Gosh! Riga in Latvia is gorgeous: 10 reasons to go there right now!

Photo@ J-O Eriksson

Bring out the pimms!

Things are definitely moving for me as The British Berliner.

Not only did I participate in a [VIDEO] interview that I contributed to as a representative of the Berlin Travel Massive Blogger Community at the ITB Berlin last month,  but I was again approached by a respectable Berlin on-line newspaper to do a video interview about my views on the upcoming British national elections!

I’ll let you know when it’s done!

Spain - Here we come!
Spain – Here we come!

As far as travelling is concerned, at the end of the week I will be on a very, very, very short break to Spain.

Hoooooola!

Unfortunately, it won’t be a long break of sunny bathing and tequila drinking as I still have to hand in and complete my Masters’ Dissertation at the University of Chester. In England.

Oh dear me no.

Sigh!

Bloggers at the ITB in Berlin.
Bloggers at the ITB in Berlin.

I’ll be going to the Travel Bloggers Exchange Conference otherwise known as TBEX to do a little networking, learn something new and meet other international bloggers. I’ll tell you all about it in May, after I’ve walked all over town and I’ve gorged myself on tapas.

For now though let’s get back to where I was just a few weeks ago in the Baltic Region.

So I’ve written about our adventure in Lithuania and the very excellent but enormously cheap food that we had in Vilnius.

Ah! Good Times!

Get ready for the other country in oh-my-gosh-is-it-or-isn’t-it-in-Eastern-Europe….

LATVIA

A song and dance festival in Latvia.

The Baltic States might be small in landmass but the countries are considered to be old European in look, rich culture, enchanting history, and long-established tradition. In fact, quite enchanting!

Latvia, also known as the pearl of the Baltic States and officially as the Republic of Latvia, is situated in the Baltic Region of Northern Europe – on the shores of the Baltic Sea.

I absolutely love the Baltic Sea and make every effort to go there every two years but from the Polish side rather than the German one!

Harmony of the countryside in Latvia.  Photo@ Arturs Jasinskis
Harmony of the countryside in Latvia.
Photo@ Arturs Jasinskis

Latvia is a multi-cultured state and right in the middle of Lithuania, Belarus, Estonia and Russia! As the Lithuanians, the Latvians are Balts by ethnic and linguistic origin and although separate independent countries, have closely related languages. The Latvians also have indigenous people called Livs and the two neighbouring countries both speak an Indo-European language and are the only two true Baltic languages that have survived!

Happily, all the traditions have merged together creating a unique environment, a vast cultural historical heritage.and a country-state of about 2 million people.

Latvia, is also a country not well-known and even within the E.U. itself, many Europeans have a hard time remembering what the capital city is.

It’s Riga by the way!

RIGA

Lovely Riga in Latvia.
Lovely Riga in Latvia.

Riga is the capital city of Latvia and also the largest city in the Baltic State Region.

You might not have ever heard of Latvia, but surely you’ve seen those pictures of elegant men and woman strolling arm in arm on the tiny streets of Riga nourished by Russian glamour and elegant Art Nouveau boulevards!

It's Me! Don't I look fabulous?
It’s Me! Don’t I look fabulous?

Riga is a metropolis pulsing with life, romantic walks and live music and celebration. It’s a medieval city that has been preserved and still shows traces of its religious and Romanesque past and has been proudly inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List for the wonder that is it’s unique architecture in the “old town” and also as one of the European Capitals of Culture designed to highlight the richness and diversity of cultures in Europe and increase the sense of belonging to our common cultural area that is the European Union. And this took place in all of 2014!

Wow!

WHY GO TO RIGA?

Art Nouveau in Riga, Latvia.

So let’s get down to brass tacks. Riga in Latvia is gorgeous. I’m going to give you ten (10) reasons to go there right now!

