Wednesday, 12 October 2016


7th - 8th Oct 2016

Blackheads House

Situated in the Town Hall square is the impressively ornate Blackheads' House (above). I remember there is also one in Tallinn. Originally built in 1344 it is was a meeting house for the Blackheads' Guild of unmarried German merchants (dread to think what they got up to). They got the name because their patron/founder was an African born Roman soldier. The original building was badly bombed in 1941 and then totally flattened by the Soviets in 1948. The blueprints survived and it was  completely rebuilt; completed in 2001, for Riga's 800th birthday. The statue out the front is of St. Roland. Who?!

Left: The ornate doorway with the carving of the founder, St Maurice, the Afro-Roman soldier, on the right side pillar.

There is an excellent Tourist Information office on the left side of this building....if ever you are passing.

Just to one side of this square is St. Peter's Church (right). I saw it advertised that there is a lift which takes you up the steeple and from which there are excellent panoramic views of the city. So I went in.......

The interior was rather dull and cavernous but with a somewhat weird display of contemporary art down one side, along with a few gloomy religious pictures on the walls. The only other people in there were a couple of old women in a side chapel, praying vigorously. I had the place virtually to myself. 
Ticket for the lift cost 3 Euros, sold to me by a hatchet faced  woman at the entrance and I had to climb steps for the first three floors before finding the lift ("why couldn't they start it at the bottom?", I asked myself). I was told to sit down and wait, by the lift operator. Anyway, nobody else turned up, so I got into the lift and up we went. Just me and the lift operator. I was deposited out onto a narrow little open-air gallery running around the base of the pointy bit at the top, and the lift disappeared down again. I was left alone. There was, as promised, an excelllent 360˚ panoramic view. I duly took photos, which took about 3 minutes, and waited for the lift to return. And waited. And waited some more. It was chilly up there with a brisk northerly breeze blowing. After 10 minutes waiting I was getting a bit concerned as to when the lift might return. There was no other way down. There was a metal man-hole cover bolted to the stone floor, and an iron ladder going further up inside the pointy spire. After 10 minutes I began to wonder if I had been left stranded. The lift man might have gone off for his lunch or he might have forgotten about me or, if he was waiting for more customers, I could be there all day....and all night! There was a button to push outside the lift door, but that didn't light up or seem to do anything. I pushed it firmly and often. After 15 minutes I was beginning to get rather cold and wondering what to do if nobody came, ever. I don't have a smart-phone which could connect me to the Riga Tour Office web-site. I didn't know what emergency number to ring. I was thinking I might have to call someone in England on my trusty basic 20-year-old Nokia telling them I was stranded up the steeple of a church in Riga. I suspect they might have just laughed. Perhaps I could start yelling for help at the ant-sized pedestrians below but, in the unlikely event of them hearing me, they would probably think I was one of those muezzins calling them to prayer. OK, after over 20 anxious minutes the lift did reappear....but it did seem a very long 20 minutes I can tell you. No punters got out and I was taken, shivering, back down. I suppose I got my 3 Euros worth.
....anyway, here are a couple of the pics I took.

Left: Looking to the north-west over the Daugava River.  Riga Castle is just to the right of the bridge and Riga Cathedral in the centre.

Right: South down the river over the bus and railway stations.

Left: Those four enormous hangar-like buildings were indeed German built hangars for WW1 Zeppelins. There is a fifth just to the left. They were imported from elsewhere in Latvia. They now house the Riga Central Market, and there is more open-air market spilling out behind them.

Each hangar, five of them, and they cover an enormous area, is full of meat, veg, cheese and all other kinds of foodstuff. There are also numerous spill-over stalls to the sides and behind. One hangar is completely dedicated to fish. I just couldn't fathom out how they managed to sell so much stuff before it started to go off. There is enough food in there to supply a city twice the size of Riga for a month!
Right; This is just the fish hangar....and not that many customers.

OK, I think that is about enough on Riga. Off to Vilnius, Lithuania, tomorrow by bus because, again, there is not a feasible railway system linking them.  I noticed in my guide-book there is a hotel in Vilnius called the 'Grotthaus'. I would dearly love to have booked in there, just for the name, to complete a trio of 'Schmelly, Draughty and Grotty', but it is obviously quite smart and outside my budget. I have settled for the more modest Hotel Panorama. All shall be revealed.

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