October 2009 Archives

Riga, Latvia - Central Market

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Shopkeeper and shopper

Riga, Latvia - Monuments

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(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."

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(click to enlarge) The Statue of Liberty Freedom Monument. According to a web site about the monument,

http://www.endex.com/gf/buildings/liberty/worldstatues/SOLRiga/solriga.htm ,

"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. "

Riga, Latvia - Geometries

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The narrow streets and alleys of old-town Riga, coupled with some bright paint, make for some pretty abstractions.

Riga, Latvia - Bridge, Railing, and Shadows

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(click to enlarge) The Shroud Bridge, one of five crossing the Daugava River, was built during the Soviet period. We saw bridges of similar design in Vietnam.

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(click to enlarge) The railing of the walkway along the Daugava casts striking shadows.

Riga, Latvia - Street Musicians

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As in most large cities, Riga has some street musicians trying to make a buck (or a Lat, in this case). But it's rare one encounters tuba players.

Riga, Latvia - Baroque

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Riga is best known for its Art Nouveau architecture, of which we'll see examples in a few days. However, the Old Town has a fair number of impressive Baroque buildings, including this cathedral...

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(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."

Riga, Latvia

After Estonia we went to Latvia, spending most of our time in the capital, Riga.

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(click to enlarge) Part of an exhibit of sculpted heads, arrayed on loading docks along a street in Riga

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(click to enlarge) Is this what we look like when WE'RE taking pictures?

Tallinn, Estonia - Flags

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(click to enlarge) The flags of real people: jeans hanging out to dry in an old (but not historic) part of Tallinn

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(click to enlarge) Flags of many countries, flying in Tallinn's Old Town.

Estonian Open Air Museum - Interiors

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Home interiors simulate the details of life many years ago. Window light is attractive, though you might not want to read by it.

Estonian Open Air Museum - Crafts

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(click to enlarge) Weaving is certainly a craft, sometimes an art.

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(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."

Estonian Open Air Museum - Fences

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(click to enlarge) These diagonal fences were common throughout the grounds of the museum.

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(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."

Tallinn, Estonia - Old Town Eyes

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We sat down for lunch in a cafe, and I noticed these eyes staring at us through a window from a wall across the alley. Spooky!

Tallinn, Estonia - Old and New

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(click to enlarge) Above a gate through the Old Town walls

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(click to enlarge) In the new part of Tallinn

Tallinn, Estonia - Old Town Walls

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(click to enlarge) The walls of the Old Town are tall, thick, and impressive - but softened by a chamber group playing in an outdoor cafe nestled into a corner.

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(click to enlarge) An alcove in the wall provides shelter for weary tourists.

Tallinn, Estonia - Old Town Colors

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(click to enlarge) Flasks in the Apteegi Apothecary, supposedly the oldest pharmacy in Europe

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(click to enlarge) The painter stepped away from his easel for a moment.

Tallinn, Estonia - Old Town Views (2)

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The narrow, curving streets and sharply peaked roofs of Tallinn's Old Town give rise to striking geometries.

Tallinn, Estonia - Kadriorg Palace

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(click to enlarge) Grounds of the Kadriorg Palace

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(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.

Tallinn, Estonia - Old Town Musicians

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(click to enlarge) Old Hansa is a restaurant featuring medieval recipes (very tasty). We dined outside, where we were serenaded by recorders and a drum (not shown).

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(click to enlarge) Trumpeters in a band playing in the town square

Tallinn, Estonia - Old Town, Old Details

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Some things should never be replastered or repainted.

Tallinn, Estonia - Old Town Buildings

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The medieval center of Tallinn has been preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The buildings are old, the streets are narrow and curving, maintenance and restoration have been effective. The results are remarkably attractive.

Tallinn, Estonia - Mannequins in Museums

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(click to enlarge) Period display in the Tallinn City Museum

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(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

http://www.xomba.com/minox_miniature_camera_riga_s_little_wonder

for a detailed account of the history of this camera and its inventor, Walter Zapp.

Tallinn, Estonia - Dolls

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I was amused by these two dolls in the window of an Old Town store. They look so world-weary, so cynical, so much like teen-age girls dissing one of their less-favored high school classmates.

Tallinn, Estonia - Old Town

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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.

Minnesota State Fair - Prizes

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If you win one of these stuffed animals, what do you do with it?

Minnesota State Fair - Scope and Intimacy

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(click to enlarge) View of the State Fair midway from the top of the ferris wheel, at sundown

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(click to enlarge) A quiet lunch in the sun

Minnesota State Fair - Trucks

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Machinery Hill at the State Fair used to be covered with tractors, combines, and other big farm machinery. No longer. Only some trucks, though even by themselves they convey the feeling of heavy, tough farm work.

Minnesota State Fair - Rides

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The carnival rides part of the State Fair is a big part of the fun -- and the spectacle.

Minnesota State Fair - Art

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(click to enlarge) The Minnesota State Fair has a whole building devoted to Fine Arts. The stuff is juried, and it's usually pretty good.

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(click to enlarge) Outside, a cutout for posing as Mona Lisa.

Minnesota State Fair - Yummies

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At the State Fair, colorful booths selling tasty but unhealthy foods are everywhere.

Minnesota State Fair - Waiting to Show

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Once the animals are fed and groomed, there's not much for exhibitors to do until show time and judging. So they hang out with each other.

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And then, finally, the lineup for the judging arena.

Minnesota State Fair - Horses and Their Friends

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Usually, horses in the Horse Barn at the State Fair are not all that photogenic: lots of big rumps sticking out while they eat their feed. Occasionally, however, one sees something interesting.

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This page is an archive of entries from October 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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