  1. The architecture is amazing: Everywhere you look is an impressive piece of art from each and every era. Whether you like art nouveau, romanesque, gothic or baroque architectural style, if you wanted it, you would find it within a few paces. The only city that I can think of that would be similar is London. Do you know that if you looked hard enough, you would even find parts of the old Roman London Wall!
  2. It’s in the “other” Eastern Europe: It’s still pretty unknown, very far “East” and not on either the backpackers or tourist run, so it’s pretty cheap and is never going to break the bank.
  3. It’s a Baltic hub: If you’re looking to go to the Baltic States then of course, you have to either go through Latvia, start in Latvia, or end in Latvia. It’s quite easy to get to as pretty much every airline in the Nordic-Baltic region does a stop-over in Riga, so you might as well give it up and stay a while!
  4. OMG the food: We ate terribly well and ate and drank to our hearts’ content. It’s that cheap, you should! Unlike Lithuania where we pretty much ate only rustic food, Latvia has a combination of both elegant and of a better class. More about that next week!
  5. Romance: Pretty much every European capital city has an “old” part of town and a “new” part of town. Cities taken over by the Soviet Union were able to hold onto the “traditional look” mainly due to the lack of interest in changing it, and a distinct lack of finance. However, these capital cities now have the last laugh as they still have the feel and look of centuries past, when royal or local aristocrats would probably chop people’s heads off, but would also walk the cobbled streets or ride across them and hunt for “spoil.”
  6. It’s small: Although Riga is the largest city in the Baltic State Region, it’s population is only a little over 600,000 inhabitants. I mean, the whole country is only about 2 million people! It’s small size means that it’s easy to meet people and to move around.
  7. Sausages: It seems to be a thing in Riga, so we had loads LOL!
  8. Communication: Most people speak English and have an endearing accent mix of American English, Swedish and Dutch. Oh, and they also have a warm sense of humour!
  9. The farmers’ market: An intriguing place where you could get the head of a pig, live fish swimming on the bare table, exotic vegetables, and tiny little cupcakes that didn’t cost more than 30 cents! More about that next week!
  10. Because Art: The best place in the world to find living pieces of Art Nouveau is indeed in Riga! 

TAKE ME THERE?

Our extremely funny walking tour guide in Latvia.
Our extremely funny walking tour guide in Latvia.

As you know, we were so lucky to be on a part-sponsorship of the largest international express route coach-bus operator in the Baltic region. An Estonian company called Lux Express, taking us through the Baltic Region by road from Germany, all the way through to Estonia, and back again!

In travelling from Berlin to Lithuania, we were on the cheaper arm of the coach-bus company called Simple Express but once we got to Latvia, we were switched to the more aptly-named Lux Express.

Lux Express.
Lux Express.

And was it luxury?

It was certainly different from any other coach bus company that I have either travelled with. And I’ve travelled with a lot LOL!

The seats were wider and bigger, there was a toilet on board and because there were fewer people, was fairly clean!

At the back of the bus was the even more luxurious V.I.P section. I had originally wanted to book that part of the coach-bus but it wasn’t to be as the reality is that most travellers would be at the front LOL! I nevertheless, had a peek. The V.I.P. section was curtained off for privacy just like a plane and there were one person seats rather than two. Each seat also had a small flat screen.

Bring your own blanket!
Bring your own blanket!

Even so, whichever part of the coach-bus you sat in was pretty awesome. We practically had the place to ourselves and could recline back quite well, there were night lights on the floor, individual screens on the seat with which you could watch films, comedy or TV series, listen to music, play games or go on-line. And this time the WiFi was fantastic, so if you had a smaller laptop rather than the huge one that I have, you could do as much work as you wanted!

The headphones were complimentary and there was also as much complimentary tea, coffee and hot chocolate as you liked. You just helped yourself as there was a huge drinks machine in the middle of the vehicle. And we did.

Very nice indeed!

The journey from Vilnius to Riga was only 4 hours and 15 minutes, so I watched part of “The Chronicles of Narnia” and a silly little film called “The Watch” although the  improvisation performed by Ben Stiller and Jonah Hill was brilliant!

IS IT GOING TO BE CROWDED?

Just me and my er...goat!
Just me and my er…goat!

Hardly!

