I am writing this in a cafe in Riga. Going to a cafe on my own and buying a coffee is fairly high on my scary list, so I am feeling somewhat tense, but there were no real options. Husband was at work all morning, and has returned to make phone calls and I know from past experience that these will be very loud/shouty and the chance of being able to concentrate and write to you is tiny. So I left, and found a cafe that looked empty and might not mind a lonely blogger making a coffee last an hour while they type. And I am very keen to write this, because I want to tell you about my morning. I was brave this morning too.
I walked to Modes Muzeja Kafejnica, which is the fashion museum and cafe tucked away behind St Peter’s Church. This is the first cafe in Riga that I have dared to visit on my own (at some point this will be normal) and I had passed it yesterday. It looked so pretty, I was determined to go in. As soon as I stepped inside a lady in an old-fashioned apron and cap welcomed me and showed me to a round wooden table and sofa. I was given a multi-lingual menu; old-time dance music was playing and I felt like I had stepped back in time and should have been wearing a long skirt and lacey blouse with a fat broach at the collar. But I wasn’t. I was wearing jeans and boots and a thick ski jacket that I folded onto the seat next to me and opened the menu. The cafe served drinks and cakes—this was so my kind of place.
I ordered at the counter: a filter coffee which customers pour themselves, and an eclair. There were several types of eclair and I chose one dusted with icing sugar and oozing with cream and strawberry conserve. It was delicious.
Pictures of fashion throughout the ages were strung from the ceiling, reminding me of pictures in books from my mother’s childhood—little girls holding puppies, suited gentlemen with cigarettes, while the women fluttered fans and eye-lashes over their pearls. It was all wonderfully art deco 1920’s. It even smelt 1920’s, with a sort of fruity floral undercurrent.
There is a discount if you buy a museum ticket, so when I had finished my coffee and daydream, I paid for both at the desk. The girl suggested I could leave my jacket on a peg in the cafe, but I am too foreign to trust things like that, so I thanked her and left, hugging my bulky jacket with gloves and hat to my overheated body like some sort of nervous sweating snail.
The entrance to the museum was slightly confusing, with a man who seemed to be shouting at a woman in a ticket booth—but he may not have been shouting, Latvian tends to sound cross. I waved my receipt over his shoulder, so the woman could see I had paid. The woman checked it, and offered to hang my jacket in the wardrobe (I’m not sure if I had pushed in, I hope not. It’s easy to be rude by mistake when you’re foreign).
I walked into the museum (still clutching coat and gloves and hat) and was greeted by glass display cases of dresses. They were long with bouffant skirts and the little girl in me wanted to try them on and twirl. Especially as dance music was playing—ideal for twirling in flowing skirts.
An old movie was showing on a television. Screens projected images of clothes. Glass cases displayed gloves and fans and shoes. There was a tiny carved table holding a sewing basket, and velvet drapes covered the walls (Oh! I so wanted to twirl!) I wandered along the row of dresses, staring at the tiny waists and tight sleeves and laced necklines.
Then I realised there was a corner where you could dress up in crinoline, and I wanted to. But no one was with me to take a photo and laugh with me, and I had already been brave by having coffee alone. Maybe next time.
The next room held more dresses—mainly from England, France and America. I didn’t see any Latvian clothes. Why?
It was all so pretty, the air smelt of lily-of-the-valley, music was playing, and I wanted to go into the glass cases and touch the silk and lace and velvet. They sort of lured you to touch them. Which is perhaps why they are displayed in glass cases.
The next room was a dark cellar. I began to search for a light switch, and a helpful lady told me to just wait, and look. (She said it in Latvian, but I think that’s what she said.) The display cases all lit up individually, in time to conversation and music. Each one was a miniature drama, the manikins placed so the words and music told a story, each one in the language of the country where the clothes originated from, with accompanying music by a composer from that country. One display showed traditional Latvian dress—a much simpler peasant outfit in coloured cloth. I still don’t know what the rich women in Latvia wore, maybe they imported their clothes from England or France.
I took some last photographs, and left. I loved this museum. I am also sort of glad that Husband was at work (not saying that he would have spoilt it or anything, but I think his interest in floaty dresses is probably less than mine.) If you have a 10-year-old daughter, or played dressing-up games for hours when young, then you must come to Riga and visit this museum. It is like eating smooth chocolate.
The cafe I am now in is also nice, but very different. It is modern, with hard seats, and instead of soft music it is playing loud radio that’s difficult to ignore. Especially as it sounds just like Terry Wogan, but speaking Latvian! I will finish my coffee and leave. Thank you for reading.
I hope you see something lovely today.
Love, Anne x
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