Latvia Essay

Winter

The winter in Latvia usually lasts from mid-December to the beginning of March. Air temperature can fluctuate from +5 degrees Celsius all the way down to -30 degrees.

Enjoy the winter!

Due to its flat terrain, Latvia is a great place for cross-country skiing. Taking in nature while skiing in Latvia is especially interesting on the beaches.

Although there are no high mountains in Latvia, the country has multiple ski slopes where skiers can rent all the skiing equipment they need, as well as hire a skiing coach.

Ice fishing is a popular pastime in Latvia during the winter.

The sea freezes over in particularly cold winters, which results in incredible ice sculptures and pressure ridges. One can go for a walk over the ice, but necessary precautions must be taken.

One more remarkable experience is taking a sauna after spending some time in the cold. During the winter when the weather is cold, sauna going is very popular in Latvia.

Spring

In Latvia, the spring may begin already at the end of February or as late as in late April, and the spring season lasts until the beginning of June. The average air temperature in spring is 0 to +15 degrees.

Enjoy the spring!

The spring is often accompanied by significant flooding as Latvian rivers overflow. The high water level in the rivers, however, is the best time for boating. The Amata is one of the fastest rivers best suited for boating, while Gauja River is the most popular with boaters.

The spring, and the autumn as well, is a busy time for bird watchers as flocks of migratory birds fly over Latvia. Lagoon-type lakes are among the best vantage points for bird watching:

The spring is the time when lilacs bloom spectacularly. They are best viewed in Dobele, at the garden created by the acclaimed plant breeder Peteris Upitis.

Summer

The summer in Latvia starts in June and continues until September. The average air temperature in the summer is around +19 degrees, but on some days it may rise to +30 degrees. The latter half of the summer may bring sudden thunderstorms.

Enjoy the summer!

In the summer, use the opportunity to go on a tour of the Baltic Sea shoreline or have a holiday in the Latvian resort city of Jurmala, known for its white sandy beaches.

The summer is also a great time for cycling tourism. In planning your route, you are also recommended to visit the quieter yet architecturally, culturally, and historically remarkable cities and towns:

The summer in Latvia is also a period of festivals and various other events. There is a city or town festival almost every weekend in one or another part of Latvia.

Autumn

Autumn in Latvia lasts from September to December. The average air temperature decreases from +10 degrees in September to 0 degrees in November.

Sometime at the beginning of the autumn, there is an Indian summer when temperatures rise to up to +20 degrees, whereas the first snow may fall already in October or November.

During the golden autumn period, foliage turns colourful red, orange, and golden across Latvia.

Enjoy the autumn!

Gauja National Park offers particularly striking views of the colourful treetops in the autumn.

Those who wish to see the diversity of Latvian nature in autumn are welcome at Latvia’s nature parks, for instance, visitors to Kemeri National Park or Teici Bog can learn about the unique ecosystem of bogs.

The autumn is also hunting season, when a great variety of game can be hunted in throughout the country.

During a walk in a forest, one can enjoy the silence of the forest while picking berries and mushrooms, to later prepare them and serve them for a tasty meal.

In the capital city of Riga, the Latvian National Opera and Ballet opens its new season in the autumn. There are a lot of cosy cafes where one can find refuge from the cold, and quality restaurants to enjoy a hearty meal.

I see Latvia as a small, emerald garden near the Baltic Sea. My country is definitely one of the most beautiful Baltic countries! Flashy yellow fields of oilseed, fresh and salty sea air, and most importantly, a very pleasant atmosphere prevailing in small towns adds a special charm to it….

Latvia’s towns are surrounded by bushy national parks, dense needle leaf forests and tranquil grey-blue waters of small but rather deep lakes. However, those seeking more vibrant and busy lifestyle should visit Riga. Here are 10 reasons why.

1. Riga is the European Capital of Culture 2014

Despite being the capital city of the country, Riga is a small, modern European village – it is an amazingly green and blooming place – and its medieval centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is home to a wide variety of unique events, many on an international scale, from shows and exhibitions to music festivals, art performances and more.

Also, I can assure you that there is no need to buy a bunch of city maps and guide-books (trust me!). Riga has the best Internet access compared to any other cities I’ve been to in Latvia. This means that your smartphone can become one and only guide which can help you to get anywhere you want. Free and unlimited Wi-Fi is available in majority of shopping malls, restaurants, bars and pubs, cafes, hotels, stations, coaches and even certain taxis.

I can honestly say that Riga’s public transport is very convenient, rather cheap and easily accessible. Every public transport stop has a detailed and up-to-date timetable. People can see names of the stops on the screens inside vehicles as well as hear stops being announced twice (You shall not miss yours!).

We have all types of transport: buses, trolleybuses, trams and even shuttle buses. All you need to do is buy an “E-talons” ticket, which will allow you to travel on all of them. Ten trips or rides will cost you just 5.70 Euros.

2. Old Riga and Dome Square

The architecture in Old Riga (Norman, early Gothic, Baroque, Art Nouveau) among the Old Town's cobbled streets is really impressive; it actually has the finest collection of art nouveau buildings in Europe. The streets there are very narrow with ancient names. When you read street names in Latvian you can clearly see life in this town some centuries ago.

Because it is the official centrepoint of Riga and is in the oldest part of the city, I recommend that you stay in a hotel near Dome Square. It is the best starting point to visit all these places. Around Dome Square are many small cafes (I like “Cuba Cafe”), craftsmen shops, street exhibitions, street musicians, and more.

Here is a map of Riga; you can center it on Dome Square by clicking a location filter. For your convenience it will also show you some centrally located hotels for your stay.

3. St. Peter’s Church

St Peter’s Church (closed on Mondays) is located right in the heart of Old Riga, 5 minutes from Dome Square. It is the tallest building in Old Riga. Built in 13th century, it is one of the oldest churches in the Baltic countries and has beautiful gothic architecture. Roman Catholic services are still held here.