Well, a little, but only because Riga is tiny. It was low season, the weather was wet and windy, and we all swarmed to the same place in order to have something to do however, the bars and restaurants had plenty of space. In fact, you only had to stand outside for a second when at least five (5) or six (6) various staff members would rush out to “help” you choose where to go!

WHAT IS RIGA LIKE?

We were only there for three (3) days but Riga definitely made an impression on me.

Unlike Lithuania, I didn’t find Latvia to be Eastern-European-like. Quite the contrary. At first glance, I found Riga utterly charming but then I haven’t lived there for five (5) years, unlike my crazy Irish friend Linda who became Latvia’s “most-wanted” on her utterly scathing but hilarious blog…

Riga is an Old Europe type of place very eager to welcome tourists and entertain you as every corner had some sort of bar, pub, or steak house! Having said that, they’re very easy to avoid if you’re not into that stream of entertainment, as every other place is of historical interest, art-inspired or a lovely cafe or restaurant. In fact Riga is stuffed with museums, art galleries, historical squares and places of worship!

I DON’T SPEAK LATVIAN.

It has really surprised me that in every Baltic State English is widely spoken however, if you speak Russian, you won’t be out-of-place. Having said that, a rather wonderful American-Russian blogger friend of mine was rather alarmingly, pretty much insulted, so watch out for that!

AM I GOING TO LIVE IN A HUT?

If things get too bad, you won't be able to live here 'cos it's peasant history!
If things get too bad, you won’t be able to live here ‘cos it’s peasant history!

I don’t think so. It might be a country from “the other” Eastern Europe but you’re definitely not going to be living in a cave!

I’M ON A BUDGET. WHAT SHOULD I DO?

There are plenty of hostels to be had.

I can’t give you any details but catering to the more budget conscious traveller is still fairly new and we even saw the very first Latvian hostel ever, and other moderately priced accommodation.

I’M LOOKING FOR A BIT MORE LUXURY, IS THERE SOMETHING FOR ME?

Hotel Justus in Riga, Latvia.

Hell yeah!

We stayed at a rather lovely four-star boutique hotel in the heart of the old town of Riga which I first saw on the website of a personal fitness trainer/sailor called Victor.

Our hotel was called Hotel Justus. Hotel Justus laid right within the architectural UNESCO protected area, was a Bishop’s residence in 1210, was part of a tavern in the 20th century and had just 48 rooms designed to embrace the architectural charm and historical delight of Riga. We were in the Family Suite which had two separate bedrooms and a joint bathroom.

Heeeeeaven!

It was nice to have the luxury of separate but joint bedrooms especially when you’re travelling and knick-knack is just thrown everywhere!

It was lovely just to have the space LOL!

Hotel Justus in Riga, Latvia.

Whenever we go on a family holiday, I like to mix things up a little in order to experience a wide variety of accommodation possibilities, to meet the locals, and to stretch our budget in a more comfortable way.

In Lithuania, I decided to book a small family Bed & Breakfast consisting of just seven (7) rooms, and located between the Old Town and a park. This B&B was called Vilnius Home Bed and Breakfast and we were in the Family Room. This time around, it was time for a little more comfort.

Our stay at Hotel Justus was an indulgence.

When you book a room on-line, you can never be entirely sure what you’re going to get and can only hold your breath and cross your fingers.

I didn’t know what to expect in Latvia and was surprised at what we received.

"The Tall Young Gentleman" enjoying his "space."
“The Tall Young Gentleman” enjoying his “space.”

Our Family Suite consisted of two separate bedrooms, a hallway, and an en-suite bathroom. The Master Bedroom had a double bed, two (2) rather nice fancy armchairs, a writing-table, a large antique wardrobe, a mini-bar and a large-screen TV and AC unit.

The second (2nd) bedroom had a chaise longue that could be converted into a single bed, a writing desk and chair, a large antique wardrobe, a large-screen TV and an AC unit. “The Tall Young Gentleman” was in his own private little world, loved it and was pretty ecstatic!

