Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Melnais Kaķis (Black Cat) Cafe

A touch of the Black Cat
There is a quaint little cafe on the first floor of an old building, built in 1906. Its dimmed lights set the mood and sweet desserts offer a treat for the curious. Located in the Old City at the heart of antiquity, the cafe derives its name from the building it's in, crowned with two black cats with arched backs, ready to pounce.

Enjoying a hot cup of coffee one might be surprised to find themselves not in a sidewalk cafe of Paris but in the heart of the Old City of Riga, the capital of Latvia. Built over a 100 years ago in the city often lovingly referred to as Little Paris, this art nouveau building has a peculiar story of its own.

In one of the popular versions the owner of the building, a wealthy Latvian merchant, was denied membership at The Great Guild - an exclusive German theatre located across the street from his building. Offended and enraged, the merchant decided to publicly express his dislike by affixing two black cats, bearers of misfortune, on top of his building with their backs arched and puffed tails. Their behinds were turned towards the theatre in a tasteful gesture of insult.

While the superstition about black cats may be baseless, some claim that the cats have cursed their architect, who fell to his death while fixing them on the roof. Some versions of the story even claim that the theatre was also cursed, going bankrupt shortly after. Today, however, it seems that the cats' curse wore off, only their arched back remain, keeping the legend alive.

Have other interesting stories about cats and their statues? Share them in the comments!

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