After another morning of boring meetings on Monday, I escaped to the city again. It really is a nice place, full of interesting old buildings, industrious, happy looking people and it’s clean! I learned that Riga has apparently been chosen as the European city of culture for 2014 – so book your place now.
Whilst here in Latvia I’ve noticed many things and been told many things about the country’s history and some quite personal stories. Many living Latvians will struggle to remember the last time the country was free of occupation of one sort or another and many will have been brought up to adulthood under a Soviet Regime, but enough parents remembered the free time between the wars to help the country back to its feet after independence in 1991.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/country_profiles/1108059.stm – notice how Latvian history begins in 1918 for the BBC.
Talking to Latvians I’ve met has informed me of slightly more personal story. Apparently, Lenin recruited Latvians for his ‘Praetorian Guard’ security team (this would need verifying) as they had the purist of socialist motives and beliefs. This can be contracted with the disdain with which ‘Stalinist’ buildings are regarded here. They make a distinction between what we might call ‘Soviet Bloc’ Blocks and Stalinist Buildings. The Soviet type is more worthy of rescue!
What other things have I noticed?
- Taxi drivers are mad. I mean really mad, not just taxi driver mad. Mine wove in and out of traffic at speed as if he was weaving warp and weft together. (link – http://www.wisegeek.com/what-are-warp-and-weft.htm)
- The traffic lights are the only ones I’ve ever seen outside of England that work like ours. Red; Red + Amber; Green; Amber; Red. The ‘Green Man’ though, still works like the American version where drivers can still enter your crossing at 90 degrees and run you over (see Taxi driving above).
- All staircases are dim at night! The hotel staircases have no lighting at night – but this morning, in full daylight – they had!
- I actually found a Gent’s urinal that had headrests! Why?
- Many of the autumn fields have old fashioned hay stacks – like Monet’s painting.
- Most of the country is flat and the highest point is about 300 metres above sea level.
So there you go. Next post will be the conference (I think)