Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A Sweet Time in Riga

The day Mitten Camp ended, my husband Chris arrived on Latvian soil for the first time. I hopped the bus from the city center and went to the Riga International Airport (RIX) to meet him and bring him "home" to our hotel, Radi un draugi (the name translates as Friends and Family). My Latvian weaving friend, Vita, had recommended this hotel to me in 2005 and since then I've stayed here any time I've had the opportunity to visit Riga. It's a comfortable place to stay even if I happen to be traveling solo.

View of St. Peter's Church from my quiet room at Radi un draugi

One of the first places I wanted to visit in Riga was a little handicraft and gift shop located just a short distance from our hotel. Latvju Lietas at Audeju iela 6 is owned by the very friendly and talented Ieva. I had read about her shop on a Ravelry forum and although I had never communicated with her, I felt that we had a connection. When we stopped in the shop I found the connection that I was looking for -- a mitten-shaped purse or tote bag that Ieva had designed and knit. I had pinned a photo of her bag from an Etsy listing over 2 years ago on Pinterest. The bag turned out to be the inspiration for me and a number of others in the Knit Like a Latvian group on Ravelry when we did a Maxi Mitten KAL (KnitALong) in the autumn of 2015. I introduced myself to Ieva, told her about the Ravelry KnitALong, and showed her a photo of me with my mitten bag; I had styled the photo just like her original photo. Well, I didn't need to buy a mitten bag since I already own one but I did find some nice Latvian-design coasters, postcards, earrings, and a beautiful wooden butter knife at Ieva's shop.

Ieva and the infamous mitten bag

My version of the mitten bag

In February I contacted the National History Museum of Latvia about a visit to the stacks (or as they say, the funds) to study some of their mittens and socks. I had studied knitwear at the museum before when it was located at the castle, but things have changed a little since a fire at the castle a few years ago. Good news! Nothing in the museum was damaged, but everything had to be moved out so that restoration work could be done on the building. Ilze was my museum email contact and she helped me with the logistics of selecting items and with the formal request that I needed to write to the director of the museum asking for permission to study items from the funds for my own personal education. My request was granted and we made plans to meet at the building that currently houses the funds (items in storage). I was able to chart and photograph a number of items but the photos are for my personal use and I cannot share any of them here - sorry! Following my research time, we walked with Ilze to the museum's current location and she provided us with an in-depth, personal tour of the museum. It was an educational and interesting day!

Ilze from the Department of Museum Pedagogy and Exhibitions

Mara is a knitting friend of mine who lives in Riga. I met her just two years ago (see my prior blog post here) but her life has changed a bit since then. She is not knitting quite so much these days; her twin babies were born in August, 2015! However, we were still able to meet for a walk one afternoon with the babies in their double-wide baby pram. 

We were also invited to join Mara, her husband, and the babies for a picnic on May 4th, a national holiday. We met near the Latvian National Museum of Art where there was a grand reopening following restoration and reconstruction, and admission was free for the day. That meant there was a tremendously long queue, so we skipped the museum and had our picnic instead. Art will have to wait.

Mara made individual servings of a very interesting Latvian dessert - Rupjmaizes kārtojums. I had previously seen this dessert listed on a restaurant menu and thought that rye bread as an ingredient in a dessert sounded rather strange, so I hadn't ordered it. Well, we had our chance to try it - rye bread crumbs, cream, and berries. Unusual but delicious! I can now recommend it.

My husband and I enjoying our dessert
Photo courtesy of Mara

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