A Cat’s Tail: Riga’s Greatest Legend

A Cat’s Tail: Riga’s Greatest Legend
07 July, 2016


On any walking tour of Old Town, Riga, you come to realize why the area is an official UNESCO World Heritage Site: no matter where you look, there’s always a unique but beautiful building to catch your eye. The first day I got here, I literally tripped 5 times because I was always looking up at the colorful, intricate facades of the homes here.

On a recent tour of Old Town, one the most striking buildings that I saw (at least in uniqueness), and a must-see to visitors of the city is the Cat House, situated at No. 10 Meistaru iela. Maybe it was because I’ve seen one too many crazy lady cat videos, where some woman somewhere has like 500 cats living in her house, or maybe it’s because that 500-cat lifestyle is my younger sisters dream. Whatever it was, it was one of the most memorable buildings of the tour.

Just to clarify, it’s not like the local petting zoo(; It’s actually known as the Cat House, not for the furry friends lounging within, but for the two fierceimages-1 feline figures perched on the turret rooftops overlooking the street. Standing paws together, leaning out over the street, the two cats hiss at passer-byers with arched backs and raised fur. Definitely one of the most unique displays of Old Town.

What makes the building so interesting is the even MORE interesting backstory. While it’s disputed, one major account dominates the discussion as to why these sculptures were included in the building design. As the story goes, a wealthy local tradesman, upon being denied from the House of the Great Guild of Riga, built the canary yellow Cat House that now stands directly across from the Guild. Then in what is arguably one of the most ridiculous revenge-stories of ALL time, he built the cat sculptures and strategically positioned them towards the Great Guild, rear-end first… No death plots or toilet papering necessary!

You think I’m joking, but seriously, look it up.

Funnily enough, the legend continues that the Guild sued the tradesman for the sculptures. It was eventually agreed upon though that after turning the cats around, the tradesman would be allowed into the guild. Today, they don’t point anywhere in particular, but from one human being to another, it’s probably for the best to stay looking at their faces anyways(:

For anyone visiting Riga, this is definitely a must see. If not for the Art Nouveau deco, then to see the evidence of the greatest revenge plot in history(:

Written by Mark Kennedy, currently studying Russian at Liden & Denz, Riga

Posted by Mark Kennedy

Всем Привет! My name is Mark Kennedy, and I’m currently studying Russian at the Liden and Denz Language Center in Riga, Latvia! To say I’m excited to be here is a severe understatement. Currently I'm going into my fourth year at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, where I'm enrolled as a dual-degree candidate, earning two degrees in Russian Language and Literature, and French Horn Performance. I started my study of Russian during a two-year mission for my church in St. Petersburg, Russia. Probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever done! My language learning started off as kind of a trial by fire: with only 12 weeks of training beforehand, I was thrown into Russia and expected (to attempt, at least) to hold full on conversations with people. In the beginning it wasn’t pretty, but the sink or swim mentality of it all forced me to work hard from the start, and motivated me to really overcome any issues I had quickly. Combined with a personally guided plan of language study and some study materials, I came to love the language and the Russian people a TON! Two years later and I’m still studying it… Outside of Russian language, my French Horn degree keeps me busy. Favorite composer is probably Richard Strauss, and my favorite symphonic work is The Rite of Spring Suite by Stravinsky. (Debussy Piano pieces are my favorite non-symphonic works). I’m also into basically anything arts related: singing, dancing, listening to Maroon 5, drawing Sharpie art, going to art exhibits, going to orchestra concerts, etc. In terms of sports, I was a collegiate rower for the University of Michigan in 2011-2012, when we won the National Champions Team Trophy, and I play Ultimate Frisbee. I’m excited for this opportunity to write for Liden & Denz, and to share my enthusiasm and excitement about Riga and the Russian language!

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