On Wednesday, we landed in Visby, on the large island of Gotland, Sweden. The Hanseatic League was at one time centered on Visby which enjoyed a huge boom in the 13th century. After roaming around the charming city a local folk group came on board our ship for a performance. The quintet included a keyed fiddle.
Yesterday, we spent the day in Riga, Latvia. I had no idea Riga would be such a beautiful city, as well as being famous for Art Nouveau architecture. The period from about 1900 to 1914 was glorious in Riga, some 800 Art Nouveau buildings have survived — more than anywhere in the world.
After a tour of the city, we attended a performance by a famous dance school. Girls and boys from about 8 to 15 performed Latvian folk dances. They were wonderful.
To top off the afternoon, we went to the oldest church in Riga and heard an organ performance on the largest pipe organ in Europe — 7,000 pipes. The concert started with Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.
A few of us diehards went back out for a more in depth look at some of the Art Nouveau buildings, many of which are being lovingly restored. Many of those period buildings have not survived in other cities, having the Soviets in control in Riga had a small silver lining — the buildings may have been neglected but at least they weren’t torn down as they were all over Europe.
We’ve had a very rocky day at sea, everyone has been catching up on reading, sleeping and listening to some outstanding lectures. I sadly retain very little, though I could tell you about some fascinating shipwrecks in the Baltic. Did you know the Baltic isn’t very salty? They call it “brackish” because it’s not nearly as salty as the ocean. Why does this matter? Because ship worms don’t survive in fresh water, so the shipwreaks in the Baltic are in great shape. In the ocean a wooden ship would be eaten down to nothing in about 10 years — not here. But I’ll save that story for when we get home!
Tomorrow morning Lech Walesa is coming on board to give a talk. Hello Poland!