Riga Hangars


It’s hard to believe that two years have passed since I visited the town market in Riga, Latvia. That had been the starting point for our 12 day cycling adventure along the Amber Coast. What made Riga’s central market so memorable was the huge former zeppelin hangars. When I think zeppelin, I think of the doomed Hindenburg that caught fire after crossing the Atlantic back in May, 1937. Before that, however, they were— for a short while at least—considered a viable way of air travel.

Riga's zeppelin hangars were built originally for German zeppelins but in the 1920s they were remodelled and incorporated into the city’s vision of having a Central Market place. By 1930, the Riga Central Market was considered the biggest and also the best market in all of Europe. After the Soviet takeover it was renamed the Central Kolkhoz Market. Kolkhoz is the Russian word for collective and the market sold meat, eggs, potatoes and vegetables, etc. produced by over sixty Soviet collectives. On weekends, more than a hundred thousand people would visit and shop for produce. 

In 1997, with Latvia once again an independent country, the Riga Central Market was named a Unesco World Heritage site.  

Only ten minutes from our hotel, the market was our first stop after a fifteen-hour plane ride. Hungry and curious, we got a great taste of an area overflowing with charm and history. Rather than tearing down structures no longer needed for out-dated zeppelins, these hangars are a striking reminder of the past. 

The city of Riga is a real treasure. There’s much to explore in this proud Latvian capital that’s seen plenty of struggle during the violent 20th century. I love how they embrace their history. When we visited, everyone was buying flowers. It's a Latvian tradition for students to bring their teachers bouquets for the start of the new school year. 


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