My first visit to Riga, Latvia was in 1997; it was my initial stop in the Baltics en route to my Peace Corps stint in Estonia. The city was still very much in the early stages of transition from its Soviet past. My memories: dark buildings, a gray pall.
No longer. Riga has undergone a face lift in the last decade. Today's Riga stands in stark contrast to those early days as it shows off the range of its reconstructed and eclectic architectural stock. During our last visit in 2008, we were struck not only by the polished and colorful buildings in Riga's downtown, but more importantly by the city's architectural diversity.
As you make your way around the panorama below (taken in Riga's Town Hall Square, or Rātslaukums), you'll notice hints of the city's Northern European architectural smorgasbord: a little bit Modern, a little bit Gothic, a bit of Copenhagen here, a bit of Stockholm there.
The dominant, colorful building in the panorama — The House of the Blackheads – was destroyed in World War II and rebuilt in the mid-1990s. Perhaps appropriately, the blocky cement building — a throwback to the Soviet era — is now the Museum of Occupation.
So many layers, so much history.