Latvia is a small but very powerful country. We are proud of our fabulous nature, glorious festivals, architecture, and extraordinary cuisine. However, Latvia’s global profile has been raised more by its achievements in sports and culture.
This article will present what makes Latvia stand out to Latvians and to the world.
Content of the article:
- Architecture and buildings
- National features
- Sporting achievements around the world
- Latvia’s nature
- Largest, longest, etc.
- Food and drink
Architecture and buildings in Latvia
Latvia is rich in architectural diversity. There are picturesque manor houses, Art Nouveau buildings, Baroque palaces, and many unique structures, towers, and bridges.
But tourists often stay in Riga to discover the stories behind its diverse buildings.
Riga Central Market
Opened in 1930, Riga Central Market was recognised as Europe’s largest, best, and most modern market.
In 1997, the market area was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Today, Riga Central Market is one of the largest markets in Eastern Europe in terms of area and one of the most visited. On average, 80 000 thousand of people visit the market every day.
Art Nouveau architecture
Riga is the Art Nouveau metropolis of Europe. Grand buildings with romantic Art Nouveau renderings can be seen on every corner. It turns out that 40% of the buildings in the center of Riga are Art Nouveau.
One of the most admired streets in Riga is Alberta and Blaumana Streets.
In 1997, Riga’s Art Nouveau buildings were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Ventspils radioastranomy centre in Irbene
The International Radio Astronomy Centre is located in Irbene, a former Soviet army village. The Institute of Engineering of Ventspils University College currently manages it.
The station is still in operation today, operating a 32 m RT-32 fully rotatable parabolic antenna for scientific purposes. This antenna is the largest in Northern Europe and the eighth largest in the world.
The facility was renovated in the summer of 2015.
Riga Radio and Television Tower
The Riga Radio and Television Tower is the tallest tower in the European Union and the third tallest in Europe. It reaches 368 metres.
The tower’s design began in 1972. The first broadcast from the Riga Radio and Television Tower occurred in 1985. Since 1986, the tower has been broadcasting TV and radio regularly.
Latvian National features
Latvian national peculiarities have been present for a long time. No one will ever take that away.
The world admires our singing people and our cultural heritage. These particularities do not disappear because we keep them close to our hearts.
Latvia is famous for its short and witty folk songs called dainas. The songs consist of four lines, and the themes they describe are very varied.
The songs often describe everyday events and conversations. They also depict tragic games or even humour.
Songs are certainly a symbol of Latvian identity. It is believed that this tradition first emerged around 1000 years ago. However, the oldest surviving written Dainas date back to around 1500.
These special folk songs are recognised by the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme. The songs have been handed down from generation to generation, so they will never disappear.
Song and Dance Festival
The Latvian Song and Dance Celebration are one of the world’s largest choir events. Its main aim is to unite and strengthen the Latvian people based on the Latvian folklore heritage.
The first Latvian Song Festival was celebrated in 1873, but regional festivals preceded it.
These festivals occur every five years and attract tens of thousands of participants from Latvia worldwide. Most participants are dressed in national costumes, with a special role played by the festival wreath.
The Song and Dance Festival have been inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Song closet (Dainu skapis)
The Dainu cabinet contains 268 815 pages, each containing four to eight folk songs, riddles, proverbs, and other notes. We have also published an article on the most popular Līgo folk songs.
In the 20th century, the most widely collected and documented songs in Latvia were those of Krišjānis Barons. He wrote them down and thus compiled six volumes under the title “Latvju dainas”. This volume was published from 1894 to 1915.
Krišjānis Baronis created a wooden cabinet with 70 compartments to collect the texts systematically. This became the special cabinet, the repository of the songs.
In 2001, the Dainu cabinet was included in the international register of the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme.
The greatest value of the Song Cabinet is the content itself and the special structuring of the content. It contains the foundations of ancient Latvian folk traditions.
Mushroom and berry pickers
Latvia is known for its seasonal mushroom and berry-picking culture. When the weather changes, many Latvians take the opportunity to sample the bounty offered by the forest.
Each season brings new delicacies. The most popular foods harvested are blueberries, cranberries, and mushrooms.
This is also a novelty for tourists, as not all European countries have such free access to forests. Almost anyone can pick fruit or plants in any Latvian forest. You must remember that the forest is Latvia’s sacred place and treat it respectfully.
