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WHY VISIT LATVIA

In Riga, you will find trendy animation of large cities. Its architecture offers some interesting elements, like the old buildings of Vecriga and the castle built in 1330, now used as a residence to the president. Do not miss to climb to the bell tower of the church of St. Peter to admire the beautiful view.

It is also found in the east of the city of beautiful parks 19th, wide boulevards, and a south-central market housed in old warehouses usités airships during World War II. You can also visit the former Riga ghetto in the suburb of Maskavas, with the only synagogue which remains there, and the Jewish Museum. Another curiosity a few kilometers, the car museum exhibiting cars that were in possession of Stalin, Khrushchev, or Gorky but also a bit caricatural effigies of these celebrities. Do not miss either a drink on the Cathedral Square (Doma laukums) even late in the evening in summer.

Jurmala gathers under this single name several small towns along the coast of West Riga, offering beaches, seaside resorts, dunes, forests but also museums and restaurants, all accessible by train or taxi from Riga: a nice place to relax while remaining close to the capital.

Other sites to visit: the region of Sigulda, also called Latvian Switzerland, with its medieval castles, caves, the Gauja National Park and Turaida Castle now houses a museum; the city of Bauska and its 15th-century castle, which provides a framework for early music recitals; the Rundale Palace with its beautiful baroque architecture; City Kuldiga, with several historical sites including an ancient fortress and a water mill; Venta river and waterfall 275 meters wide.

WHAT TO SEE IN LATVIA

Top destinations in Latvia are:

  • Riga
  • Gauja National Park
  • Liepaja
  • Jūrmala
  • Kuldīga
  • Sigulda
  • Daugavpils
  • Jelgava
  • Cesis
  • Bauska
  • Rēzekne
  • Jekabpils

WHEN TO GO TO LATVIA

Weather in Latvia

The best period to visit Latvia is from May to September.

January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December

The best time to visit the Baltic States is late spring or summer, when there’s usually enough fine weather to allow you to stroll around the cities and make significant forays into the great outdoors. On the whole though, the only thing that’s predictable about the Baltic climate is the deep, dark winters – in all other seasons, the weather can be changeable in the extreme.

Summers are relatively short (roughly mid-June to late August), and although you may well experience a string of hot, dry days during this period, showers and chilly nights are equally likely. Remember to pack a waterproof jacket and warm sweater alongside your T-shirts.

Temperatures cool down rapidly from mid-September onwards, although autumn can be an extraordinarily beautiful season in which to visit, with the golden brown leaves of deciduous trees contrasting with the dark-green pines.

The first snowfalls can come as early as mid-November, and by early to mid-December winter sets in with a vengeance. Average daytime temperatures can remain below zero right through until March, plummeting to minus 15–20°C in particularly cold spells. Winter can of course be a magical time, with lakes, rivers and large expanses of the Baltic Sea freezing over, and crunchy snow cover adding an air of enchantment to medieval city centers. However, rural areas can be difficult to get to without a four-wheel-drive vehicle (only the main highways are snowplowed), and you’ll have to be well togged up in order to endure anything but the shortest of walks. Wherever you are in winter, some form of hat or head covering is absolutely essential.

Even when the spring thaw sets in, the countryside can remain grey and barren until well into April (or even May in northern Estonia), when a sudden explosion of color transforms the landscape. The countryside takes on a green lushness, drawing cattle and horses out from their winter barns, while city-dwellers indulge in a frenzied stampede for the pavement cafés.

Source: http://www.roughguides.com/

Following a list of typical festival and celebrations of Latvia

February

Meteni is a traditional Latvian festival, part of the country’s ancient calendar of events. It is an agricultural festival in origin, marking the time when spinning ends, weaving starts, and young horses are broken in. Ritual activities include sledding, sleigh rides, and masquerades.

April

Usini Festival. Visitors who can’t take the sight of blood may only want to witness the early part of this festival, in which horses are taken to swim before sunrise, since this traditional agricultural celebration’s main activities involve killing roosters, draining the blood into horse troughs, then using it to paint crosses on doors. This celebrates the arrival of plowing time and the start of the ‘summer singing’. Cooked roosters are also part of the ritual meals, which also include eggs and of course, beer.

May

Latvia Beer Fest. The Latvian Beer Fest in May is a massive annual event in the capital. Contrary to its name, though all of the festivals is not spent drinking. There are plenty of musical performances and competitions to enjoy. Latvians love a cold one so rejoice in the best food and drinks in the Baltics. www.latviabeerfest.lv/en

International Baltic Ballet Festival. Riga  www.ballet-festival.lv

Latvian Song and Dance Festival. Riga www.dziesmusvetki.tv

Kremerata Baltica Festival. Riga www.kremerata-baltica.com

June

Jāņi (summer solstice) Midsummer. Midsummer is the most important celebration in the Latvian festival calendar, which is not very surprising, considering the length of the winters here. All over Latvia, all-night parties are held in which fires are lit, people sing songs (some of them about cattle), dance, make and wear wreaths of flowers, drink specially-brewed beer and eat cheese. Men called Janis are honored with oak wreaths and young people go into the forest to hunt for a fern that is believed to bloom on this night alone and is said to bring love and happiness to those who find it.

Riga Salsa Festival. Held in June every year, the Riga Salsa Festival is one of the more popular celebrations in Latvia’s capital. The event only began in 2005, but with each passing year sees more people coming out to celebrate. Today, famous salsa dancers from nearby countries like Spain and Portugal make their way to the largest salsa event in the Baltic Region, and one of the most popular in all of Europe. rigasalsafestival.com

July

Latvian Song and Dance Festival. Even though the Latvian Song and Dance Festival is only held once every five years, it is still one of the most prolific events staged in the Baltic. Around since 1873 in the city of Riga, more than 30,000 performers are brought together. Add in thousands of spectators, and the festival becomes one of the biggest events in Europe.

