring 11 books.

When the Soviets tried to put down a Latvian rebellion in 1998, her son Karlis joined the protests that helped lead Latvia, her former country, to independence. She followed him home to help and took a position leading the Institute of Latvia, an organization that promotes Latvia abroad. In 1999, when the Latvian Parliament failed to elect a President in the first ballot, she was chosen as a compromise candidate, as a highly respected person not affiliated with any of the political parties – and wound up winning the presidency.

As President of the Republic of Latvia 1999-2007, she was instrumental in achieving membership in the European Union and NATO for her country. She is still active in international politics and was official candidate for UN Secretary General in 2006.

Love Locks – Cosmos Tour

Monday, May 30th, 2011

In Riga and Segulda, Latvia, you may see padlocks attached to small bridges. These were placed here by lovers who lock them on and then throw the key into the river below to ensure their love is locked forever. This tradition actually started in Italy.

Do you think anyone goes diving to retrieve them?

Farm Museum of Yesteryear in Riga – Cosmos Tour

Sunday, May 29th, 2011

The Ethnographic Open-Air Museum on the shore of Jugla Lake near Riga, Latvia is an outdoor exhibition of 16th-19th century farms, churches and a country inn (which also functioned as a community center for weddings, funerals, schools, etc.) offering a glimpse into life in the countryside. The plan was to establish a farm from the four regions, Kurzeme, Zemgale, Vidzeme and Latgale. In 1932 the museum was opened to the public and by 1939 there were 40 buildings erected. Today 118 buildings are on display.

We learned there that in the 18th century in Latvia,  amazingly, 60% of the population could read and write due to home instruction.When visiting here you will learn all about the properties of thatched roofs, which were reputed to last about 50 years (what do we have that good today?). Okay so they weren’t waterproof, but if they got the pitch to at least 50 degrees, the water ran off quickly enough. And there were air pockets for insulation.

You can see their ingenious 12′ pole handle for rocking a cradle and the baby walking ring. Children and the elderly slept on the fireplace!
There were warm rooms for the winter and cool ones for the summer, saunas (for the weekly bath, birthing babies or preparing the dead), hay huts, cattle sheds, grain threshing  rooms, storage sheds, beehives and a windmill. And they fed their “pet” garden snakes some milk in a feeding bowl made out of a rock.
During Soviet times, this museum represented more than a museum. It was somehow a beacon to the population of when they were free – and to go there was an escape from Soviet life to when times were better. The Soviets were not happy about this as it reconfirmed old history when they wanted to erase old history to form a new order.

Each June the Latvians held a country fair there where they would sing folk songs. These songs became part of what was called the Singing Revolution which eventually led to the independence of Latvia and the Baltic States. In fact, the first time the National flag was raised was in this museum.

Northern Light – Cosmos Tour

Sunday, May 29th, 2011

It doesn’t get dark at night in the Baltics and this is great for tourists as you can walk around til late in the evening, see more, and feel safe.

There are musicians playing all around Old Town of Riga  – saxophone, tuba, flute, accordion, cello, trumpets and even an organ grinder (he’s in the photo under the white tarp). It makes the strolling that much more enjoyable.