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Month: May 2018

cathedrals 126

Riga, Latvia

The largest city of¬†all three Baltic states: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. ūüôā¬†We kinda fell in love with it as we were on our small Baltic tour from Vilnius. ūüôā

The entire region is flat, just flat and the 4 hours bus ride was kinda dull but excited since we never visited these countries before.

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So let’s start with the entrance to the city over the Daugava river :

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At the dock I found this guy whose presence explains the existence of Riga city:¬†According to legend, once upon a time a very strong man lived on the Daugava riverside and he earned his living by carrying people across the river on his back. One night he was approached by a little boy who asked to carry him over the river. Although the weather was stormy, the man picked up the child and began carrying him across the river. With each step, the man found that the child was becaming heavier until by midstream only with the greatest of effort could he made it to shore. The boy turned out to be Christ’s son (?!) so the man was named Kristaps (Latvian form of Christopher). Now you will find his statue on the right bank of the Daugava.

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Riga was founded in 1201 and is a former¬†Hanseatic League¬†member so it’s historical centre is a¬†UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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As we arrived around noon we decided to go for the lunch. National style, of course! So on our menu were things like Grey peas with pork or zucchini pancakes  with dark rye bread.

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Inevitable Latvian beer and Back balsam made  with many different natural ingredients mixed in pure vodka 

Our restaurant was right at the Swedish Gate where very sad story occurred: the gate was part of the Old Town walls that went around Riga during the medieval times, serving as both fortification wall and as an important border for trade purposes.

This is also a place where the tragic romance of a swedish soldier and latvian girl ocurred.
In the past, virgins were forbidden to meet soldiers but this brave girl could not resist temptation of her love and would meet with him at secret gate.
One night the soldier missed the¬†randezvous and she was captured by the towns people and imprisioned in the gate. Legends says that at midnight those who love selflessly can hear her helpless¬†whisper¬†: “How l love him.”

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Swedish Gate
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Swedish Gate – the passage

As we continued walking through medieval charming streets, there was so many to discover since the river¬†Daugava¬†has been a¬†trade route¬†since antiquity, part of the¬†Vikings‘¬†Dvina-Dnieper navigation route¬†to Byzantium.

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The¬†Three Brothers¬†is a building complex consisting of three houses and together they form the oldest complex of dwelling houses in Riga. The houses are situated at the addresses 17, 19 and 21 Maza Pils Street ¬†and each represents various periods of development of dwelling house construction: renaissance, baroque and mannerism (which is a sort of baroque, I agree) ūüôā .

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The Three Brothers

Coffee time! As this squares are just so lovely and catchy when seeing them! ūüôā Plus, the weather was really nice with the clear sky… what a weekend!

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Celebrating 100 years of Independence of Baltic states

Riga is also famous by¬†Art Nouveau architecture ¬†which is supposed to make up roughly one third of all buildings in the centre of¬†Riga, making the¬†Latvian¬†capital the city with the highest concentration of¬†Art Nouveau¬†architecture anywhere in the world. But I don’t agree with that as the biggest concentration of Art Nouveau buildings for me are in Bruxelles, Begium.¬†¬†

We found them in the Alberta street. 

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The¬†Freedom Monument¬†is a memorial located¬†honouring soldiers killed during the¬†Latvian War of Independence¬†(1918‚Äď1920). It is considered an important symbol of the freedom, independence, and sovereignty of Latvia.

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The Freedom Monument

The city markes their victims of the Soviets snd the period of communism as well.

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Riga Central Market¬†is Europe’s largest¬†market and one of the most notable structures from 20th century in Latvia. It contains of five hangars and it takes a time to go through all the halls.

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Riga Central Market

What else to say?

We finished our day by climbing to the top of the The Latvian Academy of Sciences and enjoyed the nice view of the city at its sunset.

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Latvian Academy of Sciences

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View on the river Daugava and the TV tower

The tower reminds me a bit on the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw, Poland which was the Stalin’s gift to the Polish people.¬†But then my friend shared a story with me about 7 sisters’ buildings and eighth never been built.

We went back to Vilnius, Lithuania.

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Vilnius, Lithuania

A perfect weekend getaway with a friend! Landing a bit late in the evening, having a late dinner and smashing into the city for Saturday night!

The dinner was quite greasy: a soup, breaded fingers with melted cheese and even the fish! But the zeppelins (Lithuanias national dish – large-sized dumplings made from a mixture of cooked and raw potato dough filled with pork and covered with a generous ladle of a bacon and sour cream sauce).

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Sea Trout with chopped mushrooms 
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Zeppelins ūüôā

So the night in Vilnius started! We visited couple of bars and drank lithuanian beer like¬†Ň†vyturys or¬†SakiŇ°kiŇ≥¬†¬†Pale Ale.

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As the next day started a bit shaken, we decided to visit first the local market hall to get rich with vitamins and proteins and also to try local home made products. ūüôā

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The next stop was The Gate of DawnРa city gate in Vilnius and one of its most important religious, historical and cultural monuments.

It was built in 16th century as a part of defensive fortifications for the city of Vilnius, the capital of the then Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Out of ten gates, this is the only remained remains, while the others were destroyed by the order of the government at the end of the 18th century.

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Gate of Dawn

In the 16th century city gates often contained religious artifacts intended to guard the city from attacks and to bless travelers. So the Gate of Dawn as well: The Chapel inside contains an icon of The Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of Mercy, said to have miraculous powers. It has been worshiped by  both Roman Catholic and Orthodox inhabitants of the city.

