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Interesting Facts about Latvia
Giant people, nights in jail and pagan festivities… Check out these amazing but true facts about surreal Latvia!
One of the last corners of Europe to join Christendom, Latvians are still very much pagans at heart. They worship nature by jumping over bonfires at Midsummer Eve, and many surnames are about birds, animals or trees.
Latvians are a people to look up to. Latvia has the world’s tallest women, with the average lady coming in at an impressive 170 cm. The men are no midgets either, holding fourth place.
Riga’s Central Market is one of Europe’s biggest markets. It is famed for its pavilions housed in giant zeppelin hangars left behind by the German army after World War I.
With over 500 km of coast, Latvia has tons of beaches. There’s space for everyone, whether you want fun in the sun or miles of sand to yourself, and best of all its all open to the public.
Over half its territory covered by forest, so Latvia is a very green place. Locals love to pick mushrooms and berries, and at Midsummer young couples duck into the woods to look for the mythical flowering fern. No such plant exists, but the search goes on…
One of the attractions of the port city Liepaja is a night in jail. The haunting Karosta district offers accommodation in the old military lockup complete with Soviet-style treatment.
Latvia has a huge capital relative to its tiny population, with over one third of the population living in Riga. But you wouldn’t know it on a summer weekend when everyone heads for their cottage in the countryside.
With over 800 Art Nouveau buildings, Riga has one of the world’s greatest galleries of this joyful style. Alberta iela is a street almost entirely created by Art Nouveau genius Mikhail Eisenstein, and his son film director Sergei Eisenstein was one of the founders of modern cinema.
You don’t need to go to a health food store in Latvia to find organic food, because locals find fantastic ingredients on their own. From birch sap juice in spring to berries in summer and mushrooms in autumn, Latvians are a nation of foragers.
With over 1 million folk songs, Latvians love to sing. You can catch over 10,000 of them on stage at once at the Song Festivals, and opera stars like Inese Galante, Elīna Garanča, Aleksandrs Antoņenko and Egils Siliņš delight audiences at home and abroad.
Latvia is Wifi paradise. It has the world’s fourth fastest internet connections, and with over 800 free connection points in Riga, you don’t even need to pay for it. Latvia also holds the world record for the longest ever phone conversation, a 54 hour 4 minute marathon in 2012.
The Ventas Rumba in Kuldīga is the widest waterfall in Europe, and in spring you can see fish jumping up the rapids as they head for spawning sites.
Next time you put on a pair of jeans, thank Latvian-born tailor Jacob Davis. In 1871 in Reno, Nevada, he invented denim as a tough material for trousers, then made a fortune in partnership with fabric merchant Levi Strauss.
Chugging down 78 litres of beer per capita every year, Latvians love a cold brew on a summer’s evening. The country also boasts the world’s most northerly outdoor vineyard at the village of Sabile.
Latvia’s national sport is ice hockey, and it punches well above its weight for a small country. Dozens of Latvians play in the NHL and KHL, and the national team’s fans are regarded as the loudest and most passionate around.
Latvia has almost 20 hours of daylight at midsummer, and locals make the most of it by partying outdoors and relaxing in nature. The lovely golden light typical of these latitudes has obsessed generations of painters and photographers.
Latvia is a small country, but at one stage it had colonies abroad. In the 1600’s, the independent Duchy of Courland covering western Latvia was a powerful maritime nation and controlled part of Gambia in Africa and the Caribbean island of Tobago.
Legendary painter Mark Rothko was born in Daugavpils, southeast Latvia, before finding fame in the US. Sold in 2014 for a cool 140 million euros, his No. 6 (Violet, green and red) is one of the priciest paintings of all time.
Every year in August, the village of Aglona in the Latgale region briefly becomes Latvia’s second biggest city, when over 200,000 people converge on the local basilica at the end of one of Europe’s biggest pilgrimages.