Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Riga: Sometimes What's Old is Also New

After May's Handicraft Tour of Setoland in Estonia, I returned to Latvia's capital, Riga, just in time for the annual craft market, or Gadatirgus. The Gadatirgus always happens on the first weekend of June. Hundreds of vendors come to the grounds of the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum of Latvia, where OLD buildings have been brought together from all over Latvia. The pathways through the woods of the museum grounds are lined with vendors selling their NEW handicraft wares, books, and food. You will find many music and dance performers as well as vendors dressed in traditional national costumes, blending the OLD and the NEW.

Food vendors

Performers stopping to pose in the crowd

Mittens galore!

Woven belts lined up for sale

OLD and NEW Ravelry (knitting) friends had a meet-up at the Gadatirgus on Saturday:

Photo courtesy of Lizzy who is behind the camera

Riga is known for its OLD Town and its Art Nouveau (literally, NEW Art, but also referred to as Jugendstil) buildings, most of which are located in the city center, just outside the Old Town. The largest collection of Art Nouveau buildings in the world is located in Riga! I had toured the area of Riga known for its Art Nouveau buildings on other trips, but this time I also went on a free "yellow suitcase" Art Nouveau Walking Tour with guide Kaspars, whose background was in architecture. He was an entertaining and knowledgeable guide. In fact, my friends and I had already had him as a guide on an Old Town walking tour just the day before. He probably thought we were stalking him!

I also got a chance to visit the Art Nouveau Museum, which I had missed in the past. Be aware that most museums are closed on Mondays in Latvia. I made a point to get to the museum on a Sunday morning. When I arrived, with the help of a Translate app, I read a poster that indicated it was actually World Art Nouveau Day and that there was special pricing for admission to the museum. Unfortunately, that meant that the museum was busier than normal. However, it was not too bad and I was able to see everything I wanted to see and use some of the interactive screens to learn more about Art Nouveau. The very first Art Nouveau building in Riga was built in 1899. However, most of Riga's Art Nouveau buildings date between 1904 and 1914.

Looking up at the incredible spiral staircase
located in the Art Nouveau Museum

The Laima Chocolate Museum also warranted a visit. This OLD chocolate company began in 1870 as Rigerts, and after being unified in 1937 with a number of other confectioners, it was given the name of the most well-known company, Laima. The museum opened in 2013 and was NEW to me this year. I learned about the history of the company, the production process, and the benefits of chocolate: sharp mind, happiness, strong bones, energy, healthy skin, and improvement of metabolism and blood circulation. Well, they didn't need to sell me on the benefits of chocolate, but it was interesting material. My entrance into the museum provided me with a sample cup of dark hot chocolate and a discount card for the factory store. Not surprisingly, I brought some Laima chocolate home with me! There were many natural photo opportunities, and although I was viewing the museum displays by myself, I had some fun at the self-photo exhibit area.

Me at a much younger age

Me as the master confectioner

While in Riga, I returned to the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design. There was a NEW, temporary exhibit of works by Magdalena Abakanowicz as well as the OLDer permanent exhibit of historical decorative arts, which had changed since I last saw it.

Work by Magdalena Abakanowicz

A beautiful tapestry rug
in the permanent exhibit

Folk Dance, 1979, tapestry by Dzintra Vilks

I also made a repeat visit to the Central Market in Riga. These five OLD hangar-style buildings house a variety of products, and I found that they have updated one of the buildings to include a NEW food court. Throughout the various buildings and the surrounding outdoor space, you can find pork, fish, bakery, dairy products, fresh produce, salads of all sorts, and so much more. I found the best lunch of fresh-baked, stuffed naan at Registan.

Food court at the Central Market

Fish display

Colorful salads and pickles

Got Pork?

Naan and the wood-fired ovens at Registan

It was great to be back in Riga again, exploring the OLD and the NEW!

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