Save Riga's soul

  • 2005-08-31
  • By Mike Paterson
I recently spent a week in Riga 's my interest being your traditional music, especially your small but very interesting bagpipes revival. I picked up a copy of The Baltic Times and read with interest the issues concerning tourism, including a [quote by] Riga's deputy mayor, Andris Argalis.

Please forgive my comments: I am writing from ignorance, I know. But I do feel moved to offer my lone view of what I experienced. Riga is a very beautiful city and offers much of general and particular interest. I was entranced by performances of Carmen and Rite of Spring at the magnificent National Opera House and much moved by you Museum of the Occupation. I found bagpiping at the Rozengrals medieval restaurant, and took many photographs of your unique architecture. I picked up all of the excellent English language information sheets at the History Museum of Latvia and paid excess baggage to bring home the admirable National Costume books: I hadn't realized that your traditional costumes included fabrics so closely resembling Scottish tartans. I travelled cheaply and comfortably to Cesis by bus, and on your urban trams.

I was disappointed only, though, in the transformation of Vecriga [Old Town 's ed.] after nightfall. Sex tourism is an issue, and one that I believe is one that dishonors your city, your people and especially your womenfolk. Sex tourism is probably not something that can be eradicated 's every city in the world has a sleazy side to it 's but it is something that could well be made less visible. Pressing advertising cards into the hands of passers-by should not be allowed. It is insulting to most people's deeper interest in your city and your culture.

However, it is of pressing importance, I believe, to curb the influx of "stag party" groups, especially groups of unruly young English louts. There are elements here that are connected with football hooliganism, violence, vandalism, drugs [that] will harass and assault your citizens and other tourists. At the moment, I think you are seeing just a few such people. But if the influx grows, as it could, it will only be a matter of time before the possibilities arise of pitched battles with police in the streets and serious property damage.

These people come not to learn anything of Latvia or to experience anything other than your beer and sex trade. They will come to Riga because they are increasingly unwelcome almost everywhere else in the world 's not least in Britain.

Stop it while you can. Send such people home. They are not your friends. Their money isn't worth it 's it is ugly money. In the longer term, your earnings will be vastly greater from real tourism.

Mike Paterson



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