I had zero expectations for Riga, as it was my first stop EVER in Europe other than Ireland and Italy.
My mind was blown, not only by its architectural beauty and green-ness everywhere, but by its sad and horrific history.
I know almost nothing about non-Western European history. I can’t blame my American public education for that, I can only blame myself because, well, this is 2017 and GOOGLE.
Have you guys heard of the Soviet occupation (that went on for decades) of Latvia... and the other Baltic nations, and a bunch of other countries? Even if you’re as pathetically ignorant as I was, you probably have at least heard, in passing. What you probably don’t know, though, is about the tens of thousands of people imprisoned, executed, tortured, deported (to Siberia) by the KGB in Latvia alone for made-up crimes they didn’t commit. Or, for committing “crimes” that no reasonable person would consider a crime - like writing poetry or going to university.
Just a few minutes’ walk from this gorgeous church is an unassuming - maybe even handsome - building known as The Corner House, which was the former HQ of the KGB, turned into a museum of the occupation.
In the Corner House, countless Latvians passed during the decades of Soviet occupation : some to their death, some to imprisonment, some to torture (and eventually death), and some to exile.
The suppression of “subversive” activities by the KGB is still going on today (ps - did you know Putin was KGB?), though no longer in free and independent Latvia.