Such were my musings during an afternoon spent walking around the Quiet Center in Riga. Although just a ten minute walk from the Old Town, it felt like a world away. Gone were the groups of boisterous lads, non-existent were the shot bars and strip clubs that catered to the hordes flown in by Ryanair. Here in the Quiet Center, it was, well, quiet.
Not for nothing is Riga the Art Nouveau capital of Europe, with roughly forty percent of the city's buildings created in that style. I'm not an architecture expert by any means, so a formal definition of the phrase "art nouveau" escapes me, but I'd like to think the term describes a building that's fun and interesting not only in design but to look at, and my adventure in the Quiet Center which brought me face-to-face with colorful buildings with decorative, intricately-carved facades lined with intriguing grotesques, fearsome gargoyles, muscular atlases and curvy caryatids, plus that screaming woman, left no doubt about that.
Concentrated along Elizabetes and Alberta Iela, some of the architecture is simply unreal. One of my favorites is this building on Elizabetes 10b, the top of its facade composed of blue ceramic tiles, flanked by white giant pensive sculpted heads, and a demonic looking figure on top. Never seen anything quite like this, have you?
On Alberta street, apartment buildings stand side by side offering the Art Nouveau enthusiast his fill of glorious architecture, plus a searing pain in the neck from the semi-permanent upward tilt of the head.
This outstanding example of Art Nouveau at No. 13 is a riot of sculptural reliefs of masks, dragons, female figures, etc. Sometimes It felt like too much to take it all at once. But when in doubt, look at the bare-breasted women, that's what I say.
To view more of these, Riga's Art Nouveau Center has come up with a nifty interactive guide to the Quiet Center's numerous treasures, which is here. Other districts of Riga are covered as well, including the Old Town where several examples of the style are present.