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The most impressive part for me was of course, the Old town.  It is one of the largest surviving medieval old towns in Northern Europe and under UNESCO heritage as it collects gothic, renaissance, baroque and neoclassical architectural style.

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Dziuga Рtraditional Lithuanian cheese specialty 
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Before¬†World War II, Vilnius was one of the largest Jewish centres in Europe. Its Jewish influence has led to it being described as the “Jerusalem of Lithuania” and Napoleon named it “the Jerusalem of the North”¬†as he was passing through in 1812.

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Jewish Ghetto

 

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Pilies Street; which means literally Castle Street

A Modern Art Centre is located on Literatai street where you can find the items on the wall about all the literature authors somehow connected to Lithuania. I was particularly interested in the mouth prosthesis representing the critics in literature and in the little book of Thomas Harris, the author of Hannibal Lecter who wrote that this serial Рkiller is from Lithuania.

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 Literatai street

Vilnius indeed has many churches: orthodexed and christian catholic churches. We visited plenty of them as they were all so close to each other and usually on our way through itineraries.

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The Church of St Theresa
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The Church of St Theresa – interior
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Orthodox Church of the Holy Spirit
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Orthodox Church of the Holy Spirit

Politically significant and interesting to me was Church of Virgin Mary Ascension which was somewhat destroyed but under construction. This Greek Catholic Church has the exhibition of photos of Maidan protests in Kiev, Ukraine. 

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Church of Virgin Mary Ascension
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Church of Virgin Mary Ascension – interior
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Church of Virgin Mary Ascension – exhibition of Maidan protests

Or¬†St. Anne’s Church which is a¬†Roman Catholic¬†church –¬†a prominent example of both¬†Flamboyant Gothic¬†and¬†Brick Gothic¬†styles and apparently the most popular church in Vilnius to get marry. The legend says Napoleon liked this building so much that he wanted to bring it back to Paris. Oh well…¬† ūüôā

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St Anne’s Church
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St Anne’s Church
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St Anne’s Church and monastery behind
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St Anne’s Church – interior

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The last one I am going to put here… Gosh, there were many… ūüôā

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¬†Church of the Holy Spirit in the DominikonŇ≥ street
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Church of the Holy Spirit – interior

Okey, moving on… or not? …in 2009, Vilnius was the¬†European Capital of Culture. Its main landscape is the Cathedral Square with the Cathedral and the Bell tower which was part of the city walls as well.¬†

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Bell tower and Cathedral at Cathedral Square

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If you stand in front of the Cathedral and make a wish and turn around three times – the wish comes true! So we did it! The only thing is that I forgot to close my eyes due to excitement…

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The Statue of Gediminas – The Grand Duke of Lithuania is there as well since his coronation took exactly in this church.

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Statue of Gediminas – the Grand Duke of Lithuania (13th century)

There is also a Gediminas tower but it is hard to visit it now as the entire hill is under reconstruction. Instead of that, we went to the Hill of Three Crosses where from we enjoyed the view on entire city and the tower as well.

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Three Crosses

According to a legend,¬†seven Franciscan friars were beheaded¬†on top of this hill. Wooden crosses were built in the location since the early 17th century and later replaced with stoned ones. It soon became a symbol of the city and an integral part of the city’s skyline.

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Three Crosses
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View on Vilnius and Gediminas tower

The three Baltic states: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are celebrating 100 years of independence this year so the hashtag #100 can be found around. We found one in front of the Presidential palace. 

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Presidential Palace
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Flags of Lithuania and Vilnius (the Duke Gediminas)

The Duke has even his own shopping street: Gediminas avenue and the theater there with the sculptures of muses, which to me are a bit scary old ladies but who am I?

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Gediminas Avenue – the shopping district
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The three muses of National Theatre

When it comes to Baltic Amber, Lithuanians are the greatest source of information, history, and the real product itself, natural Amber. It is far more than Fossil Resin. It is the symbol of the country and the soul of Lithuanian people. They are immersed in Baltic Amber history and mythology, awed by its beauty and ever respectful of its amazing healing powers.

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Baltic amber

¬†Remember Christian in Copenhagen?¬†And my bad impression about it? Well in Vilnius there is something similar but I liked it much more than the first version. It is called¬†UŇĺupis which means “the other side of the river” in the¬†Lithuanian language¬†and refers to the¬†Vilnia River.¬†

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They are actually even having their own parliament which is a bar, the army which they do not like to call the army but the Guardian angels and a flag: the hand with a circle in it symbolizing they are not corrupted as the money falls through their hands.

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The flag of Republik of¬† UŇĺupis
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Pointing arrows to other free republics in the world 
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Vilnia river in the UŇĺupis Republik

The most interesting part is the Constitution stating funny but also remarkably thinking statements like: Everyone has a right to die but it is not obligatory. ūüôā

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Theeeen, this weird thing… it occurred during the lunch time in one of the shopping streets around…¬† kinda reminded us on our supposed to be 4 stars hotel ūüôā

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Unfortunately we didn’t manage to go to the museum of the Soviet spies and tortures (next time Vilny!! ūüôā ) but we found next to it this monument dedicated to the victims of communism.

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Monument of the victims of communism

For the end, something to think about and what made my day in Vilnius… it is kinda hipsterish, I know… but give it a go!

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