We had an en-suite bathroom that was very clean and fitted out with hair and body wash items body lotion, and plenty of fluffy towels as well as free WiFi and a generous buffet breakfast of both Baltic and Nordic origin.

Breakfast in Latvia!
Breakfast in Latvia!

For breakfast, we had delicious cold cuts, a variety of sea-food, vegetables, sauces, pickles and cream, scrambled egg, sausages and bacon. As well as a wide variety of cereal, fruit, bread, cake, pastries, tea, coffee and juices.

All this from €140.00 per night in the Family Suite which for three (3) people would be €47.00 a pop!

Delightful!

WHAT SHOULD I DO WHEN I GET TO LATVIA?

Gorgeous stuff!
Gorgeous stuff!

We only went for three (3) days so this was a sloooooow cultural family trip.

There is plenty to do in Riga. You can:

  • Go on a free walking tour. We went on Yellow Riga Free Tour.
  • Explore the urban history and architecture of Riga.
  • Take photographs of the Riga Castle.
  • Walk by the riverside and imagine living in the historic seat of power. It’s closed until 2016 but after that you’ll be able to take as many panoramic pictures as you want.
  • Check out some of the lovely churches and places of worship which are just bursting to be visited.
  • Go to the lovely Museum Riga Art Nouveau Museum and Centre.
  • Glide into the National Opera.
  • Wander around the Freedom Monument.

Down the side-streets in Riga, Latvia.

  • Stroll freely through the side streets.
  • Go to the oldest public museum in Latvia  – the Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation.
  • Visit the Latvian National Museum of Art.
  • Take in all of the Art Nouveau.
  • Pay your respects in the Jewish Quarter.
  • Go people-watching inside the Zeppellin hangars of the Latvian Central Market.
  • Merely ramble along the cobbled historical streets.
  • Check out the various cafes, bars and restaurants for a quick bite and a few rounds of Latvian beer and vodka!
  • Go shopping.

WHAT ABOUT TRANSPORT POSSIBILITIES?

Riga is pretty small so that everywhere is walkable.

Taxis are cheap. A taxi from our hotel to the international coach-bus station cost a marvellous €5.00!

Full of joy & relief!
Full of joy & relief!

ANYTHING ELSE?

If you’re flying with a budget airline, be prepared for delays.

My husband was only on the trip for a week and would rather eat his own hat than travel back to Berlin by road.

On his lonesome.

He decided to fly back to Berlin with airBaltic!

It was an ordeal!

His plane had left Riga and then due to technical difficulties had to turn around and fly right back again!

Bearing in mind the horrible accident that took place a few weeks prior, I was obviously a little nervous and for the first time in my life – anxious and was all over Facebook and Twitter trying to get the latest flight updates. Thankfully, all went well and he arrived home safe and sound.

MY VERDICT:

Photo@ Graham

I really liked Riga.

It’s lovely. It’s old. It’s got history, Art and culture, and looks absolutely gorgeous. It’s not as cheap as Lithuania, but is certainly reasonably priced.

If you’re looking for the next best European city that’s safe, quiet, and away from the tourist throngs, you’ve found it.

WOULD I COME AGAIN?

Absolutely!

I intend to do just that and can’t wait to visit again.

Let’s do it!

Photo@ Avisionn Photo

For more information about coach-bus travel to Riga, please contact: Lux Express.

For more information about a four-star boutique hotel, please contact: Hotel Justus.

For more information about an independent free walking tour, please contact: Yellow Riga Free Tour.

This article is part-sponsored by Lux Express and we get a little discount on the hotel, but all opinions and the wonderful art-deco architecture that I was fascinated by, are my very own!

I have so much to share with you.

Stay tuned!

Next week, I’ll be writing about the wonderful Latvian food and drink. Yummy!

After that, there will be posts on what we did in Tallinn, Estonia with the help of the Tallinn Card, what the view was like on the ferry crossing from Estonia to Finland with TALLINK SLJA LINE and what we thought about Helsinki in Finland!

I’ll be going to TBEX Europe (Travel Bloggers Exchange) an International Networking Conference, for the first time! It’ll be taking place in Costa Brava, Catalunya, Spain from 30.04.15 – 02.05.15.

