When we think of Latvia we think mostly of the country’s tumultuous past and connections to the Soviet Union. However, nowadays, Latvia is best known for other things; such as being one of the cheapest holiday destinations in Europe, with a pint of locally brewed beer costing only 2-4 euros! It’s time to look away from the past and see Latvia for what it has to offer … because it truly is an amazing city in what is a resilient and resourceful country.
I recently took a week-long trip to Riga with apprehensions about its Soviet history and the old KGB presence. But, almost immediately I was pleasantly surprised by the people and the city.
If you aren’t aware of the history, Latvia was part of the Soviet Union until 1991, with a formidable presence of the KGB. The KGB was a secret police organisation connected to the Soviet Union whose role was to essentially stop any anti-communist movements by notoriously violent means throughout its incorporated countries. The KGB had many informants in each country, and Latvia was one of them. A recent article in The New York Times goes into detail about the release of certain files, naming informants and agents that worked for the KGB in Latvia.
The conflict between Russia and Latvia goes back to the early twentieth century, during the Latvian War of Independence. It is a part of their history that the country will never forget, and the Freedom Monument is a daily reminder of the long-standing struggle of its people. When we spoke to the owners of the apartment we stayed in, they talked of Latvia’s Independence Day with pride, knowing that their country is better now.
As our video shows, Riga, its economy and its tourism have all blossomed. The city is split into different sections; the main ones being the Old Town, Central Riga and the Art Nouveau District which houses a couple of museums and a whole host of bars and restaurants.
There seems to be an old town in every major city and Riga is no exception. The Old Town underwent restoration after independence was gained, and in 1997 it became a World Heritage site. It is home to two important buildings; St Peter’s Church, which offers a panoramic view of the city; and the Riga Cathedral, which boasts a Brick Gothic architecture that stays in the memory.
The Old Town has been turned into something both tourists and locals can enjoy, which seems to be a theme running throughout the city. Near the docks there is a daily market held in pavilions, originally built for selling goods but which were once used to house Zeppelins for a brief period during World War I. Today the pavilions can be found selling all manner of foods, from fresh fruit and vegetables to meat and fish, at great prices. The market brings a large community of both local and foreign people together to sample a variety of tempting dishes from around the world!
Latvia is a vibrant and picturesque country that’s definitley worth a visit for those seeking history and that unique cultural experience.