A step back in time to darker days with the KGB building tour in Riga.
The building is like any other from the outside. It was supposed to be that way, hiding the horrors that went on inside. The peeling paint and unloved walls as you enter indicate very little has been renovated.
The tour started in a small room. The group was gathered together and the door was locked behind us. Our guide explained some of the building’s history before moving deeper into the ‘Cheka’ as it is locally called.
A person was told they needed to be spoken to, our host explained. They were told there is nothing to worry about just come with us. Then they were brought to the building for registration.
We followed their footsteps to the registration room where every detail about the person would be extracted. This information was important. Then along to the interrogation room.
I had only ever seen a two-way mirror in films. It was interesting to see one in real life. One that has been used to look in on many interviews without being noticed. I could imagine how scary it would be for those brought here. The guide explained that various techniques were used to get people to talk. The ultimate goal would be a confession. Accused of knowing, talking or doing anything against the regime.Coerced in different ways to sign what is put before them.
Next on the KGB building tour were the cells. Our host described the conditions so well I could see it in my mind. A cramped cell filled with people. A single bucket as a toilet that would frequently overflow. Bright fluorescent lights that prevented sleep. (sleep was only allowed whilst lying on your back facing upwards , otherwise you would be woken and told to reposition).
Passing many cells down winding corridors we came to the kitchen. Here it was explained just how bad the food was. We explored more rooms and heard different stories before we were taken outside through a courtyard to the execution room.
We were shown a video. A clip from a film which depicted the process and executions. The room itself had been renovated. They had tried to disguise the purpose of the room once it stopped being used. But from the guides description and the rest of the tour it was easy to imagine what happened there.
It’s scary to think that Latvia has only been fully independent since September 1991. There is so much history that I was not aware of. I’m glad I had the opportunity to learn more about it.
Visiting information is below. Or check out the website Latvian Museums.
Opening times 1 May - 19 October, 2014 Monday 10 - 16 Tuesdays - closed Wednesdays 10 - 20 Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays 10 - 18
Prices Entry to all exhibitions EUR 5.00 KGB cellar tour with guide (without other exhibitions) EUR 5.00 Students, schoolchildren and pensioners (on presentation of relevant ID) EUR 2.00 Family tickets (2 adults + children) EUR 10.00