There’s something “darkly fascinating” about solo traveling to foreign contries, “especially in a place where you may not speak the language and you are unfamiliar with their laws”, novelist and executive vice president of Mystery Writers of America – Greg Herren describes it in an interview for National Geographic. According to Visual Capitalist, Latvia is among 100 smallest countries, next to Lithuania and Sri Lanka. Between 2003 and 2009, the Historic Centre of Riga and the Suiti cultural space have been part of the UNESCO World Heritage List, being in the need of urgent safeguarding. While Riga’s historic centre boasts a large collection of Art Nouveau buildings, the Suiti cultural space is characterized by a number of distinct features, including vocal drone singing, colourful traditional costumes, language, local cuisine, and a remarkable number of folk songs. But behind its UNESCO World Heritage status, Riga is more than a cultural historical environment.
In terms of internal marketing, in most commercial centers, only a few brands offer product discounts, despite being the Christmas season. There is a total lack of internal brand awareness campaigns or efficient marketing strategies in order to build brand equity and to attract tourists.
From 159 shops and 17 catering places that Origo – one of the largest shopping centres in Riga – provides, only a small number had discounts available. The complete list can be found here. Worth noted is also the fact that some inexpensive european brands are advertised and sold by exclusive companies as being high quality in the large commercial markets.
When it comes to cuisine, Riga has a lot to offer, from delicious traditional meals to breathtaking fresh seafood and inspiring desserts, all full of intensive flavours. One of the largest food chains of Riga – LIDO – has become an integral part of the image of Latvia. Here you can discover traditional dishes prepared with natural ingredients, carefully selected from local manufacturers.
In the matter of jewelry, amber is greatly appreciated for its color and natural beauty. Jewelry made out of the “The Solar Stone” can be found in most local markets and shops, from bracelets to necklaces, rings and even artwork.
For those looking for unique, high quality jewelry items, Baltu Rotas creates treasures of the ancient Baltic tribes, which do not cease to astonish with their forms, their ornaments, and their stories. Between precise copies of ancient jewellery and collections with nature motifs, you can create your own Namejs ring or a pendant under the guidance of a silversmith directly in their studio shop.
Step back in time by visiting Jauniela Street that was transformed into Baker Street, the home of Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional detective Sherlock Holmes for the Soviet television production “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson”. As a fact, many scenes were filmed at Hotel Justus, who’s renovation was completed in April 2009. The building hosted a tavern in the early 19th century that was later replaced by typography and lithography services. In the 20th century it was occupied by artisan workshops, pharmaceutical laboratories, and then a cinema gallery and offices.
The Baltic states, and Riga in particular, were popular filming destinations for Soviet directors. This was largely due to their architectural heritage, which was quite different from Russia and most of the other Soviet republics, as a history of domination not only by Russia, but also by Germans, Swedes, and Poles had left these countries with a wealth of Gothic and Baroque architecture that meant they were often reminiscent of countries farther west. For Soviet directors who wanted to represent Western European cities in their work but for whom actually filming there would have been difficult to impossible, the Baltic capitals were obvious fall-backs. (Atlas Obscura)
The buildings in Riga’s Old Town are varied and constructed during different periods of history. It features over 500 buildings built in various architectural styles – Romanticism, Gothic, Mannerism, Baroque, Eclectic or Modernism. The most visited ones are the Three Brothers, the Blackheads, the Dome Cathedral and The Cat House.
“Panorama Riga” is a circular 368.5 meters high terrace observation deck of the Latvian Academy of Sciences, offering unparalleled 360° panoramic views of the city. It was built in honor of the Communist leader Stalin and it is preserved almost exactly as it was in 1961.
But behind the UNESCO World Heritage status, Riga is a place where, when it comes to travellers, hospitality is a foreign concept while tourism urbanity is often taken for granted. It is a place where people are driven by a misguided nationalism, while most elders try to escape the harsh realities of life in the depths of religion. At the core of population’s infallability, topics like mental health or self-expression, both equally important in our society, are very much taboo.
In a world where gender equality is a fundamental human right, here the success of a small number of women entrepreneurs is still a topic to be curious about, as women used to occupy a secondary role in the public field and a primary role in the domestic sphere.
A hierarchical society, people are respected mostly because of their age and position, elders being viewed as wise and granted respect despite the generations gap, “a stretch of time that separates cultures within a society, allowing them to develop their own character,” as defined by American writer William Safire. The generation diferences are also noted in an article by BBC Travel which states that among the significant Russian and other minority groups in Latvia, with varying degrees of linguistic and cultural integration, “there are also generational differences between those who grew up during an era of surveillance and forced communal lifestyles as part of the Soviet Union, and a younger generation raised in capitalism and greater cosmopolitanism. Thus it is impossible to talk of a single, all-encompassing cultural trait – even though the value placed on personal space is one that spans generations.”
Despite being a member of the European Union, there are limited job opportunities and many infrastructure facilities are in need of modernization. There are also problems with bureaucracy and local services. For a minor car accident we had to wait no less than 2 hours and half for the local authorities to arrive at the scene, and one more hour for them to take writing statements directly at the location.
There are not enough words to describe how self-expression gives rise to creativity, bringing positive changes to society and how beneficial it is for the mental health. It is a known fact that authenticity gives rise to positive emotions and greater overall life satisfaction, among feelings of autonomy and control. That being said, it leads to a greater sense of purpose and self-acceptance. In today’s modern society, people are free to indicate their individual distinctiveness and yet, while strolling through Riga, it seemed that the country has placed little value on individualism.
Nevertheless, self-expression allows us to be our best selves, reach our full potential and make valuable contributions to the world we live in. Embracing our unique identity through different ideas, beliefs, vestimentation or artistic endeavors is a fundamental part of our humanity. Those who had the courage to break away from these compulsory traditions, brought their talents in countries that understand the importance of diversity and how significant it is to cultivate one’s individuality from inside out.
Riga, the small Baltic capital, has a couple of architectural gems that worth visiting. It is a place where the most unique summer solstice celebration takes place every June – Līgo or Jāņi, as locals tend to call it. It is a place where many city street walks bring you face to face with iconic architecture, fantastic cuisine and lively cultural scenes and above all, a place where traditions play a big part in the people’s culture.
But the way cities are presented has evolved. Visual storytelling and different life experiences give us the ability to share the stories that matter the most. Tourists want to explore and duelve not only into the urban attractions that a country has to offer, but also into the locals’ role into shaping the destiny of that place. And so, behind the country’s UNESCO World Heritage status, Riga has managed to offer a glimpse into the city life where the core to people’s wellbeing and their quality of life is not represented by a total freedom of expression, diversity or by the combination of different cultures, values and perspectives, so important in providing the root for innovation. According to a a local legend, the city “will never be complete, and will be forever changing and developing.”
For more travel articles click here.