Sunday, March 23, 2014

Art Museum - Riga Bourse

Right in the heart of the Old Town, in Dome Square, you will find a historical and newly renovated bourse building that has become a home for arts - Art Museum Riga Bourse. 

I've heard from tourists that this place is worth a visit and that the price for it is really reasonable, so I checked it on a cold winter day, planning to give to myself about 2-3 hours for a visit (before it's closed at 6 pm). The museum is closed on Mondays, works from 10 am to 6 pm on all other days, except Fridays when it's open until 8 pm.

There are different halls and you can buy a ticket for specific hall/exhibition, but my choice was getting a ticket for the entire museum: combined admission fee to all exhibition halls costs 6.40EUR. As we were going there 2 persons, we decided that for the next time we are going to borrow kids somewhere, because  the family ticket (1-2 adults + 1-4 kids or one  large family) for the entire museum costs 7.11EUR. Well, definitely a friendly price for a family. Of course, you can also get a guided tour, but we went on our own pace without it. 

So, there are temporary and permanent exhibitions and if you have a ticket for the entire museum, you get to go to all of them. You can run through the museum in an hour, but it's really too less of time. I guess 3 hours should be enough, but if you love to stand at each painting for more than 2 minutes, yes, you will need a lot more time.  Well, these are not just painting there, but they make a pretty huge part of what you see there. In permanent exhibitions you will get to see Western European paintings from 16th to 19th century, sculptures and European porcelain, some furniture and different trinkets from 18th century that nowadays doesn't seem that casual at all. Next to the Western Gallery you will find a small Silver Room (with awesome optical-illusion like floor) dedicated to the beginning of 20th century that is a pretty important time for Latvian self-confidence and getting this country founded.  Of course, I loved the most Oriental Gallery (for European it just seems a lot more exotic than everything that's related to Europe). This gallery features art from Middle East and Far East. China, Japan, India, Nepal... Household items, traditional clothes, theater masks, shadow theater, pipes, statues, dishes, porcelain - there is a lot to see. 

Aaaand the building itself from inside is pretty impressive: I already got stories running in my head about rich people having balls there and ladies and gentlemen coming out on inside balconies to speak to their guests in fancy dresses, while someone else is hiding in another room powdering nose or maybe doing something else that should be hidden from curious eyes. 

Art lovers will appreciate this great collection. And if you are not keen and well educated in arts, it's anyway interesting there. You just go there, watch things and try to figure out what were they meant for, and then you find their numbers and read - oh, that's absolutely not what I thought! 

Yes, there is a lot to see, and, yes, the price really is reasonable. 

Check out their website: Art Museum Riga Bourse//English

This video shows the stunning grace of the building where museum lives in: 

Any thoughts, impressions or questions? Or may be some comments or advices form those who have been there?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Two great places off the beaten path: having a drink there can be cultural experience.

If it happens that you are craving for cultural experiences and would love to have a drink surrounded by those who eat and breathe culture, wear hats, beards and glasses, and read books there are some really great hipster-places in Riga. Yeah, I said hipster-places. I've also heard that Riga is hipster capital. At least this article tells it: Hipster Capital Riga

Well, whatever, I’m not here to find the definition of hipsterism. I’m here to share with you info about two pretty enjoyable places that are well known here as typical hipster-places. It means, you will have to get out of the Old Town. No worries, both of them are at the city center and really just some 10-15 min walk away from the Old Town.

Old furniture, heat from fireplaces, friendly locals, concerts, out-of-the-box performances and booze, oh, and usually no snobs there as well!!!  

KKC – Kaņepes Kultūras Centrs

This self-proclaimed culture center in old mansion has real charm. It’s just a 10 min walk away from the Old Town. No chic. And that’s the best thing about this place – the content and charm comes from people, performances and attitude. They have even movie evenings and the territory outside in front of the building is absolutely welcoming in summers, gathering people like a magnet.

Not just the bar and stage, but the building itself has stories around, in and out. It stands there from the beginning of XX century, it has hosted aristocracy and lived through bohemian times when students lived there and it has been school of music for children as well.

Address:  Skolas iela 15. It’s right on the corner between Skolas and  Lāčplēša streets. Look for a giant sculpture of a black lion outside on the wall, and fence that draws a boundary between the street and another world.

Who goes there? Well, definitely not bling-bling people looking for posh and luxury or willing to get something from you. You will meet there artists, students, writers, photographers, hipsters, philosophers and lovers of cultural values – those who are looking for something different and able to find more into less.

