Laima Latviešu
Happiness à la Latvia

the Laima-clock - Laima is Latvia's largest producer of
chocolateand this clock has always been a favourite
meeting-spot in Riga, probably since it is situated
right behind Latvia's Freedom-monument
(on the picture behind). This is from 1935
and made by Karlis Zale. Its nickname is Milda and
she has stood there thru wars and occupations.

Thru entire April and May, 2005 I was in Riga, Latvia as an Artist in Residence , thru NIFCA (the Nordic Institute for Contemporary Art). I wanted to examine how happiness forms itself in a former communist country, which has also "always" been ocuppied , except in betwean the great World Wars. It turned out being a lot more complicated than I would have ever imagined to even get in touch with people, even if many speak English or German.

I thought that singing would be a way to find happiness in the Baltics, considering the non-violent Singing Revolution in Estonia in 1988 and onwards. Night after night people gathered in massdemonstrations, where they sang. Finally there wer 300 000 Estonians (which was more than one fifth of the population) in Talinn to sing the illegal nationalhymns and rock-musicicans played . The Singing Revolution lasted for four years of different protests and och defence actions.

When I arrived I discovered
the skatingrink on the Liv-
square in central

All of my viditors arrived to Riga airport, and so did I.

Coffeshops that make delicios handmade cocolate, which you
can watch while enjoying it.

Those I spoke to however said that "it was so long ago"(...) and these days food is one thing that make Latvians happy. Personally I must admit that I am not that impressed by Latvian cuisine however. I think that it tastes very much deep-fried. That is why I will reveal what made me happy when I was in Latvia. So, please look at the pictures here!


Latvia's nationalopera I saw both Tosca and Aîda
which were both fantastic

The Flower-market at Tźrbatas
and in the Centralmarket
in the old Zeppelin-hangars

All the talented musicians performing in Riga'ss streets
and squares

How can you be happy in a place where a smile is as rare as politeness? Where people that you have met every day in the building you live and work don't return your greetings even when you greet then in Latvian? Where you in the restaurants can sit and wait forever to make your order and to get the food, but where the staff is so in a hurry to clear your place that you hardly get to finish your last bite?
Where people let go of doors in your face and walk into you in the streets?

The outside cafeterias in Domas laukums

The leathercoat I bought at the Centralmarket

The SPA:s. Here is Maja at a
SPA ini Jūrmalā


Click to se e
Laima - happiness -

Can the explanation to my difficultes to get in touch with the Latvians vhave anything to do with how they are treated by us western Europenas?

Finally I think that everyone who plans to go to the Baltics , if so only for a couple of hours, ought to read With Dance Shoes in Siberian Snows by the Latvian foreign minister Sandra Kalniete. No; everyone living in the Nordic countries shoul read it. I wish that I had before I went...


© MalinMatilda Allberg 2005