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Ten Essential Things To Do When You Visit Latvia

Feb 4, 2008
This country on the shores of the Baltic Sea lies on fertile plains covered by vast swathes of forest. Once part of the USSR, Latvia gained its independence on Aug. 21, 1991. The nation has one of the fastest-growing Gross Domestic Product ratings in Europe in recent memory. It is a very beautiful country, both in the urban and rural areas, and the city center of the capital, Riga, has been designated as a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO for its unique examples of architecture.

1.) Dome Cathedral

This old building was erected in 1211 after German Crusaders made the populace amenable to conversion to Christianity. It is the largest church in the Baltic region. Don't miss hearing the cathedral's organ with its nearly 7000 pipes, an amazing contraption, a national treasure of international standing.

2.) St. John's Church

Located in Riga, this church was built in the fourteenth century. It is made up of a mix of Gothic architecture and Romanesque style. This church is also one of the notable buildings in a city full of interesting architecture.

3.) Holy Trinity Church

Speaking of churches and organs, this one is located in Liepaja, Latvia's third-largest city and an important port. Hear Mass here and listen to the world's biggest unreconstructed pipe organ play, with its 7,000 pipes and 141 stops. This is a great counterpoint to another Liepaja attraction.

4.) Karosta

Ever wondered what life on the other side of the Iron Curtain was like? Latvia was one of the bastions of Soviet defense against the American empire, and former bases like Karosta give one an opportunity to see what being a defender of the USSR was like. Among the things to see at Karosta are the Officer's Palace, the Old Prison, the breakwater and its fortifications.

5.) Liepaja

This Baltic port remains relatively ice-free during the winter. Tourists can dine and hang out at the numerous eating establishments at the city center, then go for a stroll at Seaside Park. The town also offers a beach that is boasted as having the whitest sand in the Baltics.

6.) Casinos

If you're struck by a gambling mood while in-country, you'd better be in Riga. There, the Olympic Voodoo Casino can help address your needs. It's the biggest casino in the whole of Latvia.

7.) Hunting

The prevalence of unspoiled countryside means that there is a lot of game to be had in Latvia. Deer, boar, moose, beaver, lynx, and wildfowl are some of the animals available for hunting. The SFS (State Forest Service) is the major authority administering hunting laws, so be sure to coordinate with them if you plan on going hunting. Be aware that Latvia also conforms to EU hunting laws.

8.) Freedom Monument

In the center of Riga stands the 42-meter-tall statue of a woman with her arms raised, holding aloft three stars. This is the Freedom Monument, which, among other things, is a symbol of Latvian freedom and commemorates those who were deported to the gulags during Soviet times. Locally, the statue is known by the name Milda.

9.) Sigulda

This old town is located on the Gauja River. Tourists can ply the waters during the summer and ski during the winter season. Among the local attractions are Turaida Castle and museum as well as some local caves.

10.) Jurmala

Fifteen minutes away by railway travel, this resort town stretches along the Gulf of Riga near the Lielupe River. It is a perfect destination for those who want forests, sandy beaches, and bright sunshine. Drivers to Jurmala need to buy a special ticket to enter here.
About the Author
Jonathan Williams is the travel writer for Destination Guide TV - the place to share travel videos. Visit http://www.DestinationGuide.tv/latvia to view or share Latvia travel videos.
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