Inside you can climb the 72 meters high viewing platform for a magnificent view of Old Riga, the river Daugava and the Gulf of Riga and enjoy its a museum (entrance: 7 euro). The current exhibition is of Latvian artists' masterpieces. Unfortunately their tours and exhibit schedule are only in Russian and Latvian.

4. Daugava Promenade

There is a scenic 1.2 km pathway alongside the Daugava river which connects all of the bridges and islands along the Daugava River, which makes it convenient to get anywhere in Riga on foot. It is very popular with locals.

5. Lucavsala

This is a peaceful island where many summer water attractions take place. In addition, people play football and tennis, swim, make fires, and sunbathe near the trees in the green grass. And, in fact, all the buildings surrounding the Centre of Riga can be seen from here!

6. Riga Radio and TV Tower

Riga Radio and TV Tower is the tallest building in the Baltic States (368.5 m high). Its observation platform unveils a magnificent view of entire city from more than 95 metres above the Earth’s surface. The panoramic views of the old town are spectacular. Quite a challenge for those who are afraid of heights, isn’t it?

7. Terrace Riga

Galleria Riga is a very fancy and fashionable shopping mall for those who can afford to spend tons of money on luxurious and rather expensive items. It is in a splendid location and when dawn comes to the city this place is simply unforgettable.

On the 8th floor roof people will enjoy food and drinks while Latvian jazz bands play nearby. Although it can be windy and cold you can wrap in a warm blanket, so kindly offered by the staff.

While I was talking to my friend Emma here, I looked at the thunderclouds coming and it seemed that I can reach them with my own hand.

8. Good food

Riga’s many restaurants and pubs offer delicious meals and drinks. Although all of them have really great menus and lots of variety, I especially recommend Street Burgers and ALEhouse for a meal, and Yo-Yo for dessert.

Street Burgersis opposite the Galleria Riga. You cannot miss it with the big mural next door. The cuisine there is simple and varied, but very tasty. All the products – beef, chicken, tomatoes, salad, cucumbers – everything is bred and grown in small Latvian villages. No chemicals or GMO! Okay, the four types of burgers here are more expensive than in Hesburger or MacDonalds, but they taste so much better! Plus, I like that for one low price (2.10 Euros) I can have as many soft drinks as I please.

I quite enjoy the music here; they play Latvian Radio station 101, which is located just across the street. Have to admit, these guys have a really good taste in music.

Have you ever tasted Zombie Killer Cherry Cyser? You can have it at ALEhouse. It’s a beer made with Michigan tart cherry juice, apple cider and star thistle honey. It’s something totally strange … but it does taste good!

ALEhouse is a microbrewery and restaurant also conveniently located near Terrace Riga. Over 200 different imported and exclusive beers are offered here. Bar visitors can taste a variety of beer styles, offered in 420 ml glasses or original glass bottles (500 ml). Prices range from 2.77 to 3.06 euros per glass (420 ml).

If you want a sweet treat, stop at Yo-Yo for a frozen yoghurt. There are a few locations in Riga. They make all their own yoghurt from local milk and flavor it with fresh fruits. You can enjoy creating your own custom dessert! (Yes!)

9. Mezaparks

Mezaparks is a beautiful, tree-filled neighborhood in Riga. The name is literally translated as “forest park”. This is where locals ride bikes, motorbikes, go skateboarding and water skiing (on Lake Baltezers), watch animals in the Riga’s Zoo, or simply have a nice walk in the woods to get some fresh air and relax.

If you have a meal in Mezaparks I recommend the shish-kebabs with tomato sauce and pita at a place called “At Vazho's.” I went with my mom and I've never eaten so delicious shish-kebabs in my whole life.

 

10. Kalnciema Quarter

A few km away from the city centre on the west bank of Daugava River, is Kalnciema Quarter. There are always different activities here: cultural events, open-air concerts, fairs and parties.

Here is a group of buildings with unique European architecture from 18th – 19th century that were never destroyed. A 3-story timber building here sometimes serves as wine shop, restaurant and exhibition hall. To me it's a tiny timber and glass frame lodge, a real dwarf dwelling, with rainbow coloured stained glass windows decorated with fairy lights.

Nearby is a group of different outdoor stands with products. Every Thursday evening from 4-9 pm it's like an open-air market, a bazaar, where people can see, taste and buy outstanding and unique products made by Latvian craftsmen, made of a wide range of materials. Sometimes there is a Thursday night concert after the market closes.

The visiting locals create an extremely young and dynamic atmosphere. They leave with their shopping bags packed with cottage cheese, fish, berries and vegetables, all sorts of cakes, biscuits and milk. Besides that, Latvian wine is also sold here (as well as good wine from Italy). Personally I love to buy freshly baked bread here; it’s absolutely delicious!

There are actually far more than 10 things you will love in Riga

I hope you have a chance to visit Riga and enjoy it as much as I do. Perhaps you will spend some time visiting the countryside afterward. Latvia is such a beautiful place and there is so much to see.

Written by Alexandra Jansone

Aleksandra Jansone (“Alex”) is a native-born Latvian who lives in Riga. When she is not working, she can be found reading books by French novelist Anna Gavalda, watching French movies and collecting smart, creative pictures. She also enjoys making colorful ice cubes on hot summer days.

Alex is a very sentimental, but not hopeless dreamer, writing two different versions of the ending of one love story, which is the story of her life.

“All that night air has to lend me, till the morning makes me angry”. – Jamie Woon

Nighttime is her favorite time of day because it calms her spirit – then, she wishes upon shooting stars and cherishes pleasant memories of the past and wonderful hopes of a bright future.

 

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