Riga's transport system steps back a century

  • 2007-07-02
  • 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's long list of touristattractions.

Thetram has undergone a complete restoration to become the Riga ArtNouveau Tram, a replica of the type of vehicle that shuttled Rigansaround the city circa 1901. With its period detail including a woodand brass interior, leather hand straps and a driver in earlytwentieth century livery, the tram should prove an effective tool inmarketing Riga as an art nouveau or jugendstil destination.

TheBaltic Times was among the first passengers at a glitzy opening ceremony also attended by Riga mayor Janis Birks and Latvian Institute director Ojars Kalnins.

The attention to detail inside the carriage is impressiveand the exterior paint job certainly caught the eye of passers by,many of whom stood agape as the blue and white confection rumbledpast. One bystander was so transfixed, he almost became the tram's first casualty, forcing the driver to prove that despite the century-old decor, the brakes are all-new.

One eagle-eyed passenger suggested that the driver's socks andshoes were not strictly in keeping with the art nouveau ethos,suggesting that perhaps these could be replaced with gaiters 's but that's about the only fault anyone could find.

Rigamayor Janis Birks said: "I amdelighted that the idea for the retro tramway has arrived as areality, and it is particularly approporiate with Riga's tram systemcelebrating its 125th anniversary. The retro tramway...will be an important new attraction for the city."

Ticketscost 3 lats for a 20 minute loop of the city centre, taking in many ofthe main sights, and powder blue Retro Tramway stops have alreadybeen erected at strategic points where tourists can hop on and hopoff. Most will view it as good value and a great photo opportunity 'seven if the ticket is ten times more expensive than a regular citytram.