LATVIA Boldand beautifulin the Baltics
Pastel-pretty Riga is rich in Jewish history. Go, before it gets as popular as Prague, says AndyMossack
YO U K N O W o f course, begins t h e s h a mmas of Peitav, Riga’s only surviving synagogue, “that this shul did not get burned down by the Nazis only because the church next door is so close. “So instead, they used it as a stable for their horses.” My gaze followed his pointing finger towards the fabulous gold-embossed Ark: “Luckily, we managed to hide the Ark and all the Torah scrolls before they got here.”
On that sombre note began an eyeopening précis of Jewish life in the Latvian capital of Riga, which has seen what was once a 90,000-plus community that was almost wiped out in World War Two, revitalising itself since Latvia’s independence from the Soviet empire in 1991 .
While many eastern bloc capitals have succumbed to large-scale tourism — Prague and Budapest, for instance — there are, thankfully, still a number which have not. The misconception, however, is that the latter are run-down Communist backwaters with limited tourist infrastructure, little to eat but borscht and cabbage, and hotels to which you have to take your own bathplug.
In Riga, nothing could be further from the truth; what you will find is a five-star lifestyle at outstanding value for money, lavish architecture, food fit for kings and best of all, no legions of hen/stag parties — at least not yet.
Latvia has swapped between Rus-
The Old Town of Riga and the bridge across the
to the modern city