Coats of Arms in Latvia and Estonia: A Valiant Defender of Treasure

On the battlefields of medieval times, when Knights in Europe were heavily clothed in metal suits of armour and closed helmets, some sort of quick visual identification was needed during battle. As a matter of survival, the Knights needed to wear marks or symbols on the arms of their armour. Some of these symbols were also embroidered on the arms of the Knight’s surcoats, long and flowing garments that were worn over their armour. Hence, “coats of arms.”

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Historically, some form of coats of arms used for military purposes can be dated back to early man, including Greek and African warriors. These people painted their wooden shields with symbols of their heritage.

But the coats of arms of the medieval times of Europe developed into more than just a military ID badge. They grew to represent many things, and just like the number on your Driver’s License, they became unique to each person, or to a family, or even to an entire region. These emblems, used by several social classes, could signify heraldic achievement, or were designed to convey feelings of power and strength.

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To see the grandeur of these insignias today, after having survived for hundreds of years, is quite extraordinary. I happened upon two unique collections of coats of arms in a couple of churches in Europe. These “quirky” museums were in the St. Peter’s Church of Riga, Latvia and the Tallinn Dome Church of Tallinn, Estonia.

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Both of these collections displayed coats of arms that were actually used as epitaphs, a way to preserve the memory of the deceased. The Latvian collection had wooden epitaph coats of arms from the 18th century, with quite colorful baroque and rococo-style wood carvings. The Estonian collection had some very large coats of arms that were eight and a half feet in length, the oldest dating back to 1586. These were painted with heraldic colors, decorated with lush and luxurious ornamentation, and accented with leaf gold and silver, the combination of which resulted in a mother-of-pearl-like glitter.

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Because the coats of arms were decorated with various pictures, I did a bit of research to find out some of their meanings. For example, birds: an eagle may represent a person of noble nature, or one who is high-spirited; a peacock, beauty, power and knowledge; and a dove, loving constancy and peace. Animals: a lion can symbolize courage; a dragon, a valiant defender of treasure; and a bear, strength, cunning and ferocity in the protection of one’s kindred. Flowers: a rose can characterize hope and joy; a primrose brings good tidings; and a carnation, admiration.

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And then certain objects also have significance. Antlers stand for strength and fortitude; a castle for safety; and musical pipes, festivity and rejoicing. A wavy line denotes the sea or water; an indented line is for fire; and an engrailed line, for the earth or land. Even the colors have meaning: gold, generosity; blue, truth and loyalty; and silver, peace and sincerity.

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If I could design my own coat of arms, I think it should at least contain a yellow sunflower, which to me represents bright sunshine, the outdoors, strength and happiness.

Sweet Travels!

General historical information about coats of arms from wikipedia

and from 101-family-crests.com

Meaning of pictures on coats of arms from Fleur-de-lis Designs

Latvian and Estonian information from the church’s brochures:

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Latvian Fire Fighting Museum: Stop, Drop and Roll

Curious about fire engines and fire hoses and fire alarm devices? Interested in fire fighting services and fire fighting equipment and techniques? Want to learn about some causes of fires, or educate yourself on fire safety? Want to know about the history of fire fighting? And how about all this when you travel to the country of Latvia?

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Then next time you are in Riga, please visit The Latvian Fire Fighting Museum. Located in a fire station built around 1911, using an Art Nouveau architectural style, this “quirky” museum presents history and objects of fire fighting in Latvia. From 1912 to 1944, a unit of the Riga City Fire Fighters Division used the building where the museum is currently located. And today, the State Fire and Rescue Service of Latvia still occupies part of the building.

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The museum presents the fascinating history of Latvian fire fighting, from 1864 to 1940, as well as more recent history of Latvia’s State Fire and Rescue Service. The museum demonstrates fire techniques used, including hand pumps and steam pumps and engine pumps. For viewing are some cool-looking fire engines from the “Chevrolet-Sux” 1930’s production line. Fire fighters’ helmets, tools, uniforms, fire alarm devices, hoses, nozzles, awards, medals, photographs, documents, flags and other objects are exhibited, as well as data about some causes of fires and the resulting damage.

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Unfortunately, when I went to visit this museum, just like my attempt to visit The Mini Bottle Gallery in Oslo, Norway, Riga’s Fire Fighting Museum was closed. (I really must plan some things better when I travel.) But, at least I was able to see the architectural style of the building, three cool-looking decades-old fire engines through the windows, and what looks to be some type of pump (probably the hand-type) displayed on the outside of the museum.