Strictly Stand Up English Comedy Night will be taking place at the Quatsch Comedy Club on 29.04.15.

Eddie Izzard will be back in Germany and will be front-lining a killer international night of comedy at the Admirals Palast on 08.05.15.

The Berlin Music Video Awards will be taking place from May 27.05.15 – 30.05.15. Anybody can apply!

The Berlin Fashion Film Festival will be taking place on 05.06.15.

I’ll be there. Will you?

As usual, you can also follow me via daily tweets and pictures on Twitter & FB!

If you’re not in Berlin right now, then come meet me in Spain!

April is going to be bright and sunny.

Watch this space!

Art Nouveau in Riga.
Art Nouveau in Riga.

Have you ever been to Latvia? Do you think Riga is gorgeous or all hype? Is Latvia in Eastern Europe?

See you in Berlin.

If you like this post or if you have any questions send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below, or send me an Email: victoria@thebritishberliner.com

Please Share it! Tweet it! Or like it!

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I’m really going to Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia & Finland, so don’t look at me like that. I’m not mad!

As lovely as in Prague!
As lovely as in Prague!

That time is soon approaching when I will be on the road again.

It’s so exciting!

You know, thinking about where to go on the map, planning it and then checking it’s still possible the way you thought it was.

Of course, it’s possible you say.

Really?

Did you know that if you wanted to get to parts of Wales from other parts of Wales using public transport, the easiest way, would be to go back into England or take the ferry coming from Ireland?!

I know this, because we’ve done this!

VB34130770We ended up flying into Bristol. In England.

From Berlin. In Germany.

Spending a night. In Bristol. In England.

And then taking a train from Bristol. In England.

To Cardiff. In Wales.

And then picking up a car.

In Wales.

One day, I might just tell you the full story……..!

The Welsh flag on Conwy Castle, Wales.
The Welsh flag on Conwy Castle, Wales.

As you might have noticed unless we’re in America or the backwaters of the Welsh countryside, we don’t tend to use the car.

  • Because I don’t drive. What! Shock & Awe!?$§!! Yeah, I bought a car when I was living in London, and used all my friends as my own personal driver. What can I say? I’m fancy!
  • My husband – The Music Producer – doesn’t really like driving unless he has to. And in America, his medieval hometown of Osnabrück, in Wales. He had to. Alone!
  • I like flying.
  • I love the train.
  • I’m one of those freaks who loves long-distance coach-bus journeys ‘cos I can get comfortable, cross my legs, and read!
  • I love reading.
  • I like looking through the window and watching the countries and landscapes change. You should see the changes from Germany to Holland, Belgium & France. It’s so obvious that you’re in a totally different country.
  • I’m lazy.
  • Using public transport is far better for the environment than using a car.
  • The good old honest truth. Well, you can take as much luggage as you like and you don’t really have to worry about how much it weighs!
Lux Express.
Lux Express.

My husband gulped a bit and his lovely green eyes got even greener when I told him that not only were we going to the “other” Eastern Europe otherwise known as The Baltics, but we were going by long-distance coach-bus from country to country!

I’m a determined woman and normally get what I want so with the part-sponsorship of the largest international express route coach operator in the Baltic region, an Estonian company called Lux Express, we are indeed going through the Baltic Region by road from Germany, all the way through to Estonia, and back again!

Sailing away! Photo @AS Tallink Grupp
Sailing away!
Photo @AS Tallink Grupp

We are also going to be taking to the waters by sailing across to Finland, with the sponsorship of TALLINK SLJA LINE. TALLINK is an Estonian shipping company currently operating Baltic Sea cruise ferries and ships from Estonia to Finland, Sweden, Latvia and Germany. We will be sailing with them from Estonia to Finland and back to Estonia.

However, I love my husband, and he’s not standing for total madness so while “The Tall Young Gentleman” and I saunter on, he’s flying back after a week with airBaltic!

In Kurdistan at the ITB 2015.
In Kurdistan at the ITB 2015.

