Nestled between Lithuania and Estonia in Northern Europe, Latvia is one of the least well known of all European nations. But with a history dating back thousands of years, Latvia is considered a hidden-gem for visitors and tourists. With a fascinating landscape, history and influences on the rest of the world, Latvia is intriguing and offers so much to those who visit. Whether you want to pursue learning Russian in Latvia or just want to discover more about Latvia for a trip abroad, these Latvia facts we have researched and compiled are sure to whet the appetite of any European explorers.
Also known as Lettish, Latvian is the official language of Latvia. With a population of just under 2 million, Latvian is one of the lesser spoken dialects in Europe and has only been the country’s official language since 1918. Due to the influence of Russian and the immigration from the Soviet Union in the 19th and 20th century, the language evolved dramatically.
The Latvian flag is considered by many to be the oldest national flag in the world to still be used. Its first documentation is mentioned Rhymed Chronicle of Livonia which covers the period from 1180 to 1343.
The flag was changed during occupation by Germany and the Soviet Union during the 20th century, but was reinstated in 1990. This restoration of the flag came 18 months before the formal recognition of Latvia as an independent state.
Ice Hockey is considered to be Latvia’s most popular sport with a number of natives going on to play in the USA for NHL teams. The second most popular sport in the country is basketball. Homegrown talent has also transferred across the Atlantic to prolific NBA teams.
Latvia has the highest female to male ratio of any European country. In 2021 there were 85 men to every 100 women. This puts Latvia 6th in the world on the female to male ratio.
Many people think of Levi Strauss as the father of everyone’s favourite trouser. However, it was in fact Jacob W. Davis, a Latvian tailor, who first invented jeans. Davis created the first pair of jeans in 1872 and approached Strauss to assist with funding and patenting the design.
The design and style of the jeans evolved over the next hundred years and Levi Strauss & Co is now worth over $7 billion!
With its sprawling countryside and forests, it is no wonder that Latvia is home to many rivers. There are in fact over 12,000 rivers in the country! However, only 17 of these measure over 100km in length.
The Latvian Song & Dance Festival is recognised by UNESCO as the largest amateur song and dance festival in the world! Held every 5 years since 1873, the event hosts over 40,000 participants with nearly 500,000 attendees across the festival.
Focusing on folk, choir and acapella singing, the dance element was added in 1948. It is classed as one of the Baltic Song Festivals, alongside similar events in Estonia and Lithuania.
Germany is blessed with being considered the birthplace of the Christmas tree as we know it today. However, the first written record of a ‘Christmas Tree’ dates back to 1510 in Riga, Latvia. It is said that local men decorated a tree in the centre of the town with artificial roses and then proceeded to dance around it. The rose was then used as a symbol for many years in reference to the Virgin Mary.
Being a Baltic country, it is unsurprising that the favoured foods of Latvia are fish and meat. As with other Northern European countries, potatoes, cabbage, onion and eggs also find themselves in the staple diet for many natives. Influenced by local neighbours, the cuisine of Latvia has much in common with Estonia and other surrounding countries.
With over 12,000 rivers across the country it is no surprise that waterfalls also make up the landscape. The Venta Waterfall, or Venta Rapid as it is also known, is the widest waterfall in Europe! At over 240 metres wide, this waterfall can reach up to 270 metres wide during Spring as the ice thaws further up the river. While its width is impressive, the drop of the fall is only 2 metres.
A few hundred metres from the falls is the Kuldiga bridge. This bridge is an attraction within its own right due to being the oldest operational brick bridge in Europe since 1874.
With such an interesting culture and lesser known influence on the wider world, we hope these Latvia facts have whet your appetite to learn Russian in Latvia. At Cactus, we offer a range of language holidays and courses to suit everyone. With a variety of languages and destinations to choose from, you can be sure to find your perfect course with us.
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