Impressions from Riga (Latvia)

This post would be a sum up of all the observation points logged during my journey in Riga, Latvia. I was particularly interested in visiting this city, as well as Tallinn (Estonia), just to give a chance to my desire of knowing how east cities (East Europe) could be, and because I was very curious about its history of continuous domination by different countries. In this sense, the Occupation Museum  has been a red flag, an obliged stop along this trip. I was feeling very sad and angry while reading about how life was (and wasn’t) during Nazi and Communism periods, and above all about massive deportations of autochthonous population. A step outside the golden circle of the city center has been enough to notice the evidence of the heritage of the Communism period, as well as the coexistence of past and present and future opposite directions. The city center was included in the list of protected sites by UNESCO in 1997 because of the great historic value of medieval and Art Nouveau style buildings. Most of these are very well kept, all clean and bright. I noticed a number of cameras, as well as policemen, in all streets. In those senses, center is well protected. A single step in subways and bridges towards south and south-east suburbs and I felt like a grey curtain had fallen down on my eyes: crumbling houses with broken windows were a regular vision, as well as high blocks of flats in a parallelepiped form.


The Central Market next to Moscow quarter was amazing: lots of fish, meat, flowers, vegetables and fruits all mixed in an explosion of colors and smells. I have never seen pomegranates full of such red grapes like those ones! Outside there was a big bazaar of clothes. Here people looked different from the city center, like buildings. When they purchased something, they said very few words, neither “hello” nor “thank you/you’re welcome” ceremony as we do (so it is in Italy, instead). Clothes were of poor quality, most made by jeans and synthetic fibers. Some men wore also jeans jackets, some looked untidy, the type of person who some people here in Italy could consider dangerous, not trusty. I would invite this people to build up a trip in Riga and review their beliefs before speaking next time. Most of men and women in city center wore trousers or skirts, absolutely not jeans (those of notorious stylists seemed better accepted). In my opinion they were in shrill contrast with the true spirit of Riga and the entire country. In fact, that was easily visible outside the city, in the country. I could see Latvian countryside during the trip on the bus to reach Tallinn (about 300 km far). Bright green fields, high fir and birch woods, small wood cottage with yard on the front and many fruit trees (most of apples) and the wind from the sea: this was the authentic heart of Latvia.

In conclusion, I can say that I appreciated more the suburbs and the small towns than the clean, touristic, golden center of Riga. The most sad vision I had was that of groups of only men obsessively rummaging with their eyes around the streets (of the center, of course) in search for beautiful Latvian (or Russian) women. And the worst linguistic experience I could heard was in the Art Museum, a visitor speaking in Latvian and asking for the guide in Russian, instead. People there seem divided between two directions: following the new colorful future of making money, like USA and the West teach (with the pathetic results of nowadays at worldwide level), or looking back, and regret, at past East events and models.