I have been to 48 countries with 4 new countries coming up. Many of these countries I have been to over and over again.

Why?

Simply because I like them.

I’m strong-minded. Just because I’ve been there doesn’t mean that I can’t go back there again.

Returning to Rokytnice nad Jizerou in the Czech Republic.  Because I'm worth it!
Returning to Rokytnice nad Jizerou in the Czech Republic. Because I’m worth it!

I do go back.

Again and again.

It’s never ever boring. Only different.

And for me, travelling is my pleasure not my work. My blog represents the business of me – The British Berliner – but everything I do and everywhere I go, is for my own and complete and utter pleasure!

Remember how I told you a fortnight ago that this blog was about ME.

It is.

Therefore, if I choose to go to Milan although I’ve been there five (5) times before, it’s because I want to.

I love Italy by the way.

A yummy shrimp roll from #WeAreInPuglia!
A yummy shrimp roll from #WeAreInPuglia!

Same goes with the way I travel.

Sure, I could probably fly for €50.00, but where’s the fun and adventure in that?

Live a little!

As much as I love travelling to my favourite regions of the world, one of the most interesting things about the Baltic Region is that I’ve never been there before. It’s going to be nice to go to a country with my family that is as new to them as it is as new to me.

Yikes!

So let’s have a closer look at the four (4) lovely countries that I’m going to.

WHY THE BALTICS?

Harmony of the countryside in Latvia.  Photo@ Arturs Jasinskis
Harmony of the countryside in Latvia.
Photo@ Arturs Jasinskis

The Baltic States might be small in landmass but the countries are considered to be old European in look, rich culture, enchanting history, old tradition. In fact, quite charming! In the last 6 years alone Vilnius, Riga & Tallinn were proudly inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List for the wonder that is their unique architecture in their “old towns” and also as European Capitals of Culture designed to highlight the richness and diversity of cultures in Europe and increase the sense of belonging to our common cultural area that is the European Union not only in 2009 and 2011, but also in 2014!

In 2015, it will be in Plzen, a city in one of my favourite countries, the Czech Republic.

LITHUANIA

©2012-2015 onelung
©2012-2015 onelung

Let’s be honest. How many of you have ever heard of Lithuania?

Thought so!

I’ll try my best to explain some history:

Lithuania is in the European Union and was part of the EU Enlargement in 2004, but is still a country that has yet to be discovered. It’s official name is the Republic of Lithuania.

Europe is fantastically diverse and enormously blended as a result, both the Lithuanians and Latvians are Balts by ethnic and linguistic origin and although separate independent countries, have closely related languages. Not only that, but Lithuania’s former capital was called Trakai and was the religious centre of the Lithuanian Karaites who were of Turkish origin, but also happened to be Jewish.

Vakaras-Vilniaus-senamiestyjeLithuania was an independent state as far back as the 13th century, joined into a union with Poland in the 14th century, became a part of Prussia in the 18th century, forcibly became a part of the former USSR in 1940, established re-independence in 1991, and became both a member of NATO and the EU in 2004.

Phew!

The European Flag.
The European Flag.

It’s a small country with less than 3 million people living there and on the 1st January, 2015, became the 19th EU member state to adopt the Euro as its national currency.

We’re proud of Lithuania!

it’s still early days and if you’re in the Lithuanian countryside, it’s likely that they weren’t invited to the ceremony so just in case: 1 Lithuanian Litas (LTL) is worth about €0.29 or $0.31!

VILNIUS

VilniusHomeVilnius is the capital of Lithuania, one of the largest old cities in Europe, and is covered by countless churches. In fact, 65! It might have a population of only just half a million people, but all that history makes up for it!

Vilnius is a medieval cosmopolitan city known as “the Jerusalem of Lithuania” because of its strong Jewish past until WWII, “Little Rome” and “North Athens.” It’s also a treasure-trove of Baroque craftsmanship and a valuable and historical site of not only Baroque, but also Gothic, Renaissance, and other architectural styles.