Check out their Facebook fan page to dig into pictures: KKC (Kaņepes Kultūras Centrs) Facebook Page


As you might have guessed – this place has been named after American philosopher Noam Chomsky. They are kind of rebels that dare to say out loud – we are not here to comply with authorities and political correctness.  This place is pretty small and you probably won’t even notice it if you were just walking by not looking for it. It’s in that part of city center where tourists don’t get so often. When nobody is looking for ordering drinks, a guy behind the bar pretty often is reading books. That’s already something that tells about this place. It is a really simple shed-like place - one more little piece of heaven that proves that simplicity has a lot in it. Old furniture that seems to have lived its life already, perfectly fits into this place where being who you are is valued a lot higher than pretending.  Oh, and this small place from times to times have concerts as well that might surprise you with really undomesticated music.

Address: Lāčplēša iela 68. Look for a portrait of Noam Chomsky next to the entrance.

Who goes there? Friends and lone wolves who want to have a beer in a shed-like place, those who want to spend time talking to people, those who can go out without make-up or their best clothes on, and that-kind of people who go to KKC as well.

I haven’t lied a word, that’s how it looks and feels there: Chomsky Facebook Page 

These both places are truly welcoming, so if you have a feeling that’s something for you, I’m sure you won’t regret going there! If these places seem for you suspicious and too strange, you probably don't have to waste your time going there. If fact, these are not just "some kind of places" to have a drink - these are experiences in space-time.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Your lazy friend just woke up in European Capital of Culture

Oh my!!! I've been busy enough to forget this blog for... uhm... pretty long time. Not just bolg, my e-mail as well...

Firstly, I'm pretty impressed how many readers have visited this blog all these months when I didn't drop a line. You guys rock! 

Secondly, I'm terribly sorry for all these e-mails I haven't answered. Well... I have nothing to say to defend myself... The only thing I can do is to get back to this blog - obviously there are people out there who want to read it, so I'm making a promise to myself that I'm getting back to this blog with new info. If I'll leave it again, please grab my ear and pull me back. 

So which country just started to use Euro? Latvia. Since 1st of January. 

And which is European Capital of Culture this year? Riga. 

While I'm trying to get warm running my fingers on keyboard (huh, it's pretty cold here), enjoy this video:

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Occupation, Museum and Alcoholic Shot that tells the History

Since  every single day I’m with backpackers from around the world who comes to Riga I’m really surprised how actually the 20 years old Museum of the Occupation of Latvia is popular among tourists. Almost every day I meet someone who has been there, is going there or wants to go there, what makes me to think that really is one of the must-see things in Riga.  And definitely the number 1 museum in Riga visited by foreign guests. 

The original building of the museum you can find at the Old Town – Town Hall square, BUT  - due to renovation it has changed the address for a while. Good news – it’s not very far from it’s previous location and not far from the Old Town. The Bastion Hill and the Freedom monument you can find right on the border between the Old Town and „New Riga” or the city center, and that’s where you can find the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia as well – at Raiņa bulvāris 7.

Check out their website here:

Aaaand here is the virtual tour into the occupation of Latvia:!/en/lang
Oh, almost forgot: if we talk about the occupation and museums here is some alcoholic entertainment to get to know the history in Riga.  Lately a new shot has concured the hearts of locals in Riga and it is called „Occupation Museum” (or „Okupācijas Muzejs” in Latvian). The shot „Occupation Museum” consists of something from Latvians, something from Germans and something from Russians (that’s already a lesson in history of Latvia): Riga Black balsam, Jagermeister and vodka. As bitter as the truth of history. Get it at Shot Cafe located at Jacob's Barracks at the Old Town.

*picture taken from the official website of  the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia

Monday, November 5, 2012

Exceptional Experiences in Latvia

Checking what's on my computer I found this list of exceptional experiences in Latvia that was made many months ago for some other website... But it never got published anywhere, so I'm giving myself the green traffic light to share this list with you. Some adrenaline, some adventures, some childhood dreams that can become reality. Take a look at this list and let me know if there is something you can add!

1) Spending a night in a jail
In 2009 The Ghost Hunters International team announced: the Karosta jail in Liepāja is one of the most haunted places in the world. This KGB prison, where more than 150 people got shot, is one of the most unusual hotels you can find around the world. Entering this place every visitor becomes a prisoner, and staying overnight there you will get a real prisoners cell. It should be noted that this place is not recommended for emotionally sensitive people.

2) Flying with no belts, ropes or parachutes
In 1979 Jean St. Germain, Canadian-French inventor, built the first vertical wind tunnel, and last 30 years  ‘Aerodium’ in Latvia has been working to develop this invention and make flying real for any person with no special previous training. In Sigulda you can fly without safety belts and rubbers, no ropes and no parachutes – just jump into the vertical wind tunnel to enjoy adrenaline and taste of freedom.

3) Song and Dance Festival where thousands are singing like one
Since 1873 Song and Dance Festival in Latvia has been significant event which brings together more than 20 000 performers - singers and dancers in Riga – all dressed in traditional costumes from all parts of Latvia. The festival is held in summer once per 5 years taking over the streets of Riga, concert halls and even the public transport. The next festival will take place in 2018.