Sport achievements worldwide
Latvia has just under two million inhabitants, but the achievements of its athletes on the world stage are astonishing. Our best athletes win medals in almost every discipline.
Street basketball 3×3
Latvia won gold in the inaugural Tokyo 2022 Olympic men’s 3×3 basketball competition.
The Latvian 3×3 basketball team with Agnis Čavars, Nauris Mieze, Karlis Pauls Lasmanis, and Edgars Krumins defeated the Russian Olympic Committee team by 21:18 points.
On 11 September 2022, the Latvian 3×3 team (Agnis Čavars, Edgars Krūmiņš, Kārlis Pauls Lasmanis, and Nauris Miezis) won silver medals at the European Championships in Austria.
This is the second time that the Latvian national team has won silver medals at the European Championships. In 2017, gold was won. In the same tournament, Nauris Miezis was named to the All-Stars trio.
In 2008, the Beijing Games included BMX cycling, where Latvian BMX rider Maris Strombergs won a gold medal.
Also in 2012, Māris Štrombergs won a gold medal at the Olympic Games in London.
In 2021, Nils Jansons was named the best roller skater in the world. He has also won titles such as the most influential and coolest roller skater of 2021.
He also won the 2013 Winterclash in Eindhoven and was runner-up in the 2020 Winterclash.
Skeleton racer Martin Dukurs is a great success. He has twice won silver at the Winter Olympics. He won medals in Vancouver in 2010 and Sochi in 2014.
He is also a nine-time World Cup winner, eleven-time European champion, and six-time World champion.
Latvian bobsledders have been successful at the Olympic Games in Sochi.
In 2014, the Bobsleigh team won the gold medal in the four (Dreiškens Daumants, Melbārdis Oskars, Strenga Jānis and Vilkaste Arvis) and the bronze medal in the two (Melbārdis Oskars and Dreiškens Daumants).
Hockey player Helmuts Balderis won the first silver medal for Latvia at the 1980 Winter Games. 8 years later, Vitaly Samoilov won gold at the Olympics.
Helmuts Balderis is also a three-time world champion (1978, 1979, 1983). Arthur Irbe became world champion in both 1989 and 1990. In 1989.
Chess Grandmaster Mikhail Tal won his first unofficial title in 1988 when he became World Champion in the Rapid (Lightning) tournament. He has also won 44 international tournaments.
Between 1958 and 1982, Mikhail Tal played his first 100 games in high-level tournaments, achieving a record winning percentage of 81.18%.
On 4 May 1935, the first European Basketball Championships took place in Geneva, with teams from 10 countries competing in a complex double-minor system. In the final game of this championship, Latvia beat Spain to become the first world champion.
The Latvian national team was represented by Mārtiņš Grundmanis, Džems Raudziņš, Aleksejs Anufrijevs, Rūdolfs Jurciņš, Visvaldis Melderis, Jānis Lidmanis, Herberts Gubiņš, and Eduards Andersons. The coach of the team was Valdemārs Baumanis.
Kristaps Porziņģis is currently the most famous Latvian player in the NBA and one of the tallest basketball players. He stands at 2.20 metres.
He played for the Washington Wizards and started his career with the New York Knicks.
The most famous Latvian basketball player was Ulyana Semyonova. From 1964 to 1975, she led TTT Riga to 12 consecutive European titles.
Ulyana was the first woman outside the USA to be inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame.
Flying in a wind tunnel
Toms Īvāns won the 2018 World Freestyle Wind Tunnel Championship.
Toms Īvāns is an AERODIUM flyer. He has been flying professionally since 2012.
He was also Tom Cruise’s personal trainer for the Mission Impossible: Fallout film, where the flying scenes were shot.
The freestyle flier has also set a Guinness World Record for the most stunts in one minute in a wind tunnel.
Nature of Latvia
Latvia’s treasure is its unspoilt nature and vast areas of wilderness. Our forests cover around 52% of our land.
That’s why we are among the greenest countries in the world.
Water is Latvia’s greatest treasure. Latvia has more than 12 000 rivers. However, only 17 of them extend more than 100 kilometres. Latvia’s longest river is the Gauja. It is the only river that begins and ends in the country’s territory.
