The expansive Esplanāde is a large park dotted with tall trees, wooden benches and open-air cafes. The Latvian National Museum of Art graces it on one side, while the cupolas of the Russian Orthodox cathedral majestically rise on the other. The park used to be teeming with Soviet-era sculpture. The monument to Jānis Rainis, Latvia's most celebrated writer, is the only vestige of that era.
He is now accompanied by two military men. The Oskar Kalpak memorial celebrates the man who in 1918 assembled the core of what later became the Latvian army, fighting against the pro-Bolshevik Latvian riflemen. The bronze figure of a man in a cocked hat, standing next to the cathedral, is the monument to Michael Barklay de Tolli. A Rīga native hailing from a German-speaking family of Scottish origin, he led the Russian army in the war against Napoleon and authored the scorched-earth tactics that ensured the ultimate victory for the Russians.