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Per the State Fire and Rescue Service’s website, I must say that I like this about the museum: “The Latvian Fire Fighting Museum has an important role in the education of the young generation in the area of health and life protection. In the exhibition children can adopt basic knowledge about the fire safety regulations, on behavior in case of a fire, and how to protect themselves and others in extreme situations.”

As a child, I certainly remember learning how to “stop, drop and roll…”

Sweet (and safe) Travels!

Facts, history and quotes complements of the “State Fire and Rescue Services of Latvia” website.

Facts and History of Porcelain in Riga, Latvia

Located in the heart of Riga, Latvia’s city-center is one of the most elegant “quirky” museums that I have walked into during my travels. With more than 6000 faience (earthenware decorated with opaque colored glazes) and porcelain articles, The Riga Porcelain Museum is a definite must-see if you are ever in this city.

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This museum contains the largest collection of local industrially manufactured porcelain, with objects dating back to the mid-19th century through the end of the 20th century. Displayed are a mix of some pieces that have been mass-produced, while others are one-of-a-kind works of art.

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The porcelain in the museum originates from the Riga Porcelain Factory, which is a combined effort of the two oldest porcelain factories in Riga. The oldest and largest of these dates back to 1841, and was founded by a Russian entrepreneur Sidor Kuznetsov. The second factory was founded in 1886 by German entrepreneur Jacob Jessen. For almost 80 years, these two factories worked side-by-side until 1963 when they were united to be the renamed Riga Porcelain Factory.

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The main components of porcelain are white clay, kaolin, quartz and feldspar, although there are other materials that can be used. Porcelain is made by heating these raw materials in a kiln to temperatures between 2,192 F and 2,552 F. (Now that’s hot!)

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Porcelain can informally be referred to as “china” because it is believed that China was the birth place of porcelain making. Dating back to the Shang Dynasty about 1600 BCE (now that’s old!), the first proto porcelain wares existed. High firing glazed ceramic wares were developed by the Eastern Han Dynasty about 100-200 BCE. And “porcelain manufactured during the Tang Dynasty period (618-906) were exported to the Islamic world where it was highly prized.”

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During my wandering around the various rooms of the museum, I saw objects from glorious vases to figurines of people and animals. There were many items that you would find in kitchens and dining areas, such as dishes and bowls; tea cups and saucers; tea, sugar (a dream – pun intended) and coffee pitchers; and entire dinner sets. All this and more in so many various sizes, shapes, colors, designs, patterns, styles, paintings, and motifs.

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I truly loved this museum’s beauty! I think I will bring out my fine china to use for dinner tonight…

Sweet Travels!

Facts and history about porcelain courtesy of the Riga Porcelain Museum and Wikipedia.

Cioccolato, Chocolat, Schokolade of Europe

I’m a chocoholic. I’ll admit it. If I could eat chocolate with breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I would. I’ve loved chocolate for as long as I can remember.

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Italian and Greek chocolates

These days, I actually prefer dark chocolate to milk chocolate. Tastes better to me, and apparently has some health benefits. Strangely, though, I’m not a fan of white chocolate.

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Icelandic and New Zealand chocolates

I like certain combinations of chocolate…chocolate with banana, chocolate with raspberry. My ultimate favorite combo is chocolate with peanut butter!

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Finnish and Latvian chocolates

Not only do I indulge in chocolate regularly at home, but I also make it a point to try chocolate in every country that I am traveling in. Chocolate that is locally made!

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German and Lithuanian chocolates

I have found great chocolate in every country. Of course, there is the infamous Belgian and Swiss chocolates that I have sampled.

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Belgian and Swiss chocolates

Gelato in Italy became an addiction! In Vienna, I ate a piece of the Sacher Torte in the café that it originated from.

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Chocolate museums make for some fun and interesting facts about chocolate. Not to mention the free samples!

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To prove that I have indulged, I usually keep the wrappers from the chocolates so that I can put them in my scrapbooks, which I share with you in this blog.

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Ecuadorian and Russian chocolate (the Russian chocolate was given to me by one of my sisters who went – she knew I would like it!)

As I always say at the end of my blogs, and especially at the end of this one,

Sweet Travels!

All chocolates eaten by Debby