Baltic States III

Riga, Latvia

Today we were leaving Vilnius, Lithuania and we had loved it! But just one more castle first.


Mike was not happy and yelled “Where’s the &%$# wine cellar????”.  This was a 13th century defense castle…but that didn’t matter to him.

On to Riga, Latvia and the Garden Place Hotel. I had reserved 2 rooms, 3 months earlier for us and  our “exchange” student Kate and husband Tom.


Part of the reason I choose this hotel was the lovely outdoor courtyard where people meet and greet and sip something while doing so.

hotel-garden-palace, courtyard

Bit of an argument with the Registrar when checking in. “No”, he said, “all rooms with balconies are rented. Let’s see what’s left.”  I said “the manager”.  “…This is our policy…” I said “the manager  now.”  He called…and then said “we can offer a suite for the same price and a room with windows with a view to your companions.”  After checking the rooms, I asked him to thank the manager for honoring our reservations.

Since Tom and Kate are two educators with 2 kids, time was short, and they were arriving at 9 PM. So Mike and I strolled the Old Town looking for a restaurant. This one was typical of the many within walking distance.Typital dining in Riga

And I am glad we didn’t stop!  On our return it was packed with students singing “fight songs” at another large group across the street…and they, of course, returned the favor.

Our guests arrived and we spent hours on the lovely patio, catching up. The next morning we decided to tour this beautiful Old Town and headed to the river.

Riga Town

Looking around, you can see much of the Old Town, including the Cathedral and Daugava River.

When the city walls were torn down (mid 19 century), the space was divided into a ring of avenues and parks and most of the remaining area became pedestrian.

This is the Swedish gate- The soul survivor of the eight gates. It was built in 1698.Part of Riga town walkwaythe front wall and archway were the original and the remaining walls rebuilt into apartments  and shops, keeping  the rough, stone streets.

Finally, when our feet (ours not theirs) gave out, we stopped for lunch.



Mike is grimacing because he had to share his larger portion of wine with Tom.  Being energized by food and wine, we headed off to explore the collection of “Art Nouveau” buildings which UNESCO recognized  as “Unparalleled anywhere in the world.” And they were!



This Art Nouveau building was my favorite (and there were many). It could use a little make-up  but I loved the windows  and “kid” noise coming from the tunnel down front. Most buildings were apartments.

Photo194I used this picture to show the difference between the structures: the first was on what was designated the “quiet zone” with limited street traffic and the second, although lovely, was on a busy street…and that’s what all those beautiful balconies overlooked.

When the city removed the major part of the fortress, starting with the riverside and including the Old Town, they added parks and walking areas.


It included walking and biking trails, part of the river, benches and beauty, and a quiet escape from a somewhat noisy city center!

That night we ate in the cellar of an Italian restaurant  and moved up to the walkway patio to finish our wine.  Since Kate and Tom were leaving tomorrow for home, kids and jobs, we made the most of our time together!


“Al-fresco dining at night in the square” This shows just one of the many patio dining areas. The next day we only had the morning to finish the tour.  And there it was…only 2 blocks from the hotel.

Riga Old Town

And this was the Center.  On the left the, Cathedral,  and on the right the beautiful House of  Blackheads originally built in 1334 for the city’s guilds. (They obviously revered their workers.) Apparently the name came from their patron..who was depicted as a Moor.  Since they were mostly unmarried foreign merchants and the sole occupants of this building, they had riotous parties.(??)

The Dutch Renaissance façade was added in the 1500’s.

A bit sad that it was time for them to catch their flight back to Antwerp, we clinked our wine glasses together.


Mike and I look a little down……but maybe it’s just the exhaustion of trying to keep up with them!






Baltic States IIII  coming soon!





About carolinebotwin

Caroline Botwin and her husband Mike are retired educators who have always had a yen for travelling: he with a PH.D and teaching Architectural Engineering plus California wine education, and she having taught high school English, speech and drama. Both wanted to learn first hand about other cultures. While Mike predominately studied buildings and structures and met with winemakers, Caroline hunted for ancient sites and peoples. And kept journals of all their travels.
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