"meet me at the clock!"

Photo: Dainis Matisons / www.flickr.com
The Clock of Laima, Riga, Latvia

Standing in the snow, she is slim and blonde, with high cheekbones and a porcelain complexion. She smokes incessantly and jumps up and down every now and then to keep herself warm. She keeps looking at her watch, must be waiting for someone. She lights up another cigarette. All around her, people seem to be doing the same thing. Waiting. A few moments pass. He walks up to her, she looks up, her face brightens up with a smile and they embrace.

If you sit long enough and stare, you realise that this is exactly what this place is for. People arrive, wait for a while, meet someone, hug or kiss or hold hands, and leave. It has been a life-long tradition for the inhabitants of Riga to arrange their dates "at the clock". Somehow, when it comes to dates, everyone knows exactly which clock you are referring to. The Clock of Laima, built in 1924 in the heart of Riga, has been surrounded by love and anxiously waiting people for almost a hundred years. Located next to the city canal and surrounded by a beautiful park, it offers many options for new lovers to create first date memories.

The brown and yellow tower, as it is, stands next to the monument of Freedom at the entrance of the old town and was originally meant to remind people not to be late for work. In 1936, the biggest producer of chocolate in Latvia decorated the clock with its name, Laima, eventually leading people to call it the "Clock of Laima". Which, when you think about it, is a very suitable name for a lovers' meeting place. Chocolate and love always did go well together.

The tradition of associating the Clock of Laima with love has also been enforced by an attempt to set a new record with the slogan "the minute of love". On May the 3rd, 2010, couples from all over the country were invited to meet here and collectively "renew their belief in love" by portraying emotions and actions connected with love. Kissing, hugging, holding hands and smooching were encouraged and more than 2 500 people gathered to give a dedication to love by sending hundreds of red balloons up into the sky.

I've sat here gazing at it for a while now. And even though the weather is gloomy and freezing cold, this legendary clock manages to send out a vibrant aura of love around it, putting smiles on the faces of anyone who stands near it. How fitting, then, that I walk away smiling.

Cover photo: Liva Kreiserle

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