Art Nouveau in Riga, Latvia.

We ascended the small hill called Bastejkalns immediately to the east of the Old Town. The hill is just high enough to provide good views of the Old Town and, in the other direction, over an attractive park through which a canal, almost completely frozen in February (ducks and swans spend most of the time on the canal banks), meanders toward the railway station. We then walked to the area around Strelnieku and Alberta ielas to examine the many art nouveau buildings, most of which are large apartment blocks. We visited the Art Nouveau Museum itself, which we enjoyed so much I shall quote at length from its website:

“Riga Art Nouveau Museum was opened on 23rd April 2009. It is located in the apartment where the outstanding Latvian architect Konstantīns Pēkšēns (1859-1928) lived until 1907.

“The building was constructed in 1903 as Pēkšēns’ private house. It is the work of Pēkšēns himself and Eižens Laube, then a student of architecture. The building is notable for its extremely powerful dimensions and expressive silhouette. The ornamental reliefs, craftily incorporated in the architectonic shape, feature stylized motifs from the local flora and fauna: fir needles, cones and squirrels. The building has a spiral staircase with ornamental ceiling paintings, quite possibly sketched by the prominent Latvian artist Janis Rozentāls. This art nouveau staircase is among the most impressive not only in Riga but also the whole of Europe.

“The authentic interior of 1903 has been renovated within the museum. Investigation of the premises started in 2007 when the original interior decoration was revealed and registered. Renovation work was carried out from 2008 to 2009 under the guidance of master renovator Gunita Čakare.

“The current display of the museum shows the characteristic furnishings of an apartment of a Riga inhabitant at the beginning of the 20th century. The author of the interior project is the architect Liesma Markova.”

We returned to the hotel by walking along Elizabetes and Dzirnavu ielas almost as far as the Holocaust Memorial beside the ruins of Choral Synagogue on Gogola Iela. Along the way we encountered more art nouveau buildings, but few are as eye-catching as the ones around the Art Nouveau Museum itself.

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