‘Riga for Curious Traveler’ is one of the books I have in my bedside table, together with a Fyodor Dostoievsky novel and Matilde Campilho poetry. As you may imagine, this literary cocktail gives me unique dreams.
Written by Andris Kolbergs and translated by Anita Liepina, ‘Riga for Curious Traveler’ is an excelent guide of latvian capital. Across 580 pages, suggested walking tours, maps and illustrations, the reader has the chance to learn more about Riga, through city´s history, toponymy and legends.
One of my favourite legends is about St. James´s church (Jekaba Baznica), in the Old Town (Vecriga). This roman catholic cathedral, that lies directly opposite the latvian parliament, used to have a bell that ended up removed, after the pressure of the locals.
As the author explains, “the bell rings out when an unfaithful wife passes by [and] the frequent ringing of the bell annoyed the ladies of Riga”.
Another interesting curiosity, is a wooden statue of St. Christopher (Lielais Kristaps) on the river bank of Daugava. Inside a small glass structure, this figure presents a man with a little boy in his shoulder and a walking stick in his hand.
According to Andris Kolbergs, St. Christopher was ‘imensely popular’ among the people of Riga, who used to decorate the saint ‘with ribbons, garlands of flowers, colored yarn’ and bring him ‘colored Easter eggs and burning candles’.
Related to St. Christopher, there´s however a tradition: it says that every voyager ‘should come to him before setting out on their travels to ask for good luck while enjoying foreign lands’.
To finish, a fairytale! Outside St. Peter´s church, in Skarnu iela, it´s possible to find one of the landmarks of Riga: the sculpture of four animals, a donkey, a dog, a cat and rooster, standing on each other.
Offered by Riga´s sister city of Bremen, this art piece was created in 1990 by the german artist Krista Baumgaertel. Based on a fairytale by the brothers Grimm, it was inspired by Mikhail Gorbachov´s perestroika and the four animals ‘are peering through the Iron Curtain on a completely new world where they had thought to find a bone or a piece of meat’.
Well, with so many legends and stories to discover about Riga, this book has revealed to be a great ingredient for the dreams of a curious expat like me.
Rigas Diena is now an ebook and you can buy it for just 3€ here
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