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Sept. 8, 2017

Riga is the capital of Latvia and the largest city in the Baltic States with about 700,000 residents. It is bordered by Estonia, Belarus, Lithuania and Russia. Riga was founded in 1201 and was a powerful member of the Hanseatic League. In the 17th century it became part of the Russian Empire. It briefly got its independence in 1918 but with WWII it was folded into the USSR's holdings. Under Soviet rule, Riga became an important military center and one of the favored places for high-ranking military officers to retire to. In 1991, following the breakup of the Soviet Union, it became an independent nation. It joined both NATO and the European Union in 2004. Currency is the Euro. Riga and Latvia are enjoying one of the fastest growing economies in Europe. In 1997, the Old Town was included on the UN's List of World Heritage sites.

We walked the half mile from the ship into the old town and caught a walking tour with the Smile Line whose office is in Town Hall Square. Most of the buildings date from the 18th century when the city boomed as a Russian trade port. But the twisty medieval street plan gives it an Old World charm.

After the tour, we stopped for lunch at one of the restaurants specializing in Latvian cuisine. We shared a delicious marinated pork hock that could probably have fed 4! And of course we had to buy a bottle of Riga's national liqueur Melnais Balzams.

To view more photos from our trip to Riga, please go to Riga Photo Gallery. To read about the next location visited, go to Klaipeda.

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