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West Latvia (Kurzeme)
Kurzeme’s (Courland) cultural and historic heritage is as colourful as the long woolen skirts of the Suiti womenfolk, and as diverse as the natural surroundings of the Liiv-inhabited Baltic Sea coast. Come see for yourself!
Venta Falls, Europe’s widest waterfall, where the fish do some fine jumping come spring, is located in the heart of Kurzeme - the city of Kuldiga (Kuldīga). The coastal shoreline - 30km in length - features the awe-inspiring 20m high Jurkalne Cliff.
Distinctly jutting out into the sea, Kolkasrags Horn is ideal for those into bird-watching, particularly during migration season. Flocks galore can also be found near the Kurzeme lakes that in fact are lagoons:
Cuisine, Kurzeme style
With only its southern border land-locked, Kurzeme is a natural fisherman’s paradise with fresh local catches of all kinds, many sold in the quaint coastline villages, or in between - roadside. Some places even invite visitors to take part in the process of preparing mouth-watering smoked fish.
Every region has its own traditional foods, and Kurzeme is no exception. Take time to sample:
- Sklandrausis – mashed carrot-potato tart made from rye flour,
- Biguzis – rye bread dessert with whipped cream,
- Bukstiņputra – barley-potato stew.
How about a tour of romantic Wine Country? Sabile’s Wine Hill (Vīna kalns) is already an entry inq the Guinness Book of World Records as the northernmost vineyard in the world! With lovely scenery all around, take time to visit any of the winemakers who will cordially explain the entire process, capped by the standard wine-tasting spree - depending on your time and energy.
For centuries, the northern Kurzeme coast was home to the Liv people, a significant prehistoric predecessor to the Latvian. Language and traditions show similarities and also divergences, representing the Baltic region’s Finno-ugric peoples that were located all across territory that now is the Latvian Republic.
Stubbornly still in existence and a unique entity in the Kurzeme milieu are the Suiti people of Catholic faith - whose inhabited territory in modest numbers has been recognized and listed by UNESCO. The Suiti stem culturally from the Liivs, Poles and Germans, and they always make themselves noticed with their colorful ethnographic folk costume(s), lively repartee, but foremost - their ethnographic singing style with the refrained and harmonized "eeeeeeeeeee!" stretched and held loud and long. Also characteristic is the ritual playfully ridiculing other people with improvised musical barbs.
The ports of Ventspils and Liepāja are the largest cities in Kurzeme.
Liepaja is famous for its rich cultural scene (pop-rock music in particular) and its unique Military Port territory, once a major Soviet war machine component, now a major tourist attraction (nerves of steel in some spots preferred).
Ventspils, a major Latvian port, has become well-known for its immaculate, refined cityscape and wide variety of tourist attractions, and plenty of sports and entertainment options year-round.
Enjoy the charming "choo-choo" train, or sunbathe on the Blue flag-certified beach, with its beautiful dunes.
For star-gazers, Ventspils has an observatory with a modern telescope, and a state-of-the-art digital planetarium - tops in the Baltic region.
Kuldiga and its quaint Old Town in every corner has a romantic feel of days long gone by. For those seeking supreme serenity.