I can’t tell you everything that we’re going to do as we’re not there yet, are we?

Laughing, smiling, and eating in Bangkok.
Laughing, smiling, and eating in Bangkok.

All I can tell you is that we’re absolutely going to go on a walking tour to get our bearings as you know that I love them so much having gone on a walking tour in Edinburgh, a walking tour in London, a walking tour in Bangkok, and an alternative walking tour in Berlin!

I’m thinking of going with the Vilnius With Locals walking tour. It’s a free walking tour and you tip whatever you think it is worth.

We’re only going to be there for three (3) days so this will be a sloooooow cultural family trip. We’ll check out some of the lovely churches and places of worship which are just bursting to be visited, we’ll pay our respects in the Jewish Quarter, we’ll ramble along the cobbled historical streets, and we’ll be trying out and tasting not only the tasteful Lithuanian cuisine but also checking out the Lithuanian soup, dumplings, and dessert, as well as Lithuanian beer and vodka!

VilniusHome18We’ll be staying at a small family Bed and Breakfast consisting of just seven (7) rooms, and located between the Old Town and a park. This B&B is called Vilnius Home Bed and Breakfast and we’ll be in the Family Room.

Most importantly, there’ll be free WiFi, space to dump all our stuff after our long weary journey, and free breakfast. Everything a family with a young teenager needs!

Yipee!

LATVIA

Latvia.Latvia, also known as the pearl of the Baltic States and officially as the Republic of Latvia, is situated in the Baltic Region of Northern Europe – on the shores of the Baltic Sea. I like the Baltic Sea and I’ve written about it before albeit from the Polish side!

Latvia is a multi-cultured state and right in the middle of Lithuania, Belarus, Estonia and Russia! As the Lithuanians, the Latvians are Balts by ethnic and linguistic origin and although separate independent countries, have closely related languages. The Latvians also have indigenous people called Livs and the two neighbouring countries both speak an Indo-European language and are the only two true Baltic languages that have survived.

Happily, all the traditions have merged together creating a unique environment, a vast cultural historical heritage.and a country-state of about 2 million people.

Latvia, is also a country not well-known and even within the E.U. itself, many Europeans have a hard time remembering what the capital city is.

It’s Riga by the way!

lncc15_song_and_dance_festival2013_latvian_national_centre_for_culturexHere’s some history:

Although under various forms of foreign rule and invasion from the 13th to the 20th century, the Latvian people were able to hold onto their history and identity via their own unique language and musical traditions. The Republic of Latvia came into existence in 1918 but due to the WWII and the forcible incorporation into the then USSR, lost its independence. The famous Singing Revolutions of the Latvian people (a bit like the Von Trapp family in the Sound of Music) helped to motivate the people and independence was once again declared in 1991. Latvia became a member of NATO and the EU in 2004, was declared a “high income” country, and the Latvian lats replaced with the Euro as its national currency on the 1st of January, 2014.

RIGA

A European Capital of Culture.
A European Capital of Culture.

We will be going to Riga which is the capital city, the largest city in the Baltic State Region, and also not only on the UNESCO World Heritage List because of its unique architecture in the “old town,” but was also one of the European Capitals of Culture designed to highlight the richness and diversity of cultures in Europe, and increase the sense of belonging to our common cultural area that is the European Union, in 2014!

You might not have ever heard of Latvia, but are you sure you haven’t heard or seen pictures of Riga?

institute_of_latvia_aleksandrs_kendenkovsRiga is an elegant old European town nourished by Russian glamour and elegant Art Nouveau boulevards! It’s a metropolis pulsing with life, romantic walks and live music and celebration. It’s a medieval city that has been preserved and still shows traces of its religious and Romanesque past.

Do you recognise Riga now?

Art Nouveau in Riga.
Art Nouveau in Riga.

We’ll only be in Riga for three (3) days and thereafter, The Music Producer will depart and fly back to Berlin so that “The Tall Young Gentleman” and I will continue the rest of our Baltic cultural adventure together. There’s a lot to see in Riga so we’ll probably go on another walking tour such as the Yellow Riga Free Tour. I understand that it’s supported by the European Community programme Youth in Action, so why not. Right!? It’s an alternative free walking tour and goes outside the Old Town. Tip whatever you think it’s worth.

