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The Liv coast. The most quiet beaches on the shores of the Baltic Sea, unique treasures of nature and culture, Liv fishermen villages hundreds of years old can be found along the Liv coast or “Līvōd rānda” in Northern Kurzeme – an area approximately 50 kilometres long by the Irbe Channel.
Livs are one of the Finno-Ugric nations of the Baltic Sea who earlier occupied a wide territory of Latvia, but now only ocupy 12 villages – Ovīši, Lūžņa, Miķeļtornis, Lielirbe, Sīkrags, Mazirbe, Košrags, Pitrags, Saunags, Vaide, Kolka and Melnsils. In 1991, the Liv Coast obtained the status of a protected cultural-historical territory in order to maintain the cultural environment of the ancient Livs and the fishermen villages, as well as its nature – sandy beaches, pine forests.
.. However, the Liv culture can be experienced most vividly on the weekend of the first week of the Liv festival in Mazirbe, when the representatives of this small nation from Latvia and the whole world come together.
Closed Zone during Soviet Times
The Liv coast has been a prohibited area for many years and due to two reasons. During Soviet times, it was the western border of the USSR and unauthorised persons were not allowed to enter the zone. The other reason was the presence of the Slītere Nature Reserve. Now the reserve has become a national park where zones of strict status border interesting nature paths, bicycle paths, a watchtower and various sightseeing objects. These include the Slītere lighthouse, the steep slope of Slītere Zilie kalni (Blue Hill), the Mazirbe ship cemetery, the Liv Community Centre in Mazirbe, Kolkasrags, the Irbene radio-locator – they are all places worth seeing. And in the farmstead “Ūši” near Kolka Point, the owner Dženeta Marinska offers tourist groups the opportunity to make traditional Liv dishes themselves – bukstņnbiezputra (barley porridge with potatoes) and sklandrauši (small pies with a sweet carrot filling).
Sīkrags, Mazirbe, Košrags, Pitrags, Saunags and Vaide all have a special aura – the old fishermen villages have maintained their original structures have not been changed into modern ones, where the ancient Liv culture and traditions can be still experienced. The unique ancient environment has also been kept because the government during Soviet times limited coastal fishery, fearing that people could flee from the Soviet Union via fishermen boats. The at that time extra boats arrived in the ship cemetery near Mazirbe, where they can be visited today and leave visitors with a strange feeling – old wrecks in the woods... In Miķeltornis, one can visit the 62 metre high Miķelbāka lighthouse, which was built in 1884 and is the highest lighthouse in the Baltics. A special viewing platform has been built there; it is located 277 steps up or at the height of 56 metres.
The Liv coast is also unique because of its nature. More than 50 000 tourists a year are attracted to the “northern rain forests” along the ancient coast of the Baltic Ice Lake, the labyrinths of the Nordic-like vigas (depressions between dunes) and kangari (woody dunes), the bird migration point in Kolkasrags, Slītere National Park, the Dižkalni and Raķupe reserves, as well as other protected nature reserves. 29 unique species of plants and 222 species of mushrooms have been found along the Liv coast that cannot be found anywhere else in Latvia, while the forests are home to the biggest beetle in Latvia, the big wood-fretter (Ergates faber), as well as to the bird species endangered across Europe – capercaillie Tetrao urogallus.
An especially unique sightseeing object is Kolkasrags – already a European-scale tourism destination. During the last years the Liv coast has been admired by the supporters of active way of life – surfers, kiters, cyclists and Nordic walkers. Since the coastline of Kolkasrags is famous with the fact that wind is always blowing there.
The Biggest Telescope in Northern Europe
When travelling around the Liv coast, it is worth visiting Irbene and the biggest radio-telescope in Northern Europe. During Soviet times, the militarists used the telescope for spying, but now it has been rebuilt for scientific purposes – the sun, far-out-planets and cosmic radiation are being explored. Tourists can also climb the 32-metre high tower to look over the tops of the surrounding pines. Excursions must be pre-arranged by calling Vita Auziņa, tel. +371 63682541. Tourists are not allowed to climb the tower during the times the locator is active and mobile phones and other electronic appliances should be switched off. Additional information on the Livs coast can be found there.