Metalshow.lv Open Air. Metalshow.lv Open Air is a two-day bonanza of rock and heavy metal performances, held in the township of Blome. The festival operates during the month of July, which is similar to many other events in Latvia due to the warm, pleasant weather. Europe’s biggest names and international favorites all join the lineup. www.metalshow.lv/fest

Positivus Festival. The Positivus Festival is a summer music event that began in 2007. Lasting for two days in the city of Salacgriva, there is a range of genres found throughout the course of the event, which attracts thousands of avid music enthusiasts, plus the world’s most popular musicians and bands. Held the third week of July smack dab in the middle of summer, there is a campsite across from the main venue for accommodations at your disposal. www.positivusfestival.com/lv

Zvera. Although not overly commercialized, Zvera is still quite a popular music event held in the town of Lasupe. Rock bands from across Europe play for crowds of thousands for three days in July.

Saulkrasti Jazz Festival. One of Europe’s most renowned jazz festivals, this says a lot seeing as there are so many throughout the year. Only running since 1997, the last decade has seen a dramatic increase in the popularity so be sure to book your Latvian accommodations well in advance. There is also a music camp and a concert specifically for musicians. saulkrastijazz.lv

Positivus Festival. www.positivusfestival.com

Sigulda Blues Festival. www.bluesfest.lv

August

Liela Mara. This is another Latvian farming festival, not very suitable for vegetarians. On this date, traditionally inclined Latvians celebrate the end of the summer heatwave and the need to plant the winter crops by going for ritual healing swim, killing lambs and making other sacrifices, while eating the traditional mutton and of course, drinking beer.

Riga City Festival. www.liveriga.com

September

Apjumibas or Rudenaji Festival. This is a traditional Latvian festival marking the beginning of the threshing season at the Autumn equinox, rather poetically described as ‘the time of the souls of the dead’. Among the traditional activities are ‘Jumis chasing and welcoming’ (Jumis are the spirits of the dead), and on the ritual menu are bread, rooster, pork or mutton, and lots of beer.

Studentu Paradize. Beginning September 2007, the Studentu Paradize was first established by university students to celebrate the beginning of the new academic year. Today, it embraces the same idea but includes more than 25 colleges across the country. Over 10,000 students and visitors from across Latvia enjoy performances and parties to welcome the new school calendar, growing in popularity with every passing year.

November

Martini Festival. While westerners may be excused for believing this has to do with a certain alcoholic drink, in Latvia, the Martini Festival is an ancient day, marking the end of the threshing season and the start of the linen processing in the old agricultural calendar. Like many of these traditional Latvian festivals, it has its roots in the farming seasons and farmers don’t mind a bit of blood-letting. Crosses are put on doors to ward off the powers of evil, Martins are chased and roosters slaughtered. Food consumed at this time of year includes bread, chicken or goose, honey, and Martini balls (made of peas, beans, potatoes and hemp).

December

Ziemas saulgrieži (winter solstice). “Ziemassvētki” or Christmas in Latvia is marked by an inextricable mix of ethnic, religious, and modern traditions making it a truly unique experience. While most in the western world celebrate Christmas as the birth of Jesus Christ, according to pre-Christian Latvian pagan traditions it is the rebirth of the Sun Maiden.

HOW TO REACH AND TRAVEL THROUGH LATVIA

by plane, the main airports are:

by train

by car

GENERAL INFORMATION ON LATVIA

health tips & vaccination: Avoid drinking tap water. The classic vaccinations are recommended, as well as against encephalitis Central European tick if you visit the country between April and October.

local currency: European euro

local time zone: GMT+2 (+3)

electricity: type C and type F (230 V – 50 Hz)

mobile phone operators:

WHAT TO DO IN LATVIA

typical food in Latvia

  • Kotletes: meat patties.
  • Aukstā zupa: cold beet soup.
  • Skābeņu zupa: sorrel soup.
  • Frikadeļu zupa:meetball soup.
  • Skâbâ Putra: sour cream soup.
  • Sivēna Galerts: porc in aspic.
  • Jāņi cheese: summer solstice cheese usually made of dry cottage cheese, milk, sour cream, eggs, butter, salt and caraway seeds.
  • Jāņu Siers: cheese with caraway seeds.
  • Pīrāgi: pastry filled with bacon and onions.
  • Sklandrauši: round tarts with either carrots or potatoes filling.
  • Kartupeļi ar siļķi un biezpienu: herring with cottage cheese and potatoes.
  • Rasols: potato salad with eggs, gherkins, and sometimes bacon, sausages.
  • Karbonāde: breaded pork chops.
  • Bukstiņbiezputra: groats porridge with potatoes and streaky bacon with cream.
  • Sauerkraut (Latvian version of this well-known dish).
  • Alexander Torte: raspberry- or cranberry-filled pastry strips.
  • Kartupeļu pankūkas: potato pancakes.
  • Debessmanna: sweet farina porridge with cranberries.
  • Rupjmaizes Kārtojums: airy dessert of rye breadcrumbs, whipped cream and cranberry jam.
  • Kvass: fermented rye bread drink.

souvenirs from Latvia

  • Amber necklaces or bracelets
  • Knitted mittens
  • Wood goods
  • Jewelry
  • Pottery and porcelain
  • Leather goods
  • Stained glass items
  • Ceramics
  • Textiles
  • Black Balsam, thick herbal drink
  • Honey

SIMPLE DICTIONARY

Hello: Sveiki

Goodbye: Uz redzēšanos!

How are you?: Kā tev iet?

Thank you: Paldies

What is your name?: Kāds ir tavs vārds?

How much is it?: Cik daudz tas ir?

Sorry: Atvainojiet

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