A special treat of natural beauty can be experienced if you travel Latvia. Both urban and rural areas have so many magnificent angles to display. Stop by the capital Riga, which is known to be a World Heritage site because of its dramatic story of the past. Based on its geography, Latvia is a place where you could have the best wildlife encounter. Most of the mountain ranges are covered by green and virgin forests. Complete your journey as you visit the biggest water attraction in Northern Europe – Livu Akvaparks. For foreign tourists, the historic buildings like castles are the best treats for your sights, which you could find in the city of Sigulda.
Important and Interesting Facts About Latvia
- Latvia borders Estonia, Russia, Belarus, and Lithuania. It is situated on a trading crossroads and has long since served as a bridge between Western Europe and Russia.
- Riga is architecturally considered to be the Jugendstil capital of the world. Latvian architects are responsible for designing over 60% of the distinctive Art Nouveau style buildings made famous in the early 1900’s.
- Nearly one-third of Latvia’s population lives in the capital Riga. Riga, the oldest existing medieval city, was founded in 1201. Riga has been included in UNESCO’s list of the world’s most important cultural and natural sites.
- Latvia’s landscape is marked by lowland plains, rolling hills, thousands of rivers and lakes and thus considered one of the greenest countries in Europe. Forests cover 44 percent of the territory, and most of the countryside is less than 100 meters above sea level.
- Latvia is home to the widest waterfall in Europe: Ventas Rumba, at 110 m (360 ft) wide, though only 2 m high.
- Peter’s Church is one of the oldest and most valuable monuments of medieval architecture in the Baltic States. It is located in the historical centre of Riga and on 4 December 1997 was included among the UNESCO World Heritage sites.
- Gauja National Park is the most popular tourist destination in Latvia. Its first visitors were hiking in the Sigulda area with walking-sticks as far back as in the 19th century and the evidence of this is the engravings left by them on the sandstone walls of the caves.
- The Rundāle Palace ensamble, one of the most outstanding monuments of Baroque and Rococo architecture in Latvia, was built between 1736 and 1740 as a summer residence for Ernst Johann Biron, Duke of Courland and a favourite of the Russian Empress Anna Ioannovna. The palace was designed by the Russian court architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli and built under his supervision.
- Turaida Museum Reserve is located 50 km from Riga and is known for its beautiful surroundings and history. The name Turaida means “God’s garden” in the language of the ancient inhabitants, the Livonians. In 1996, the museum was named one of the European Museums of the Year.
- The Latvian Open-Air Ethnographic Museum is one of the oldest and largest open-air museums in Europe. 118 old buildings from all historical districts of Latvia – Kurzeme, Vidzeme, Zemgale and Latgale – built from the end of the 17th century up to the second half of the 1930s have been relocated, reconstructed and furnished.
- The Latvian Museum of Natural History is the largest and one of the oldest complex museums of natural history and sciences in Baltic States. The Latvian Museum of Natural History originated from the museum of Riga Naturalists Society (Der Naturforscherverein zu Riga) that was founded in 1845.
Cool, Funny, and Fun Facts About Latvia
- The Baltic region is famous for its amber, and jewelry and other souvenirs are widely available.
- Ever wonder who inspired Crocodile Dundee? A Latvian. Arvīds Blūmentāls, from Dundaga, Latvia, allegedly killed 10,000 crocodiles.
- You know those rivets on your jeans? You’ve got a Latvian to thank for it. Jacob Davis partnered with Levi Strauss to bring his invention to the denim-clad masses.
- Uljana Semjonova, the 7th tallest woman in the world at 2.1 m (6′ 11″), was a Lithuanian-born Latvia basketball star, who led the Soviet Olympic basketball team to a gold medal victory in 1976 and 1980, and never lost an official international competition.
- Explorer Aleksandrs Laime, the man who discovered Angel Falls in Venezuela, was Latvian.
- Walter Zapp invented and built the first Minox ‘Spy Camera’ in Riga, Latvia.
- Latvia is home to a lot of returning rare plants and animals. You might be able to catch a glimpse of: the European lynx, European wolves or even the extremely rare black stork.
- The national animal of Latvia is the White Wagtail. And yes, it actually does wag its tail. Scientists don’t really know why, it could be a warning or a come-hither.
- An oddity for the wayward tourist: the ‘prison experience’ hotel, Karosta. It is exactly what it sounds like- you get to stay there and live like a prisoner. However, their service seems to be much recommended.
- The longest day in Latvia runs to over 17+ hours of sunlight.
- You can have your Latvian name changed for around 70 Euros, if you like. However, if your name is truly terrible (think: ‘Gonoreja.’ ‘J’ is pronounced like a ‘y,’ seriously) they’ll let you change it for free.
Historical and Cultural Facts About Latvia
- The forefathers of the Latvian people first arrived in the Baltic region in 2000 BC.
- Latvia is a country that survived two world wars and 50 years behind the Iron Curtain, is today completing its second decade of renewed independence.
- In the 9th century AD the ancient Balts began to establish specific tribal realms. The territory of modern Latvia was inhabited by four major Baltic tribal cultures – the Couronians, Latgallians, Selonians and Semigallians, and a Finno-Ugric tribe, the Livs.
- The region was historically known as Lettland, and the people were called the Letts or Lettish people.
- Yeast breads are an essential ingredient of all family celebrations and religious festivities. Birthdays and namedays call for klingeris , a saffron-scented bread made of yeast dough with dried fruits into the shape of a figure eight and decorated with flowers.
- Christmas and other religious and ceremonial occasions call for home-baked pīrāgi bread parcels stuffed with bacon and onion. Beer and šnabs are drunk. A special cheese made with caraway seeds, jāņa siers , is made expressly for the midsummer solstice festival of Jāņi and drunk with specially brewed beer.
- The food in Latvia has some similarities to other European cuisines (pork anything, bacon pirogis, lots of cabbage and sour cream, pickled vegetable) BUT it’s the only country in the world where they eat lampreys. It’s an eel-like fish they sauté (in tea or coffee) and then chill. Voila! Delicious lamprey jelly.
- Latvia does have a famous drink, and it will either throw you under the table or grow some extra hair on your chest. Riga Black Balsam is not for the faint of heart. The locals usually use it as a flavoring ingredient or in teas in the winter, for example. Not as a pure shot.
- The ‘Namejs Ring’ is a part of Latvian heritage and culture, especially for Latvians who move abroad. The legend behind it: King Namejs had the rings made to be able to identify members of his tribe at a glance.
- The Latvian flag is one of the oldest in the world, dating all the way back to the 13th century. It is said to have originated when a Latvian chief was wrapped in a white sheet after being wounded in battle, and the sides of the sheet became stained with blood, while the central stripe remained white, and the stained sheet was used as a battle flag.
- The famous Latvian Lielvarde belts (now typically worn with folk costumes) had an important role. You received the belt as a child and wore it to special occasions or festivals; the belts could be used for hanging cradles; and lastly, for carrying coffins. They’re very symbolic.