October 2009 Archives
(click to enlarge) Riga has a large and lively central market. Looming in the background is the Soviet-era Academy of Sciences building in familiar Stalinist skyscraper style. According to the Wikipedia article on "Latvian Academy of Sciences",
"The Academy of Sciences edifice was built after World War II, between 1953 and 1956, as a gift from the workers and peasants of the other Soviet republics to the Latvian people and also to mark the borders of Stalin's empire, and is appropriately decorated with several hammers and sickles as well as Latvian folk ornaments . Most Latvians consider themselves lucky that the giant portrait of Stalin that was supposed to be a part of the facade never came to fruition. Being 108 metres (353 ft) tall, it was the first skyscraper in the republic and was the tallest building until the construction of the Hansabanka Central Office (121m or 396ft), and at the time, one of the highest reinforced concrete buildings in the world.
The building, designed by Lev Rudnev, is a cousin to similar Stalin-era skyscrapers, which were representative of what became known as Stalinist architecture (sometimes referred to as Stalin's Empire style or Socialist Classicism). The architecture of the skyscraper resembles many others built in the Soviet Union at the time, most notably the main building of Moscow State University. Local nicknames for this building include Stalin's birthday cake and the Kremlin."
(click to enlarge) The Statue of Liberty Freedom Monument. According to a web site about the monument,
"This monument is located in downtown Riga, Latvia, Brìvìbas street, dedicated "To Fatherland and Freedom".
The Monument was executed by Kârlis Zâle (1888-1942), a well-known Latvian sculptor. Ernests Shtalbergs was the architect . The 42 meter high monument is topped by a Liberty Statue - a woman with three stars symbolizing regional parts of Latvia: Kurzeme, Vidzeme and Latgale. At the base of the monument are several sculptural groups symbolizing different values - Labor, Strength of the Nation, Spiritual Strength, Freedom, Family; relief on the lowest block represents historical events.
The Freedom Monument was unveiled in 1935 during Latvia's brief period of independence between the wars. Known locally as Milda, it was a powerful symbol of anti-Soviet resistance serving as the focus of gatherings in the late 1980's during early stages of the drive for independence. It is puzzling why the Soviets did not tear it down, but certainly the natives' predictable wrath was a deterent. Now it is a shrine to national independence.
People still bring flowers to the monument which are tended to by the city's elderly women. During the Soviet era, a running joke, not completely untrue, was that the monument was a travel agency, because anyone who dared place flowers at its base got a free, one-way ticket to faraway Siberia. "
(click to enlarge) ... and the spectacular House of the Blackheads (the building on the right). According to Wikipedia,
"House of the Blackheads ... is a building situated in the old town of Riga, Latvia. The original building was erected during the first third of the 14th century for the Brotherhood of the Blackheads Guild, a guild for unmarried German merchants in Riga. [Their patron saint was Mauricius, a black man, hence the name.] Major works were done in the years 1580 and 1886, adding most of the ornamentations.
The structure was bombed to a ruin by the Germans June 28, 1941 and the remains demolished by the Soviets in 1948. The current reconstruction was erected from 1995 to 1999."
(click to enlarge) Weaving is certainly a craft, sometimes an art.
(click to enlarge) Is keeping the birds away a craft or an art?
From the Estonian Open Air Museum's web site, http://www.evm.ee/keel/eng/ :
"Nuki handicraft farm is open every day from May to September where the types of national handicrafts are demonstrated.
Built in the 1890s, Nuki farm has been the Open Air Museum's handicraft farm since 2006, where in the summer season, one can see various national handicrafts in action and learn the techniques behind them. Our goal is not to demonstrate the crafts precisely as they were practiced hundreds of years ago but instead to show the national handicraft tradition in its current development. After all, even the farming households of old did not shy away from innovations and often embraced more effective techniques and methods. Handicraft experts from across Estonia are at work and ready with helpful advice for aficionados."
(click to enlarge) These diagonal fences were common throughout the grounds of the museum.
(click to enlarge) A more familiar up-and-down design.
This is a very pleasant, well-done museum. According to its web site, http://www.evm.ee/keel/eng/
"The Estonian Open Air Museum is akin to a village, with 12 farms, as well as its own church, tavern and schoolhouse. There are a number of mills, a fire station, fishing net sheds as well as a dancing area and a village swing.
The museum is located in a lovely, well-maintained forest park on a high sandstone bank on Kopli Bay, just 15 minutes drive from the center of Tallinn."
(click to enlarge) Grounds of the Kadriorg Palace
(click to enlarge) White "Estonia" grand piano
The Kadriorg Palace and Park was built by Peter the Great in the 18th century as a summer residence for his empress, Catherine. "Kadriorg" means "Catherine's Valley". The white piano was a specialty of the Tallinn Grand Piano Factory, whose instruments were well-known throughout Europe.
(click to enlarge) Period display in the Tallinn City Museum
(click to enlarge) Tallinn Museum of Photography. This museum houses an exhibit about the invention of the ultraminiature Minox spy camera, an amusing contrast in size to the big view camera depicted here. The invention of the Minox is an honor also claimed by Riga in Latvia. See
for a detailed account of the history of this camera and its inventor, Walter Zapp.
(click to enlarge)
(click to enlarge)
In late June - early July we went to the Baltic countries. I've already posted photos from the Lithuanian Millenium Festival and Jewish sites in the Baltics, but there were many additional interesting sights. In the charming Old Town (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) of Tallinn, Estonia there are many clever, almost life-size dolls or mannequins pointing out places to shop or eat. Here are two.