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Journal #44 - Latvia

Snowy black and brick buildings with a medieval statue in the middle of the square
House of the Black Heads by Mr. Wanderer

Sveiki from Latvia! 

This country has been on my to-visit list for a while, and it did not disappoint. We were enthralled with everything we saw strolling around Riga, which served as our home base during this visit. The Christmas markets were a delight and we spent a great deal of time photographing the old buildings. We had to try a little Riga Black Balsam before work, and of course, we visited the Love Bridge along with other monuments.  

We were grateful to arrive in Latvia via a bus which allowed us to see the countryside and its plentiful forests as our first impressions (I read somewhere that over half of the country is covered in forests). Besides trees, the other thing we found aplenty once we were inside the capital of Riga, were churches. We visited Saint Peter’s Church, the Nativity of Christ Cathedral, the Riga Cathedral, and more.  

Pink and green buildings on a snow covered street
Latvian Streets by Mr. Wanderer

We spent so much time in the churches, that we got the chance to meet one of the priests serving there. He approached us while we were sitting in the pew and asked about our life and religious background. He wanted to know where we had been married and what we believed in. At the end of this mini-inquisition, he proudly proclaimed that Mr. Wanderer was a “Potential-Catholic!” This must have been good enough for him because he invited us back into the Sacristy. He explained the varied religious history of the city as we walked and then showed us different vestments, some hundreds of years old and all hand-embroidered.  

Arched and domed church with stiped stonework
Riga Nativity of Christ Orthodox Cathedral by Mr. Wanderer

Our new friend was extremely kind and made us feel welcome and at home in his space. It was a pleasure to get to have a conversation with someone who lived through the Soviet Era of rule in Latvia and was able to give a more personal recount than we can get from our history textbooks. It was a sweet way to spend an afternoon and nothing we could have planned. This spontaneous encounter truly was a highlight of our visit here. 

Tinsel tree and bedecked gazeebo in front of a brick church covered in snow
Riga Christmas Market by Mrs. Wanderer

We made the effort to enjoy other aspects of the city such as its food and drink as well. We ate at multiple places doing our best to take in a holistic assortment of the cuisine. Mr. Wanderer and I were surprised by how much of the food contained rye bread. It was a side. It was in the soup. It was part of the meals. It was even in the desserts! I did not know you could be so versatile with a single ingredient, but the Latvians have found a way to incorporate rye bread into everything they eat. So we enjoyed our fair share of it as a part of our explorations.

We were struck by our visit to what looked like an apothecary’s shop. It was packed with wooden cabinetry that possessed hundreds of tiny drawers. The shop served an assortment of chocolate desserts but specialized in Riga Black Balsam. The balsam is a Latvian herbal liquor that this shop mixed into their confections, blended with their warm beverages, and served straight up. Covering every one of those cabinets was an assortment of bottles in a rainbow of labels for the different fruits and flavors contained. We, of course, tried some and even went back to the shop just to experience the cozy environment again.  

Wooden apothecary cabinet with black balsam bottles and tinctures
Black Magic by Mr. Wanderer

All of Riga had beautiful architecture. We loved the recently remodeled House of the Black Heads. We also sought out the Three Brothers due to their collective longevity. Then, while not a building, we also found the Love Bridge. This was the first bridge I ever heard of where people attach locks to the banister as a symbol of their love and lasting relationships. Since this place was my initial exposure to the concept, it holds an extra special meaning to me. 

Old green, yellow, and white building faces
Three Brothers by Mr. Wanderer

Our time in Latvia unfortunately has drawn to a close. Up next we are traveling to a nation that has developed a national perfume. With scents like wildflowers, ginger, raspberry, sandalwood, musk, tree moss, and tree smoke, do you have any guesses where we are off to next? 

Black bottles with lace doilies
Riga Black Balsam Bottles by Mr. Wanderer