Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The smile on the face of Riga

Aloha Riga

I don't know if the assistant was genuinely surprised when I said I wanted the ten assorted chocolate truffles for take-away. Would one person eat them with their espresso in a single sitting? Ha! Now that I remember that I have them, there are nine eight fewer. Midday coffee was at Emihls-Gustavs chocolate house, while Bondi sat outside, intently tracking my movements indoors through the glass.

The next artistic endeavour (non-culinary) we witnessed was this lady, in what I guess may be traditional Latvian clothing, busting some moves to a cassette of Hawaiian music in one the squares of the Old Town. You go girl.

Fountain in Bergs' Hotel complex by Ilmârs Blumbergs - it reminded me of bits of the Stravinski Fountain outside the Pompidou Centre.

Double-story wooden buildings jostle with stone and steel; Live Music scene

The little non-planetarium Orthodox church

PolitburoDisney jokes aside, Riga's architecture is indeed a curious mix. The part of the Old Town that I encountered on my first night (closer to central station) is definitely seedier in both appearance and denizen. Today I got a bit further away from that, toward the heartland of Riga's Art Nouveau buildings, near Albert Iela (Street). Some of these were created by Mikhail Eisenstein, father of film-director Sergei.

The amount of detail on so many of these buildings is staggering, almost surreal in some of the imagery: animals, Munch-scream figures, robotic faces, chimaera... And it's not all easily observable from the street. Often you'll see some unusually complex relief atop a dilapidated façade, five stories up.

Bottom right: shades of the Beast from Disney's Beauty and the Beast?

Look up, look up!

Home of Isaiah Berlin, on Albert St; Brick Gothic cathedral

I saw a brochure about the Brick Gothic scenic route through this part of Europe. The term denotes the usage of red-brick to build Gothic styled structures owing to the absence of stone used in other areas. Last night being Walpurgisnacht, I wondered if the local Goths at the Dark Party celebrations wore red-check outfits to match the local architectural style, a la Abercrombie and Westwood...?
In my short stay in Riga I did not establish whether or not it was a sister city to Limerick, but it should be pointed out for verse officionados that this Riga and 'tiger' do not rhyme, as Latvia has REEga, whereas Monroe County, New York has RYEga. Please be on the look out for tigers in Monroe County.

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