To walk is, from my experience, the best way to discover a city! Last week, in our beloved Riga, I decided to take part of a ‘free walking tour’… but I didn´t: I failed the meeting point. This has reminded me of one of my favorite books ‘Traveler of the Century’.
In this Andrés Neuman´s novel, a wanderer named Hans arrives in a fictional and mysterious german city called Wanderburg. Hans intends to leave the following day, but Wanderburg had a surprise for him: this labyrinthic city has a capricious geography and the streets take him, everyday, to different places.
The meeting point of the ‘free walking tour’ was at 11am in St Peter´s Luteran Church but, at that time, just like Hans, I went to the Dome Cathedral. ‘How is possible the tavern where I had lunch yesterday, changed today to the opposite side of the street? What about this road going down that, from night to day, became a hill?’, wonders Hans…
And I was wondering the same: I had the idea to reach the centenary gothic church by Zirgu iela, turning to the right once I saw a lavian flag I knew in a building of Šķūņu iela. Until that moment, I thought it would be a great method: Latvian flag is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful of the world! None the less, its colours remind me of my team, Benfica, so whenever I pass a latvian flag I feel confortable, in a mix of proud and safety.
However, in that day, Riga was full of flags. It was November 11th, Lāčplēša Diena, a special day in Riga and one of the most significant days of latvian history: Lāčplēša marks the independence of the country, after national army´s victory over the Bermont forces, back in 1919.
The truth is, my method failed but (and this is the most important) I learned more about this country´s rich history. In the end, I discovered a bit more of Riga: I followed the locals and I took part of a local tradition. Together with hundreds of latvians, this day I lit a candle in the castle of Riga to honour all those who have fought for the country´s freedoom.
In portuguese we say, ‘there are errors coming for good’. That´s true, I failed the ‘free walking tour’ but I can do it some other day. Lāčplēša Diena is only once a year and I would feel worst if I had missed this event. I just realized how wrong I was: to walk is not the best way to discover a city; it became, in fact, the best way to discover a country: Latvia.
‘Rigas Diena’ is a collection of 16 chronicles about my experience of living 9 months in Riga. Download it for free in a pdf that also includes a guide of the best spots to take the best of the latvian capital.
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