Latvian People

Wednesday, November 29, 2017 - 16:00

No matter how many times you say it, Latvia is just fun to say. The way it seems to roll off your tongue makes it near impossible to speak it without adding a bit of a deepened accent to it. The name has an edge to it, but unlike their countries name, the Latvian people have anything but an edge to them.

I spent the better part of 5 days driving through Latvia only to find its people extremely kind-hearted to me on my companion. From accidentally overpaying for a meal, only to have the employee chase me out of the store to make sure I got my fair change, to embarrassingly tripping over a sidewalk curb and plummeting to the ground, in what felt like a slow-motion event. The Latvian people are much deeper than that accent you attempt when pronouncing their country’s name—they’re genuinely polite.

Latvian People—Saviors (of me)

I’ve had a decent number of encounters everywhere I go that leave me a bit steamed, and yet I found myself for the most part very comfortable and natural around the Latvian people.

To start off, this was the first time that I’ve had someone nearly chase me down to return to me just a couple of Euro’s I overpaid for my meal. I was completely shocked that a complete stranger, knowing I wasn’t from around here, would go out of their way just to return a few Euros. I mean think about it, would you have even said anything? I was blown away by the kindness and honor that gentleman gave me in that coffee shop.

Next, I saw a fellow traveler tripping over a curb and fell. To my amazement, before I even had enough time to collect myself and react, at least three people came to his aid to check on him and helped him up. While others did stop and wait and watch to hear if he was ok or not, these incredible sweet people helped him off the ground and dusted him, and his backpack, off and proceeded to make sure he was all right. Truly—where in the world would you be lucky to find four strangers while traveling to stop and help, or to do the right thing for anyone who was in need? Simple…Latvia.

What else can I share with the Latvian people? Well, for starters get used to looking up. Latvians are statistically some of the tallest people on Earth, average 170cm in height. They even can claim that the Tallest Female Professional Basketball Player is and was Latvian. At 6 feet 11 inches tall, Uljanna Semjonova was the first non-American female to be inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame.

Also, expect the Latvian people to be the utmost professional all the time. You will always be treated much like a business client with formal greetings and behavior, and expect always to listen attentively and quietly; As manners go a long way in their culture. Lastly, these kind people are in tune with their country and nature (many people have last names that are the names of trees, animals, or parts of nature). Weekend gateways are a state of being here, and you’d even find that nature has a way of workings its way into everyday life, from a conversation, food selections, and medicine.

The Latvian Culture

Think of it like this, imagine everywhere you went in your life was a business casual feel. Manners and etiquette run supreme, and “best-buddy” talk was whenever you were invited into someone’s home. That’s precisely the feeling I got in my time within Latvia. As a culture, it's traditionally a tranquil place—don’t expect a crazy nightlife, nor a college like atmosphere. Although, Latvian people are not shy about gathering and belting out an assortment of the thousands of folk songs. The festivals and traditions, especially the Summer Solstice, is a day of togetherness, food, and of course song.

Latvian culture
Latvian-Culture

Latvians are beyond proud of their country, especially with their fellow countryman’s achievements. No success makes Latvians more impressive than knowing their country’s symbol, their national flag, has remained unchanged and flown high above their country since 1280. Making it the second oldest flag in the world, just beyond Norway’s. Also, if you find yourself in Latvia remember to thank them for one of the greatest gifts to the world—jeans. Jacob Povis designed what would become the template for how new jeans are created, and I’m honoring him right now by wearing the brand he would end up creating, Levi’s.

Backing off into a more background approach to the Latvian culture, Latvians may be Catholics, but at heart, they’re still Pagans. Many still practice the nearly forgotten religion, but here they still don’t escape their ties with nature. Like I mentioned before, most Latvians routinely venture into the woods for weekend getaways and holiday trips. Some choosing to a more social approach by drinking some heavy-duty beer with friends, while other just seek a peaceful reboot alone. Honestly, though, the beer here is so intense with flavors that the belief by almost everyone is just a few swigs will help prevent you from getting sick or cure your cold quickly. I can’t vouch for the beer being a cure for a cold, but it certainly cured my curiosity in “what was the most intriguing beer I ever had was?”

Wonderful Nature and Geography of Latvia

Latvia, like its neighbor to the north Estonia, is a mostly flat country. It’s the tallest point is only 320 meters or so above sea level, but their competitiveness with their neighbor to the North, caused them to add a building on top of their highest point—assuring themselves as having a higher point than Estonia.

Aside from that, Latvia is over 52% woodlands, with thousands of lakes and rivers wiggling their way throughout the land. It may be mostly woods, but the rest of it is mostly water. Latvians care deeply about their connection with nature, and for that reason, over 20% of the country’s land is protected. That includes many nature parks, nature preserves, bogs/swamps, marine sites, and a biosphere reserve. Where many wild animals live peacefully, like wolves, lynx, deer, beavers, elk, and red foxes.

Expect long summer days during your travels that could last up to 20 hours; and with it prepare for very mild temperatures, having highs of about 24 degrees Celsius. The winter months can be truly cruel with chilling temperatures and long, dark days and nights.

Latvian Travels – What to Experience

Latvia is an outdoorsman or outdoorswoman’s, paradise. The country has a unique population that revolves around its ever-famous capital city, Riga. Nearly one-third of the country’s population lives in Riga, and I don’t blame them at all. Riga is a fascinating city with some of the world’s most iconic and impressive architectural significant Noveau buildings. It’s most unusual sight was one of Europe’s Largest Markets, where the sights, smells, and atmosphere was electric. The setup is so convenient and enjoyable just to stop every couple of meters to take in everything.

Aside from the hustle and bustle of Riga, Latvia has incredible sights and locations that cannot be passed up. Their beaches along the coast not only run for thousands of miles but also are hot spots for all travelers being that these are some of the cleanest beaches in the world. Also, remember that these beaches lead right into some amazing cliff face lining the coast (their national bird also is famous for shaking its tail feather as a mating move). A trip along the seas is required to take this beauty in, but one cannot miss the sights of thousands of birds in their symphony of madness.

Latvia is also home to the world’s most impressive waterfall. Now, you may expect something colossal, but you'd be wrong. Venta Rapids in Kuldiga is the wildest thing you’ll ever see. These rapids lead right into a waterfall that about 1-meter high, but incredibly long. The sight may seem quite underwhelming, but being their firsthand, you’ll see something that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. That beauty alone is worth the journey if you ask me.

My final note will be a quick one. It wasn’t until my last day that I came across this, but if I had known earlier, I would not have missed out. Latvia has a voluntary prison that also doubles as a hostel. Paying just a few Euro’s more, you can engage in a prison experience like no other.

Have Fun in Latvia

Latvia is an incredible place with even more amazing people. As quiet and professionally reserved they tend to be; the Latvian people will also show you with the most amazing kindness and respect. It was such a natural feel being there as if it was where I grew up. Although my culture differs a bit from theirs, nonetheless I greatly enjoyed my time in and with these people. I’d be happy to head there again once my travels swing back that way, but for everyone else, don’t let the opportunity of experiencing Latvia ever pass you by, you'll regret it.

 

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