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Home > Multimedia Archives > Gallery > A New Century > 2005 > February / Latvia

 

冬合宿、ラトビア − 2005年二月

Winter Gasshuku, Latvia — February 2005

In February, 2005, I visited my deshi Dr. Artis Pabriks in Latvia for the first time. The main objective of my trip was to prepare for Onaga Sensei's first visit to Latvia, planned November 2005. During my time in Latvia, I trained with my Dr. Pabriks at his home Dōjō in Jūrmala. After reviewing some Katas, our time was mostly spent practicing Kakie and Iri Kumi.

In fact, this trip was plan as a tour of some of the countries in the northern and eastern Europe.  My final itinerary started from New York City to Frankfurt, Germany; then Riga, Latvia; next Krakow, Poland ; back to Riga, back to Frankfurt and finally back to New York City.  Here are a few highlights from my Euro Tour:

My First Tour of Riga

Trip to Poland — Krakow

Trip to Germany — Frankfurt & More

 

My First Tour of Riga

My first stop during the tour of Riga was at the Monument of Freedom, which was built in 1935.  At the time it was dedicated to commemorate the first period of Latvian independence (1918 — 1940).  At the top of the monument the figure known as "Milda", stand holding three stars which represent the three regions of Latvia: Kurzeme, Vidzeme and Latgale.  However, during the Soviet Era, Milda was said to represent "Mother Russia" embracing the three Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania. 

In the late 80's, the Monument of Freedom was a powerful symbol of anti-Soviet resistance and it served as a meeting point during political gatherings.  Amazingly, the Soviets never tear it down!!.  Probably, they knew that the people's reaction.  Today, it stands as a a shrine for national independence, and many Latvians place flowers every day at the base of the monument.

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During my tour, I was introduced to Riga's fantastic architecture & history.  The city of Riga was founded in 1201 by Albert the Bishop of Bremen and his Knights as part of a Crusade to the Baltics — the last Europeans to convert to Christianity.  From the 13th–15th centuries, Riga prospered as a major center of trade between the Hanseatic League and Central/Eastern Europe.  However, most of the buildings of this early period were destroyed by wars or by fires.  In the 19th century, the medieval buildings were replaced by wooden buildings in neoclassical & Jugendstil style.  The architecture style was mainly influenced by German, Austrian and Finnish architects. 

By 1905, a distinctively Latvian variation of Art Nouveau was developed by using use traditional Latvian folk elements and natural building materials.  During the Soviet Era, many buildings in the historical "Old Riga" were replaced by Soviet style architecture.

In Dec 7, 1997, UNESCO's World Heritage Committee recognized Riga as the city with the finest collection of Art Nouveau buildings in Europe, and declared: "the historic centre of Riga, while retaining its medieval and later urban fabric relatively intact, is of outstanding universal value by virtue of the quality and the quantity of its Art Nouveau/Jugendstil architecture, which is unparalleled anywhere in the world, and its 19th century architecture in wood".

See UNESCO'S official award: World Heritage List — Historic Centre of Riga

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Trip to Poland — Krakow

My next stop was in Krakow, Poland, where I visited my friend Monika Popiolek, who gave me a fantastic tour of Krakow.  As the capital Poland, for several centuries, Krakow has a unique historical rsites, which include:

— The Royal Castle at Wawel
— The Gothic St. Mary's Basilica
— The Trade Pavilions of the Cloth Hall
— Kazimierz, the former separate Jewish City
— The Nowa Huta District

Nowadays, Krakow is no longer the center of government in Poland, but many Polish people and tourists still visit it to admire its rich history.  Also, there is a very cultural atmosphere with art galleries cafes, pubs, restaurants & and a very interesting night life.

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Trip to Germany — Frankfurt & More

My Euro Tour, first & last stop was in Frankfurt, Germany.  Again, I visted my friend Bianka Sneider, who gave me an amazing tour of the "Autobahn", as we drove from Frankfurt to the Eastern part of Germany (former GDR).  Indeed, this was an amazing experience to go on the Autobahn - a pinnacle of the German engineering!! 

But my Autobahn fantasy was not true: A superhighway where cars fly at the speed of sound.  In fact, only less than half of the Autobahn has no speed limit.  The other half, at firts sight, looks like a typical American highway.  Then I realized that the amazing aspect of the Autobahn was not the "Advisory Speed Limit", but the AMAZING German design, engineering and constant maintenance.  Even all the years under Communist rule & beaurocracy could not ruin the section of the Autobahn that was in the former GDR. Just like German cars: precision, precision, precision... 

Unfortunately, at the end of my trip my digital camera broke and the memory stick broke down.  So, I lost most of the pictures from many of the towns that I visited in Germany.  Here some pictures from Erfurt, Germany.

Most of the photos from my Euro Tour in Lavia & Poland were lost.  In fact, most of the pictures in this page were taken with a cheap phone camera that I used as a back up. 

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