Latvia

Latvia is the small, flat and largely boggy meat in the sandwich between its Baltic neighbours. It packs a lot in though: start with Rīga, its vibrant coastal capital, and move on to photogenic castles, music festivals and scenic river valleys.

Latvians are as keen on reinvigoration and nation-building as any newly independent nation. Visitors can witness first-hand the rapid transformation of a country that has only recently crept from under the doormat of history. This is one of those 'check it out before it's chockas' places.

Latvia 's not a large country, and the centrality of the capital Rīga - the biggest and most vibrant city in the Baltics - makes it an ideal base for exploring further afield. Several attractive destinations lie within day-trip distance. The less travelled parts of the country are equally rewarding to the visitor, from the dune-lined coast and historic towns of Kurzeme in western Latvia to the remote uplands of the eastern side of the country.

  


Location:
Latvia is the central country of the Baltic States ( Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania). On the world map Latvia is to be found in North-eastern Europe, on the east coast of the Baltic Sea. The landscape of the country is marked by lowland plains and rolling hills. Most of the countryside is less than 100 metres above sea level. There are thousands of rivers and lakes in Latvia. Latvia borders Estonia, Russia, Belarus and Lithuania.

It is situated on a trading cross-roads and has long since served as a bridge between Western Europe and Russia. The famous "route from the Vikings to the Greeks" mentioned in ancient chronicles stretched from Scandinavia through Latvian territory along the Daugava River to the ancient Russia and Byzantine Empire.

History:
Baltic tribespeople settled along the Baltic Sea and, lacking a centralized government, fell prey to more powerful peoples. In the 13th century they were overcome by the Livonian Brothers of the Sword, a German order of knights whose mission was to conquer and Christianize the Baltic region. The land became part of the state of Livonia until 1561. Germans made up the ruling class of Livonia and Baltic tribes made up the peasantry. German became the official language of the region.

Poland conquered the territory in 1562, and occupied it until Sweden took over the land in 1629, and ruled over it until 1721. Then the land passed to Russia. From 1721 until 1918, the Latvians remained Russian subjects, although they preserved their language, customs, and folklore.

The Russian Revolution of 1917 gave them their opportunity for freedom, and the Latvian republic was proclaimed on Nov. 18, 1918. The Republic of Latvia was founded in 1918. It has been continuously recognised as a state by other countries since 1920 despite occupations by the Soviet Union (1940-1941, 1945-1991) and Nazi Germany (1941-1945). On August 21, 1991 Latvia declared the restoration of its de facto independence.

Latvia became a member of both the EU and NATO in 2004

Climate and nature:
Latvia 's weather is governed by a moderate oceanic climate, with changing high and low pressure and a considerable amount of precipitation. The average temperature in summer is 15.8C, in winter -4.5C. The warmest month: July, the coldest is January.

Latvia is situated in a nature zone between the vegetation of Northern and Central Europe. Latvia is a country of splendid and diverse natural landscapes. Forests cover 44 percent of the territory. The larger forest tracts are to be found in the northern part of Kurzeme. Here it is still possible to enjoy the beauty and uniqueness of nature untouched by man.

Latvia distinguishes itself with a large variety of flora and fauna (total aprox. 27.7 thousand species).

Latvia 's fauna is typical for a region with mixed forests. Latvia has the largest otter population in Europe, and there is a much greater chance of seeing the rare black stork in Latvia's forests than in any other European country.

Holidays:
January 1: New Year's Day
March  April (in accordance with Western Church calendar): Easter
May 1: Convocation of the Constituent Assembly of the Republic of Latvia
May 4: Restoration of Independence of the Republic of Latvia
The second Sunday in May: Mothers Day
A Sunday in May or June (in accordance with the Western Church calendar): Whitsunday
June 23-24: Ligo day and Jani.
November 18: Independence Day
December 25-26: Christmas
December 31: New Year`s Eve

Money:
Latvian national currency is the Lats (LVL), 1 Lat consists of 100 santims. The Latvian currency has remained strong and secure since its inception in 1993. There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 santims and 1 and 2 Lats. The paper notes are 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 500 Lats.

The stability of Lats is a result of covering the supply of the national currency with gold reserves, hard currency reserves, and investments in a diversified collection of foreign currencies.
The US Dollar is used for hotel, apartment and real estate pricing and for most apartment rental transactions. The EURO is becoming excepted.

Places of interest:
1. Riga
2. Rundale