Latvia

Riga: Old Town

Riga

Latvia

August 31, 2013

Dear Friends,

“What is your favorite city?” 

I am frequently asked this question and like other travelers, I am tempted to answer, “My favorite city is the city where I am now!”

Of course that is an unsatisfactory answer, even when it might be true.

At the moment I am in Riga, the capital of Latvia.  And if I were to give an honest answer, it would be this: “If I make a list of my ten favorite cities, Riga would be on the list, perhaps even in the top five.”

Riga: Art Nouveau

Riga

Latvia

September 4, 2014

To buy or not to buy? 

As the American actress Mae West (1893-1980) once remarked, “I never let anything tempt me, unless I can’t resist it.”

On Alberta Street, I couldn’t resist the book Art Nouveau in Riga.*

Despite my protestations, my pleadings , my sob stories and my best negotiating and bargaining skills, the Latvian (or was she Russian?) saleslady did not budge from the asking price of ten Euros for the book.  Honestly?  It is worth every penny.

Riga: Central Market

Riga

Latvia

September 2, 2014

To:  Jeff Z. and Bob A.

cc: Family and Friends

Since you are both engineers with a specialty, respectively, in transportation and geotechnical engineering, I thought you would appreciate the structures of the Riga Central Market.  The market is the largest in Europe and lies across the Daugava River from the Old Town of Riga.

The market of course is dotted with outdoor stalls that display towering piles of fruit and vegetables and flowers and recently picked mushrooms and consumer products.  Everything from bananas to berries to boxer shorts to bras are on offer.

Riga: Vermanes Park Stroll

Riga:  A Stroll Today?  Chess Anyone?

Riga

Republic of Latvia

Sunday

August 31, 2014

On this sunny weekend afternoon, family and friends, and friends and neighbors get out of the house and promenade, and play and perform, and pose in the public park.  What could be more civilized? 

Not counting the pointillist masterpiece by the French painter Georges Seurat, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884), I first encountered this civil and civilizing world-wide phenomenon in Greece just fifteen years ago.   

Castles in Segulda and Cēsis

Segulda 

Latvia

August 26, 2014

Cool.  Rain.

“Latvia” is printed on a sign of deep blue with a circle of gold stars.  It is the only indication that I driven across the boundary of the sovereign nation of Estonia and into the sovereign nation of Latvia, both members of the European Union.  

No barriers.   No uniforms.  No questions.  No paperwork.

How civil.  How civilized.  No anger.  No fear.  No fences between good neighbors. 

Salaspils Memorial: Saying Kaddish

Salaspils

Latvia

August 25, 2014

Dear Rabbi Kantor, **

cc: Family and Friends

Rabbi, I have a question:  “Is it a mitzvah to recite the Kaddish?”

Here’s why I ask: 

Twenty kilometers southeast of Riga, off the main highway, at the end of a narrow road, I park my car in an empty lot.

A dense forest of tall silent trees lines both sides of a broad gravel walkway.  Except for an elderly couple off in the woods gathering mushrooms, I am alone as I make my way down the long path to the distant monument. 

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