Riga's transport system steps back a century

  • 2007-06-27
  • By Mike Collier

ON THE RIGHT TRACK: with period fixtures and an eye-catching colour scheme, the Retro Tram should attract plenty of tourists (pic Mike Collier)

RIGA - A vintage streetcar has been added to Riga'slong list of tourist attractions.

The tram has undergone a complete restoration tobecome the Riga Art Nouveau Tram, a replica of the type of vehiclethat shuttled Rigans around the city circa 1901. With its perioddetail including a wood and brass interior, leather hand straps and adriver in early twentieth century livery, the tram should prove aneffective tool in marketing Riga as an art nouveau or jugendstildestination.

The Baltic Times was among the first passengers at aglitzy opening ceremony also attended by Riga mayor Janis Birks andLatvian Institute director Ojars Kalnins.

The attention to detail inside the carriage isimpressive and the exterior paint job certainly caught the eye ofpassers by, many of whom stood agape as the blue and white confectionrumbled past. One bystander was so transfixed, he almost became thetram's first casualty, forcing the driver to prove that despite thecentury-old decor, the brakes are all-new.

One eagle-eyed passenger suggested that the driver'ssocks and shoes were not strictly in keeping with the art nouveauethos, suggesting that perhaps these could be replaced with gaiters 'sbut that's about the only fault anyone could find.

Riga mayor Janis Birks said: "I am delighted that the idea forthe retro tramway has arrived as a reality, and it is particularlyapproporiate with Riga's tram system celebrating its 125thanniversary. The retro tramway... will be an important new attractionfor the city."

Tickets cost 3 lats for a 20 minute loop of the citycentre, taking in many of the main sights, and powder blue RetroTramway stops have already been erected at strategic points wheretourists can hop on and hop off. Most will view it as good value anda great photo opportunity 's even if the ticket is ten times moreexpensive than a regular city tram.