Duration (door to door):
Seventeen years on from the break up of the Soviet Union relics from nearly fifty years of occupation are fast disappearing. In neighbouring Estonia, the parliament has already passed a bill that will allow for the removal of Tallinn's famous Soviet-era Bronze Soldier monument, and just recently, in January 2007, Latvian nationalists and World War II veterans stepped up their campaign calling for the removal of the last remaining symbols of Soviet rule in Latvia.
After half a century of subjugation you can hardly blame the Latvians for wishing to remove every final reminder of that time of oppression. For those of us who did not live under that dark shadow of tyranny it is almost impossible to imagine how terrible life sometimes was.
With the clock ticking down to a time when images of Soviet occupation will no longer remain, here at Out There we would like to offer our clients the opportunity to experience the post-Soviet experience in its many guises:
• The monuments and architecture of that time-both the ugly and the surprisingly beautiful
• Soviet kitsch such as golden busts of Stalin and a wax model of Brezhnev driving his former Rolls Royce
• The secretive nature of the Soviet regime including its off-limits military bases and nuclear facilities
• The ugly face of Soviet rule - prisons from which few returned
• The nostalgia of the thirty-metre bronze ‘hero statues’
The Ultimate post-Soviet tour
Stalin’s birthday cake
Stalin's birthday cake, the Riga ‘Empire State Building’ or the Ghostbusters' tower? These are the various names that locals and foreigners have given to the imposing Academy of Sciences building. Nowadays this in-your-face Soviet building is rarely visited and yet boasts the finest skyline views in the whole of central Riga. The hammer and sickle is still in evidence on the facade of the buidling, while everything about the interior seems set in a 40-year time warp. You will enjoy a brief tour of the building as well as fantastic, unrivalled views of Riga from the 17th-floor balcony.
Blown away at Victory Park
Nowhere in Riga is there a more vivid reminder of the Soviet era than at Victory Park. The place is mobbed by ethnic Russians on the most important days in the old Soviet calender. 'Ūzvaras Parks' is also full of Russians -young and old- whenever they wish to protest about political matters of one kind or another. Our tour stops off here for 15 minutes to let you immerse yourself in Riga's most blatant reminder of the Soviet past. Latvian nationalists have tried to blow this place up on occasion. But in the coming years it might well be the politicians who will finally succeed in doing away with these Soviet monuments.
Feel like James Bond on top of Zakusala island’s TV tower
Next we drive you to Zakusala island for a visit to Riga TV tower, the third highest tower in Europe. This building wouldn't be out of place in a James Bond film, and from its observation tower you will enjoy fantastic views of not only Riga, but also of the distant Latvian countryside, the open Baltic Sea and the Salaspils hydroelectric plant. The design of the tower was commissioned by the Soviet State Communication Design Institute and was finally completed in 1986. The basement of this, the world's 11th highest tower is 27 metres deep. Riga's extreme ttemperature variations (65 degrees Celcius in 2006)can move the tip of the tower by 2.4 metres!
Off the road in Stalin’s armoured car
Stalin and Brezhnev might have long since gone but you can see wax dummies of the former tyrants sat in the very same Rolls Royce and armoured-ZIS cars they used back in the day. There are plenty of other old Soviet cars, bicycles and motorbikes on display for you to enjoy during your visit here. The location in Mezciems also adds to the Soviet vibe with block after block of high-rise Soviet era apartments.
Lunch with Lenin and Putin (lunch at your own expense)
Austrumu Robeza or Eastern Border is a unique piece of Soviet kitsch slap bang in the middle of the capital. Stalin, Lenin and Putin are all present here thanks to golden busts of the two former tyrants and the current wannabee modern-day Tsar. The walls and ceilings are camouflaged and everything from the menu to the cloackroom has some kind of kitch dimension to it. The theatre-restaurant is reminiscent of a World War II bunker, and the hammer and sickle are never out of sight during your intriguing and memorable lunch time visit here.