45 years ago Italo Calvino wrote a book called “Invisible cities” about 55 imaginary places on Earth each being only a resemblance of 55 kinds of particles of Venice. Whereas, when you talk about Rīga, it could as well be a talk about any 55 real places in Latvia. Welcome to CAPITAL R. This is our first editorial and we warn our readers it will contain a presumably unpopular, yet honest and unmerciful hypothesis already: if you want to feel the most of the Latvian atmosphere - stay in Rīga.

Rīga Architecture capital r riga 2018
Let’s not take this as an insult, folks, therefore it is important to read this all trough. Because, let’s be honest – Rīga, Latvia, as a destination 3x larger than the Paris city area, is hiding hundreds of the elements of Latvia’s past and present yet to be discovered by many. Frankly there is nothing much unique or special left in Latvia that could not be experienced, replicated or created in Rīga. There are no hills or intense change of terrain, therefore you cannot wait for another Luxembourg in our capital, meanwhile Rīga does not obligatory need a view to Esja like in Reykjavik.

The country is comfortably small and compact for the regional mentalities and dialects differing not much to each other. On the contrary, it would be hard to find a true Sicilian trying to represent a true Tourinese. For that reason, Rīga is a mix of all possible minorities, languages, dialects, or representatives of regions of Latvia (I once met a girl, who had a distinctive dialect like someone from the far-East region of the country. She turned out to be born in a third-generation family from Rīga, a fact that could not happen that easily in the far-West regions but could in the capital).

We even have the “Ausmeņa kebaps” once famous only in Latgale and Fontain's DELI once only in Liepāja. You can buy sklandrauši - carrot-rhye pies only traditional from Kurzeme at the Kalnciema street market every weekend, you can ski in parks and you can swim in the sea. There is an old fortification like in Daugavpils, deep Kleisti forests can be gazed upon from Bumbukalniņš like in, say, Zemgale. After all, Rīga still has its own airport - even when the international one is located in a different municipality, and Rīga is the only city in Latvia with trolleybuses and a questionable parliament.

The contrasts are always present, and, of course, present is also a lack of a few elements the city cannot replicate. Rīga has both skyscrapers and sheds, but still doesn't have wind turbines. Rīga has plastic “Disneyland” playgrounds and wild remote allotments, but does not have luge and bobsleigh track. Rīga has great activism and the worst governance, but does not have Europe's largest water rapids in Kurzeme.

People dwell in Āgenskalns suburb like in an old small town; roughly one fifth living in Sarkandaugava might not have a WC, some low-brow country music is often played and danced to in Old Town right next to an underground alternative music bar. Finally, it is hard to imagine backyards so captivating as in Avoti neighbourhood like the one hidden behind former workers’ dormitories at Baltic Analog Lab, and you don’t need to find glamping out in the nature - you can use the Esen gardens in Spilve suburb and glamp in the remote Rīga.
But then again, let’s not take this as an insult, folks. It is rather a compliment to the city, ‘cause most of metropolises around the world don’t have such luxury. Berlin can’t be Germany, because it has no sea, Paris can’t be France, because it has no Alps, Sidney can’t be Australia, because it knows no snow.
Meanwhile Rīga has it all or has it none. And this is what CAPITAL R will write about – the beauty of depths of the city or the critics of the shallow. Nothing in between. Because only Malcolm can be in the middle.

Mārtiņš Eņģelis,


  1. Typical rīdzinieks thinking you guys are the center of the universe! How about the marshes of Ķemeri, the cliffs of Gauja, the waterfalls of Kurzeme...

    In all seriousness though, very nice article, I look forward to reading these regularly!

    1. Thanks, Joseph, for your comment! As we mentioned in the article there are no water rapids of Kuldīga indeed, as well as your mentioned cliffs of Gauja, but we do have marches in Rīga and also a big chunk of sense of humour :)
      Yet we hope you caught up with a bit of irony in there, and, in all seriousness, we hope you will be reading us in future!


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