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10 Interesting Facts About Latvia

Despite its many cultural attractions and outstanding scenery, Latvia has not yet gained a very strong reputation as a tourist destination.  However, as one of the more recent members of the EU, and as a number of articles (such as ours on Christmas holiday destinations) show, that is beginning to change. Latvia is truly a fascinating country with a very rich history, as our list of 10 interesting facts will show:

  1. Latvia is a perfect destination for nature lovers. More than half of Latvia is covered by forests, while 10% of the county is bog. Otters, lesser spotted eagles, boar, red fox, elk, black storks, beavers and lynx are just a few of the animals found in Latvia. Latvia’s forests are accompanied by 12,000 rivers and 3,000 lakes. It is also home to Europe’s widest waterfall, Venta Rapid, which can be as wide as 290 metres at some times of the year (there’s no doubt it would be truly spectacular if it was more than a few meters high). Latvians take their country’s natural beauty seriously, with 4 national parks, over 250 nature reserves, 7 protected marine areas, and a biosphere reserve.
  2. Latvia still celebrates many traditional pagan rituals, which were common thousands of years ago.
  3. Latvia has more fashion models per capita than any other European country. The women are also among the tallest in the world.
  4. A Latvian tailor, Jākobs Jufess, invented blue jeans in 1870 with backing from Levi Strauss.
  5. Latvian is one of the oldest languages in the world, having preserved many of the aspects of the Proto-Indo-European language which dates back more than 5,000 years. The Latvians are very proud of their language and regularly hold contests to celebrate its proper use.
  6. Giant hangers were built in Riga near the beginning of the 20th century to house German airships. Today those hangers have been converted to trade stands, with each hanger having about 3,000 stands. These hangers, located in the centre of the capital are now home to Europe’s largest market bazaar.
  7. Hieronymus Karl Friedrich Freiherr von Münchhausen, the namesake of the Münchhausen Syndrome and well known as one of history’s greatest liars, has a museum dedicated to his dubious place in history.  Latvia even issued a commemorative coin to celebrate this legend’s 285 birthday in 2005.
  8. Latvians love their beer and rank among the highest per capita consumers. In Riga there is a Beer Spa, where you can soak in a warm beer bath while enjoying a cool class of beer.
  9. When you visit, avoid using a lot of hand gestures. Latvians consider many hand gestures rude and consider most hand gestures annoying or distracting.
  10. Latvians have a rich cultural heritage as we pointed out in our Christmas holiday post. Latvia has over 300,000 traditional folk songs, one of the largest collections in the world. Each year the country holds a massive song and dance festivals that regularly attracts more than 40,000 participants.

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