We met up with our allocated guide at the Town Hall Square (Ratslaukums) which was a good starting point for the tour as the "House of Blackheads" is one of the most famous buildings in Latvia. As we moved around the Old Town we learned from our guide, Mārtinš, that Riga suffered extensive damage from aerial bombardment during WWII & was more or less totally rebuilt from the 1950s to the 1970s. They obviously did a real good job at authentic reconstruction because some of the cathedrals look as though they date from well before that recent period. Mārtinš was definitely switched on about Riga & took us to all of the places of interest whilst sharing valuable insights about how the Riga locals think & act (with lots of witty asides thrown in). Mārtinš introduced us to the range of architecture that Riga has - older wooden structures, fashionable Art Nouveau blocks & some old Soviet buildings, very grey, unattractive functionalist buildings (the Latvian Academy of Science has echoes of the Soviet skyscraper Palace of Cultural & Science in Warsaw). Mārtinš showed us a few off-the-beaten-track spots where you can get away from the crowds & chill out, including a very nice canal-side park in the city. A very comprehensive, knowledgable tour with masses of information & pointers on how to maximise our time in Riga.
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