4) Midsummer’s Night
The pagan tradition of celebrating the summer solstice is absolutely alive in Latvia. 23rd of June people are getting to the countryside to make bonfires at night, to drink beer and jump over the fire, to decorate themselves with flowers, to sing and dance, to look for magical ferns in dark woods at night and run naked around meadows staying awake until the sunrise.

5) Park of modern arts
Pedvāle Open-Air Art Museum is the area of 200 ha full of original and surprising sculptures, installations and art objects created in workshops for specific place using mostly locally available materials. Be ready to spend your day in meadows, forests and hills on the banks of the river Abava observing wildlife and interaction between the nature and modern art where every step in the trail can bring new surprises.

6) Bobsleigh for speed lovers
1420 meters long bobsled track where high-level competitions are held is available also for non-professionals to enjoy adrenaline when bob curves down in landslides with a speed of 100kph. Accompanied by athletes, visitors can enjoy winter bob, summer bob on wheels or special tourist bobs in the track built in 1986 and regularly bringing here bobsled professionals from several countries for their trainings.

7) The Secret Soviet bunker
2000 sq m large bunker 9 m underground has been a secret since it was created in 1980-ies. It is located in Līgatne, and the veil of secrecy has been removed only in 2003. Soviet memorabilia, projections of what would happen in case of a nuclear war, telecommunication unit for communication with Moscow Kremlin and more original features you can see there now. For brave visitors there is a possibility to participate at the reality game.

8) Latvian Sauna
Traditional Latvian sauna is a real trip into the world of power of nature: right herbs and branches of trees into sauna open the world of aromas and natural healing, jumping into the water of pond or lake (even in winter) right after sweating in the temperature of up to 100° C strengthens body, and a massage with leaves and herbs (which looks more like hitting a person) removes the stress better than any spa.

9) Off-road driving with Russian military cars
Off-road park in Saldus district near the lake gives the adventure of off-road driving through forests and rivers in Russian military jeeps in the former military landfill Zante. There are special tracks for several difficulty levels, and after the training and orientation rides groups are also invited to challenge everyone's driving skills in a competition.
10) Lonely beaches and naturally blue cows 
Western part of Latvia – Kurzeme offers to enjoy beautiful, quiet, lonely beaches on the Baltic Sea – for hiking, bird watching, nude swimming or being alone with the wild nature.  This part of Latvia is also the only place to see naturally blue cows. The secret of this natural color is nothing else than the water of the sea.


Friday, October 5, 2012

Moscow Suburb: don't go there in Riga. Or better - do it!

If there is a district in Riga locals are telling tourists to stay away - it's Moscow Suburb - that shady place with old wooden buildings, black market and every second house selling illegal drugs. And now it's time to be honest - I live there. I've been walking around there at daylight hours and totally alone at nights as well. Nothing ever happened to me. Nobody even tried to harm me or my street-walking peace there. I'm sharing apartment with two other people and nothing bad ever happened to them as well. My intuition is whispering that this district is not that bad. 
Ok, here is something not so nice - you will see old haunted wooden houses, drunk people on streets, some stray dogs, you will probably witness drug dealing, someone might ask you a cigarette and the main language spoken there is not Latvian, you will hear Russian. If it sounds scary to you - don't go there. 

So called Moscow Suburb is the oldest district in Riga (right after the medieval Old Town) and its history starts dated back to 14th century. So, Russian district, then Jewish district, the poorest district in Riga... If you are interested in history of this part of Riga (and some more pictures), check here: Russians of Latvia

Talking about nowadays: as I mentioned before - I can perfectly deal with this district where haunted houses are displayed to view but private palaces are hiding behind high fences. I even find it somehow romantic place... Start your tour with Riga Central Market, then head to the Soviet skyscraper The Academy of Sciences and "dive" into Moscow Suburb with   Jewish memorial places, Grebenshchikov Church - one of the largest congregations of Old Believers in the world, independent theater, small shops and other things to wonder about.

Oh, you can find there the most amazing flea market I've seen - Latgalīte - it's just awful at a first glimpse, but definitely a place where you could find even Devil if you were looking for it - you can find there everything. As we joke - if you have lost something in Riga, you can buy your things at this flea market.  (Note: it won't hurt to watch your pockets and bags if you go there).

Posh and shine is staying away from Moscow Suburb- it still is the poorest district in Riga. Well, probably this district looks also a bit sad and depressive in rainy days, but it has it's own atmosphere and historical breath. And shiny, colorful autumn seems the most suitable season for this district. That's something you don't get to see at the city center.

P.s. You can click on pictures to enlarge them.