JLD 03 - 23 - 2010

In Riga, Latvia I witnessed cultural sustainability at its best. Like the other Baltic States Latvia has had a rough past, especially in the last hundred years with Soviet and Nazi occupation. The citizens of Riga don't like the ugly Soviet buildings, but they still preserve them. Their culture is very important to them because they've had to fight so hard to keep it. So many of their buildings were bombed in World War II, but they have kept the bombed buildings, even the ones they haven't gotten around to fixing yet, instead of leveling them. Some of their buildings they have rebuilt to look how they used to (botton right), but most of the spaces where buildings were completely destroyed have been turned into green space and parks. Latvia has a "national romanticism" and the citizens are full of pride. In Vilnius my thoughts were shared by someone who graffitied the words "CLEAN WALL = NOT COOL" on the side of the building. While the city had a similar history to that of Riga instead of fighting to keep the city's identity they plastered over most of their buildings (top right). Most of the buildings stayed intact but they did not preserve them in their original state. Even the former Jewish ghetto had been whitewashed over. While I appreciated Vilnius' efforts to clean up their city I would have preferred it if places that had such a horrible history weren't so innocent-looking. Another example is the KGB museum; I would have never guessed how many people were executed behind those walls from the looks of its exterior. Most of Europe was effected by the terrible events of the last century, but some cities, like Munich, have done a better job of preserving their culture. Munich was almost completely destroyed in World War II but the planners decided to rebuilt it how it was, even with the winding streets because they realized that the original feel of the city was worth saving. Even though the materials may be new the buildings look old. Since Munich was the central headquarters of the Nazi Party there is a lot of ugly history there that people may not want to draw attention to. But unlike Vilnius, Munich does not seem to ignore these associations. Fascist architecture lines the streets and evidence of the reign of the Nazi party exists in many prominent places.

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