Of course, we’ll also check out the lovely Old Town itself. It looks gorgeous and perhaps also the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum. I quite like the sound of learning about the history and cultural background of a people. The rambling along the cobbled historical streets continues and of course, we’ll be trying out and tasting rustic Latvian soup, chops, and cheese topped off with Latvian beer, vodka and Riga Black Balsam!

History at Hotel Justus.
History at Hotel Justus.

We will be staying at a four-star boutique hotel in the heart of the old town of Riga. The hotel is called Hotel Justus. Hotel Justus lies right within the architectural UNESCO protected area, was a Bishop’s residence in 1210, was part of a tavern in the 20th century and has just 48 rooms designed to embrace the architectural charm and historical delight of Riga. We’ll be in the Family Suite which will have two separate bedrooms and a joint bathroom.

You cannot believe how nice it is to sometimes have separate but joint bedrooms when your child is still young, but very tall. In Poland, our B&B was lovely and quaint but my sons’ arms and legs were all over the place on our East European double bed, so I spent most of our holiday sleeping on the floor!

"The Tall Young Gentleman"
“The Tall Young Gentleman”

You cannot believe how many times we have tried to explain that even though he is a child, he isn’t a child-child. And in Asia, explaining proved to be too difficult so we just said he was a young adult since he was taller than most grown up men, and in Hong Kong, so was I LOL! We either booked a superior room in Bangkok, a wooden chalet in Chiang Mai, or went all out and rented a house in Bali.

Our son was 13 years old just last Sunday but looks like a 15 year old boy! The photograph above was taken just two years ago!

Once again, the most important factor for a couple and a young teenager is location (we’re right in the UNESCO centre.) Yay! History will come alive ‘cos we’ll be sleeping in it! Free WiFi, a flat screen TV, and a generous breakfast.

I’m pretty ecstatic!

Pelmeni served with sour cream in Latvia.
Pelmeni served with sour cream in Latvia.

This article is part-sponsored by Lux Express and TALLINK SLJA LINE, and the Tallinn City Tourist Office & Convention Bureau. We received a 72 hour complimentary Tallinn Card  and we get a little discount on the hotels, but all opinions and the delicious food and drink that I thoroughly consumed, are my very own!

I have so much to share with you.

I’m going to be travelling to Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, AND Finland!

I’ll tell you all about what we’re going to be doing in Riga in Latvia with the help of the Tallinn Card, what the view was like on the ferry crossing from Estonia to Finland with TALLINK SLJA LINE and what the plans are for Helsinki in Finland, in the coming weeks.

International Games Week Berlin 2015 is a leading cross-industry communication and networking platform for games businesss, development and culture, and will be taking place between April 21-26, 2015.

I’ll be going to TBEX Europe (Travel Bloggers Exchange) an International Networking Conference, for the first time! It’ll be taking place in Costa Brava, Catalunya, Spain from 30.04.15 – 02.05.15.

Strictly Stand Up English Comedy Night will be taking place at the Quatsch Comedy Club on 29.04.15.

Eddie Izzard will be back in Germany and will be front-lining a killer international night of comedy at the Admirals Palast on 08.05.15.

The Berlin Music Video Awards will be taking place from May 27.05.15 – 30.05.15. Anybody can apply!

The Berlin Fashion Film Festival will be taking place on 05.06.15.

I’ll be there. Will you?

As usual, you can also follow me via daily tweets and pictures on Twitter & FB!

If you’re not in Berlin in April, I haven’t a clue where else you’re going to be!

April is going to be refreshing.

Watch this space! Riga-Black-Balsam-6Have you ever been to Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia & Finland? Do you want to go to Vilnius or Riga? Would you be all daring and take a long-distance bus or coach?

See you in Berlin.

If you like this post or if you have any questions send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below, or send me an Email: victoria@thebritishberliner.com

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