Outside the Square

One of my resolutions is to travel outside Latvia AT LEAST once a year - to have a little sojourn in another country for a bit of 'kulcha', to encourage thinking outside the square, to refresh certain faculties that are underused living in Latvia (ie. being friendly to strangers) and to remind myself of various realities that I don't come across here (ie. museums are for children too!).
We've just come back from four jam-packed days in Berlin, where we visited a heap of museums and children's learning centres, shopped and rode the U-bahn; walked too much and slept too little. Highlights of the trip include: sitting on the polished marble floor of the hallowed halls of the Pergamon museum while Matiss sat on my lap and sketched the famous bust of Nefertiti; the 'call-a-bike' service where public bikes are left all over the inner city - to unlock them you sms a special number and they text you back a password - then you ride the bike where you want to go, park it wherever and lock it up for the next user; a moving, clanking, hissing welded metal monster-bat we found in a grotty courtyard; the impressive holocaust memorial which takes up a whole block right next to the Brandenburg gate and looks like a CAD drawing come to life; remembering why I used to love working in (modern) museums; finding a huge second-hand store and rummaging through bins of fabulous vintage fashion; having complete strangers smile at us and tell us we have gorgeous children (never happens in Riga - I've become used to frowns and chastising from total strangers).
As they say, its nice going away and even better to come home. Being in the big big Berlin did also remind me of one of the things I love about Riga - its scale. I like the fact that Riga is compact. You can walk practically anywhere in a matter of minutes. Most of the great stuff to see is all concentrated in the centre - the town actually HAS a centre. It’s also got that village feel - you'll always meet someone you know on the street. Being in the midst of the monumental architecture and mentality of the Germans reminded me of my own belonging to a tiny, precious, quiet culture. In the middle of the Pergamon museum, in a temporary exhibition hall with Matisse and Picasso on the walls and Victorian statues on pedestals, I came across some interesting silver brooches in a glass case in the very centre of the gallery – they looked kind of familiar - and I realised that they were the big saktas of a Kurzeme folk costume. And sure enough, the label said "Lettland", and Matiss asked me why I was crying…

The ultimate tourist shot

Yep, that's right, it's a bit of THE WALL (I also brought a souvenir piece home with me)

Hangin' out waiting for our photos to develop

Trabant's are all the rage as museum exhibits. Mikus even got a replica as a souvenir.

A 1960s lounge in the DDR museum. Fabulous. You were allowed to watch tv, rummage through the cupboards and read the books off the bookshelf.

Still waiting for the photos to develop

A good idea for Riga courtyards?

Checking out checkpoint Charlie

My two clowns at the Reichstag

Love the U-bahn

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