Friday, 1 May 2015

Travels around the Baltic: Latvia


Riga is a large city and we only had three days in which to explore its sights.  The city is well known for its Art Nouveau architecture which is very different from that seen in other European cities. One of the major architects was Mikhail Eisenstein, who was the father of the famous Russian film director, Sergei Eisenstein.

Art Nouveau architecture with a difference!

We had booked tickets for the opera in advance and had a wonderful evening.  The Opera House overlooks a lovely park which was particularly pretty at this time of year.
The Opera House
Unfortunately the main museum in the city was closed for renovation after a fire, so I could not see their wonderful collection of woven bands.  The Tourist Office was very helpful and gave us directions to a lovely craft shop which had many examples.  However, there did not seem to be as many craft shops as there were in Tallin in Estonia.

The other disappointment was the lack of books.  I had hoped that there would be information about woven bands but nothing has been published in Latvia about this craft for many years.  I bought one book which was more in the nature of a coffee table book.  Lots of small overlapping pictures but very little of substance unless you are interested in embroidery.  I did find a few sheets of band patterns.  I am unsure where they are from, but there are copies on the internet.

Woven bands for sale.

However, the bands for sale were lovely and I bought a couple.  The band on the right is a Leilvardes belt. My article about this woven masterpiece will be published in the October 2015 edition of Strands, the Journal for the Braid Society

We took the local bus out to the Ethnographic Open Air Museum of Latvia.  (Go to info EN for an English translation)

Open air museum with women in local costume.

There were a number of crafts on display.  The weaver was hard at work in her cottage.

Weaver at work
Another area had a number of stalls.  One of them sold traditional straw items.  These were beautifully made and we bought quite a few examples.

straw items for sale
One of the most interesting displays was near the entrance of the museum.  There was an exhibition of items from The Russian North from the Russian Museum of Ethnography. I had visited this museum in St Petersburg earlier in the year and it is one of the best Ethnographic museums I have seen.
 This delightful exhibition hall had a fascinating array of Russian costumes and other items.  There were many traditional textiles and woven bands.  This exhibition was particularly well organised and informative.

Exhibition of Russian textiles and artefacts. 

Traditional Russian textiles

The shop in the museum also had a number of woven bands for sale along with other craft items. 

The tempting display at the shop in the Open Air Museum
Riga is a city which deserves more time to explore than we had at our disposal.  Fortunately, there are good connections by air from the UK so a return visit once the museum is reopened is a must!.

Susan J Foulkes May 2015

1 comment:

  1. Wow very beautiful post of Baltic. Latvia, a small country located on the Baltic Sea. There are a huge number of places to visit in Latvia and this is the reason why tourists from the different parts of the world come here to explore its beauty.


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