The five largest rivers in Latvia are the Daugava, Lielupe, Gauja, Venta, and Salaca.
Water sports are one of Latvia’s most popular forms of entertainment. Boating is the most popular activity among Latvians and foreigners alike.
Daugava river bends
In 1990, a nature park was established in Latgale to preserve the unique arcs of the Daugava River. The Daugava arches have also served as a border between the Baltic and Finno-Ugric peoples, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and Livonian territory.
The river’s meanders were formed around 13-15 thousand years ago. The nature park is home to several populations of rare plant and animal species.
The Daugava River meanders have been inscribed on the Latvian National List of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
In Latvian folk culture, the oak tree is a symbol of strength and fertility. The Latvian love for trees has preserved centuries-old oak trees. No other European country has as many oak trees as Latvia.
However, we have used the small branches on the summer solstice – for men’s wreaths and house decorations.
We are also rich in oaks. In Kaive, Tukums municipality, there is a beech tree with a circumference of about 10.4 metres. It is the thickest tree in the Baltics.
Largest, longest, etc.
Latvia can! Our country stands out not only for its achievements in sport and culture but also for its waterfalls, caves, internet, and people.
The Venta hub is the widest waterfall in Europe. It is 249 metres wide.
The waterfall is home to an unusual phenomenon in autumn and spring – fish jumping in the air. This happens because the fish are spawning and trying to overcome the waterfall’s flow.
The fastest internet in Europe
The technology company “Tet” has connected to the fastest internet in Babīte municipality in Saliena, considered the fastest internet available to households worldwide. The internet speed reaches 10 Gbit/s.
In 2022, this internet connection will be available to at least 1000 households in Pārdaugava-Imanta.
The world’s biggest liar
Hieronymus Karl Friedrich von Munchausen is considered the world’s greatest liar and fantasist. He is known for his tales of journeys to the moon and his heroic service in the Russo-Turkish War.
Munchausen himself could not bear to lie and called himself a great master of fantasy.
Gūtmanis Cave is located on the right bank of the Gauja valley in Sigulda. Its volume is about 500 m3. It is the largest cave in the Baltics and the most visited natural monument in our country.
The cave has been popular since the beginning of the 17th century. Gūtmaņala is an ancient cult site and is 18.8 metres long, 12 metres wide, and about 10 metres high.
Gutmann’s Cave is built into the rock. It is the result of the flow of the Gauja River and an underground spring over thousands of years.
Food and drinks in Latvia
Latvian cuisine is largely determined by the climate of northeastern Europe. Most of the cuisine was created in a peasant environment, using vegetables grown and animals hunted on the land.
In Latvia, we can be proud of any region’s delicious and warm home-cooked food. Tourists have noticed this too, as they most often admire our light beer and unusual dishes such as Sklandrausis.
Sklanrausis or žograusis is a traditional Liv dish later adopted in the Latvian cuisine of Kurzeme.
Sklandrausis is made in a circular shape from unleavened rye flour. The edges are built up during the making process, and the middle is filled with mashed potatoes and boiled carrots. Sour cream and sugar are spread over the top.
Its shape and colour are reminiscent of the sun, so to this day, sklandrausis fits in with Latvian autumn and winter festivities.
Rye bread or rye bread has always been part of the Latvian diet. Traditionally, Latvians ate it all year round because it was a product that was available in any season.
Rye has been grown in Latvia for more than 1200 years.
In the past, rye bread was considered a delicacy. If it was put on the table, it was known that no one in the house would go hungry.
Riga Black Balsam
Riga Black Balsam is a traditional Latvian balsam. It is often referred to as Latvia’s national drink and is made from 24 ingredients, including 17 botanicals.
It is said that a pharmacist named Kunze developed the recipe for this drink in 1752. The first recipes for herbal extract were found in Riga in the 16th century.
To this day, no recipe for Riga Black Balsam is known. Only the chief pharmacist and his apprentices knew the exact recipe.
Beer is the sacred drink of Latvia. Hundreds of songs and folk songs have been written about beer.
Beer is present in Latvian life, especially on the summer solstice. During these festivities, home-brewed or craft beer is served. Honey was also added to the beer. Thus the famous Latvian mead was created.
After reading this article, we hope you will have learned a little more about Latvia. If you would like to learn more about Latvia, we recommend you read our article – Symbols of Latvia.