If you walk around Old Town in Riga, you are bound to come across a custard yellow-coloured building. Look up towards the roof and you will find an unusual sight — two black cats! “Why the cats?” I ask Anna, a young Latvian girl who had struck up a conversation with me on the streets. She was curious to know what an Indian was doing in Riga, the capital of Latvia, and on my travels I’m always eager to strike up a conversation with a local to get tips you can never find on the internet. So, it was a win-win situation for both!
“That has a very interesting history actually,” Anna explains. “The things people do for revenge!” My interest was piqued as we both dug into strawberry ice cream cones on a hot summer day.
As most old tales start, a very long time ago, if you were conducting business in Riga, you just had to be a member of the Great Guild. As it happened, a particular businessman was turned away and of course that incensed him. And that was the start of a great revenge plan!
It just so happened that the businessman owned the building opposite the one which housed the Guild. What did he do? He ordered sculptors to make two black cats and then installed them on the roof. But, here’s the twist — the cats were placed with their backsides facing the Guild!
Back then, it caused a scandal! Imagine cats showing off their behinds to the elite gentry. The Guild took the businessman to court! It dragged on with both sides presenting their cases until it was decided that the Guild would let the businessman join their ranks. It was only then that the cats were turned and their faces faced the building which housed the Guild!
The name of the businessman has been lost in time but his act of revenge sure was remembered for posterity. The Cat House soon became a Riga landmark and one can find souvenirs all across the city with their photos embossed-from shirts and hoodies to key chains, mugs, stationery and magnets!
The next time you find yourself in Riga, you know where to go. Go to the custard-yellow building to see the cats look down at you and wonder how far people can go for revenge!