Monday, 11 July 2016

Riga: River Daugava and the Spikeri quarter

The promenade along the Daugava

It's our final day in Riga and we are exploring some of the less touristy areas. We start by walking down to the Daugava river and turning left by the Stone Bridge. We have driven along the roads by the river several times as they provide the easiest way into and out of the part of the Old Town where we are staying, but walking is always the best way to really get to know somewhere.

The first sight of note is this oddly-shaped building on the left bank. It turns out that it is the Railway Museum.

Ahead of us, appropriately enough, is the Railway bridge, which is beautifully lit up at night, offering a great landmark.

We had read that beyond the Railway bridge on the right bank there is a relatively new promenade and, rather optimistically, I imagined something a little like the New York Highline. It isn't of course although there are some nice benches and plantings (see photo at the head of this post). Closer inspection revealed that some of the wood already needs re-varnishing and there are quite a few weeds. It seems they need the Highline's volunteer gardeners!

At the end of the section which has been upgraded there is a view towards this strange structure beyond the motorway bridge.  It is the Radio and Television Tower which was built with Russian money in 1979-89. It is apparently, at 368m, the tallest tower in the European Union (there are two higher ones in Russia). The Eiffel Tower is only 300m.

The final section of the promenade has curvy benches set against the wall.

We turned round and headed back, soon taking an underpass away from the river towards the arty suburb of Spikeri. At a physical level, this is principally know for a group of 19th century brick warehouses which have been renovated and now office small businesses, restaurants and artists. It put me in mind of the Distillery District in Toronto.

Just beyond here, at a road junction there is a good view of one of Riga's landmarks, the Academy of Sciences. It was Riga's first skyscraper when it was built in 1953-7 and has Latvian folk imagery as well as hammer and sickle motifs. It became known as "Stalin's wedding cake". By its base you can see the Russian Orthodox church.

Doubling back from here we reached our final destination: the extraordinary Central Market.  

The Market is housed in five former Zeppelin hangars (four in a line and the other at right-angles to them) with each having a speciality: fish, meat, clothes etc. There is also a large fruit and veg marked outside. The hangars were abandoned by the German army when they retreated during the First World War and moved to their present location in the 1920s.

A short stroll brought us back to the now-familiar Old Town.

Conditions: Grey clouds, obviously. 20 degrees.

Distance: a couple of miles.

Rating: four stars. Interesting to see some different aspects of the city and places where residents go.

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