Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Rīga - Capital of Culture 2014

This year is an important one for Latvia. The country joined the euro zone on January 1, meaning that Latvia is now one of eighteen European Union countries using the euro as their common currency. 2014 is also the year in which Latvia's capital and largest city, Rīga, is one of two European cities selected to be a Capital of Culture. The Wikipedia entry provides a nice history of the source of this idea, and a list of cities which have participated thus far. Interestingly, this is the last year in which cities will hold the title for an entire calendar year. Beginning in 2015, a city will be Capital of Culture only for three months. Liene at Femme au Foyer did an excellent job of describing one of the weekend's big events, the Chain of Booklovers, and I will not attempt to one-up her!

Other than the book chain, many other events took place over the weekend - from famous pianists performing on a grand piano in the city's bus station to one of the country's best choirs breaking out in song in the Central Market's Fish Pavilion, from the world fire sculpture championship to various exhibit openings, it seems there really was something for everyone on this cold winter weekend. The Riga 2014 website has a 6 minute video with an overview.

I was fortunate in that I managed to catch about ten or fifteen minutes of the online broadcast on Saturday; specifically I saw the fantastic fireworks show. Set on the river Daugava, with the new National Library building in the background, this carefully choreographed show was absolutely breathtaking.

If any city can pull off a fantastic series of cultural events, it is Rīga. The city has a long history of organizing and hosting large events such as the Song and Dance Festivals and Rīga's 800th anniversary celebration. Riga and Latvia are wonderful places to visit at any time, but it seems this year will be a particularly good choice. That's just one of the reasons I'm so excited to have purchased a flight to fly to Riga in May!

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