Anecdotes and legends around Old Town
19.06.2011 - 19.06.2011 20 °C
After exploring much of the Old Town by ourselves over previous days we decided to take a free Walking Tour of the City, to learn some of the history and stories behind the sights we had seen. The somewhat quirky tour was an often amusing tour of many of the sights we had already visited but with plenty of anecdotes and legends to keep us interested.
Outside the castle walls at Toompea we were told about the Virgin Tower, that once held incorrigible girls but has been requisitioned by the City as the owner fled the country with significant unpaid Tax Bills. We visited the place where during the Battle of Lyndanisse, in 1219, a flag of red with a white cross feel to earth, from heaven, inspiring the besieging Danish army to finally conquer their Estonian adversaries and rule northern Estonia until it was sold to the Livonian Order (a branch of the Teutonic Order) in 1346 - expanding both the Danish empire and also providing them with the National flag, which the country still bears today.
Outside the Russian Orthodox cathedral we visited the much criticized and ridiculed million kroner toilet. A modernistic fantasy of color and light that is (possibly) both the most expensive toilet in the world and also the cheapest place to stay overnight in Riga (until opening and closing times were applied recently).
Descending into Lower Town our young guide was helpful in identifying good value bars and restaurants, along with the now familiar Guild of Blackheads and the precursor to Facebook, the stone steps. These once ubiquitous features of every merchant and artisan house would see the women of the house residing there allowing the latest news and gossip to be passed from one house to another.
By the conclusion of our tour we had identified a medieval restaurant, at the Town Hall, as an interesting culinary choice, for lunch. With a menu limited to Elk soup, 6 Euro’s bought us both Elk soup and a couple of beers – all served in traditional medieval stone bowls and flagons.
From this central vantage point we could observe both the ‘Town Council Pharmacy’, which has been a pharmacy or apothecary’s shop since at least 1422 to the passing Tour Groups on their whirlwind tour of the Old Town, many on day trips from Helsinki or visiting as part of a brief stop on their Baltic cruise.
For ourselves we were continuing to enjoy our relaxed travelling. With no need to rush we could relax in the Town Square or at the ‘Hell Hunt’ bar (which means ‘Gentle Wolf’) planning our next cultural or culinary destination.