Comparing Riga and Warsaw

Central Market, Riga

I do like a good market, so when we were in Riga last week, we set off to find Central Market. It is slightly beyond the old town, and you walk under some major roads, and through some fairly dodgy-feeling areas, so I’m not sure that I would walk there on my own. It’s probably as safe as places in other cities, but there were an uncomfortable number of young men standing at corners, staring.

The market is in several huge Zeppelin Hangers (which had previously housed Zeppelins). Before you arrive at the main market there is a big market outside, with stalls selling clothes and hardware and flowers.

The inside market is mainly food stalls. We wandered around, staring at gigantic fish, and arrays of flatbreads, and mountains of olives. There were tables, and people bought things to eat there, sipping strong black coffee and discussing politics.

As you leave, you can see the tower of the Academy of Sciences looming above you. This gave me a strange feeling of deja vu, as it’s almost identical to the tower we saw in Warsaw. They even have the same name, as the local people in both cities refer to the towers as “Stalin’s Birthday Cake”. Both were built in the 1950s, both are resented today by local people as being an unwanted reminder of Soviet rule, both are too big and expensive to simply demolish.

We took the lift to the 15th Floor, where there’s an observation deck. I wasn’t hugely reassured when Husband reminded me, as I stepped into the lift, that it was an example of 1950s Soviet engineering; but we didn’t plummet to our deaths. The observation deck sways, but if you don’t mind heights, it’s probably a good place to visit (it costs 5 euros each, so not cheap).

The tower in Riga.

The extremely similar tower that looms above Warsaw.

Actually, there is a lot about Riga that reminds me of Warsaw. Both cities had suffered during the war. Both cities had lost most of their Jews (in 1940, there were an estimated 95,000 Jews living in Riga. In 1945 there were an estimated 1,000 Jews remaining. More about this in a later blog.).

Both cities were heavily bombed during the war, and have rebuilt the old part of their cities, so they are now delightful places to visit, with fine examples of ancient (though rebuilt) architecture. Both cities are still coming to terms with their Soviet past. However, both cities are also welcoming, and people mostly speak excellent English. I enjoyed my visits immensely, they are both worth seeing if you ever have the chance. And of course, both cities have a very good local beer!

Thanks for reading. Enjoy your day.

Anne x

A laugh-out-loud book about travelling the world with a family. From India to South America, and across most of Europe, this book has been described as “The Durrells meet Bill Bryson”!



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