Riga has been the place of birth for world famous artists, actors, scientists and other significant people, and it has seen even more notable visitors. Kings and queens, generals, presidents and all the rest. But some of them managed to see Riga before they were at the center of attention and bothered by paparazzi.
Between these people was one of the most beloved U.S. presidents John F. Kennedy, who came to Riga as a student of Harvard University in August of 1939, just moments before the outbreak of World War II. JFK was traveling through Europe and stayed in Riga for 5 days.
The President to be stayed in the U.S. embassy building next to Washington Square, in Quiet Center neighborhood, where you can find a commemorative plaque with older JFK’s quote “Latvians will always reach upwards”. From your lips to God’s ears!
So what did Jack do during his stay? Well, he managed quite a lot. Opposite the embassy building there was an art studio, where young Kennedy posed for ambassador’s wife’s woodcut sculpture, which was intended to be a gift for a new church in Antwerp. He traveled to Latvia’s top resort town Jūrmala and visited the Central market of Riga, back then, probably, the biggest and most modern market in Europe. So it’s fair to say, that JFK set a good example to you travelers, not to spend all your time in Riga within the Old Town.
As for the 1st of September, the 22 year old Kennedy was already in London, later being present at the House of Commons for speeches endorsing the United Kingdom’s declaration of war on Germany.