The church of St James in Riga, Latvia, is the seat of the city’s Roman Catholic archbishopric. It occupies an important position opposite Latvia’s Parliament. The first reference to St.James’s Church was in 1226. The first few centuries of its history were uneventful as it served as a local church. Then, after the Reformation the Lutherans took ownership; however, the Counter Reformation saw the church given to the Jesuits in 1582. When the Swedes occupied Riga in the 17th Century it served as the church of the Swedish garrison. Finally, in 1922 the church was given to the Catholic community. The steeple was the only one in Riga that had a bell, named in this case the Bell of Wretched Sinners. History relates how the bell had a bad habit of ringing by itself when any unfaithful wife passed by. This is no longer a problem as the Soviet occupiers melted down the bell for weaponry during WWII. The cathedral is dedicated to Saint James the Greater, but is often referred to by the name St Jacob because Latvian, like many other languages, uses the same name for James and Jacob.
I returned to the stop at 14:30 and the 14:34 bus was already there, so I ran towards the vehicle and luckily the driver waited for me. This time the fare was lower – a different bus company. It didn’t matter though as the destination was still the same bus station where the 15:00 bus to Riga was waiting at Platform 1. I paid the driver and we returned to Riga, arriving at 16:05.
If you are at the bus station in Riga, be sure to visit the vast market just over the waterway – it is the building with the hexagonal arches and is seriously interesting. Fish, meat, vegetables, and cheese/confectionery items, each had their own separate building which together must have been around half a kilometre long.
The Rundale Palace has been almost totally restored and looks good. You can wander around on your own and there is excellent information available in English in every room.
Some rooms were excessively opulent and decorated in just one colour; for example, the Duke’s bedroom was a strange dark green colour, but he obviously liked it as his bedclothes were the same colour. The room next door was the Audience Chamber or Waiting Room, which was a hideous maroon, obviously intended to unsettle people as I felt slightly nauseous and had to retire to the room next door, which was the Italian Room in a lovely light blue that made you feel happy and full of the joys of spring.
The best thing though was the formal gardens and their layout, which was very geometrical and done by an artist of some merit. There was one particularly lovely tree-lined avenue with a view of the palace at its conclusion.
To reach the wonderful Rundale Palace from Riga, travellers should try going via public transport. The first leg is from Riga to a place called Bauska and then the next leg is
from Bauska to Pilsrundale.
The bus station (autoosta) in Riga is to the south-east of the Old Town. I obtained a ticket from the ticket office (kasse) and waited at Platform 6 for the bus to Bauska. The bus left on time and the journey took 70 minutes through very flat countryside.
I bought a ticket at the Bauska bus station for a bus to Pilsrundale (final destination of the bus was Jegvala). This bus left from Platform 2 at Bauska bus station. The journey took 20 minutes and the destination Pilsrundale was clearly marked on the bus stop. There were also large signs indicating Rundale Palace to the left. The bus driver also indicated that I should get off – I made sure he understood that I was going to the palace when I boarded the bus. I checked the return times of the bus before heading into the palace grounds. There seemed to be two different bus companies offering a service back to Bauska from
Pilesrundale. It was 11:25 and I decided to aim for the 14:34 bus.
My finest memories of the place are the Art Nouveau buildings, particularly 10a and 10b Elizabetes Street. The central market, near the bus station, is worth a visit on its own. I only visited the market after coming back from Rundale Palace on the bus and I should have devoted more time to the market.