More Latvian History

Trip Start May 01, 2009
Trip End May 22, 2009

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

     Saturday May the 16 is Museum night all over Latvia, after my visit to the Museum of War in the morning, I spend the better part of my afternoon doing this Free Walking tour of Riga. Interestingly the walking tour guide is one of the worker from my hostel.  He is a native Latvian who along with a group of other guides decided to start a Free walking tour for the people coming to Riga. They actually don't just show us the "typical Riga" that is the old town and regular tourist attractions, instead, he took us outside of the old town to see the REAL Latvia. He took us to the Central Market where the freshest fish are caught each morning, smoked then sold in the market. As we walked into the market, the aroma of the salted fish fills the air....Mmmmmm.  Our guide bought some local garlic cheese and sour grass for us to try, its actually quite good. Next we went to the largest wooden church there is in the whole Baltic region. According to history, it has been burn down 3 times and rebuild 3 times by different occupants of Latvian territory, that includes Swedes and  Russians.  We then visited the Jewish Ghetto and memorial where thousands of Jew where buried alive and killed during the war. The Plaque commemorated those Latvians brave enough to save the Jews.
      We passed by a huge building call the palace science academy where during the Stalin era, this massive building was built in the matter of  2-3 years.  It is one of the tallest buildings in Riga and its the last building still with the hammer and sickle where as the Soviet symbol is now completely banned with fine here. We stopped by a chocolate shop where I had the most delicious chocolate truffle there is. The truffle is covered by dried grapefruit then the white chocolate shell and creamy grapefruit liquor, yummy.  On our way back to the old town, there is a gay pride parade going where several major streets were blocked off. The guide told us that the police are out there to prevent the city mob from attacking the marching queers.

       I got quite tired from hours of walking, so I went back home to take a nap in preparation for the Free Museum night.  I went the one museum I had to see the Museum of Occupation.  This museum describes the recent history of  Latvian occupation by the foreign powers starting in 1939.  Latvia and rest of the Baltic states declared independence after WW I. After the Russian imperial army left, Latvia wqas quickly developing into a democratic country. However, in 1939, the Soviets and Nazis signed a secret pact allowing the Soviets to overtake the Baltic states. As a result, the Soviets enforced strict regulation against the Latvians and the other 2 Baltic states, people lost their freedom of speech, all properties were nationalized, people who say anything negative were sent to gulag camps. People of Latvia were treated poorly, they were deported in masses on trains to labor camps far away in Siberia without even saying goodbye to their relatives. Latvian official were killed in secret. People were forced to use this disgusting pot filled with human stools for their needs while the contents frequently spill back on them no toilet paper were ever given. People were forced to live and eat under this stench, absolute horror. When the Nazis over took the Baltic states from the Soviets, the Latvians were thinking the German were liberators, but instead, the Nazis started their horrific killing spree of the Latvian Jews. After the war, the Soviets returned for another 40+ years from 1944 til 1991. Latvians along with their Baltic neighbors were once again deported, murdered and killed just like the first time. It is not until the death of Stalin in 1953, things started to get a little better.  Reading through all the displays and looking at the photographs reminds me that freedom is so hard earned here in Latvia as well as Estonia and Lithuania.
      I tried to visit the museum of anatomy but after spending 30 minute walking there, it is closed, so I came back home and called it the night.
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davekcent on

Seemingly Traveling smoothly?
Are you still using Russian to communicate in Latvia? You seem to be not complaining about communication problems anymore?

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