The local currency in Latvia is the Latvian Lats (Ls). Cash can be exchanged at banks and exchange offices. Before exchanging money, I recommend you to check the rates and fees of a few offices. There are often differences in the rates.
The sign "0 % COMMISSION" does mostly refer only to "SELL" and not to "BUY" transactions. So don't hesitate to ask, how much you really get for your money.
Don't change your money on the street; these people usually cheat you with other foreign currencies.
Dumplings and pancakes are very popular dish in Latvia.
You will see a lot of places that offer pancakes filled with different stuff starts from the sweet things like strawberries, till salted ones like minced meet with onions.
The same with dumplings, they can be filled with different kind of meet or sweet stuff- jams for example.
Latvian language is a bit similar to German, at least during my trips when I was talking Latvian, people was asking am i from Germany.
As in Latvia lives just a bit over 2,5 million people and only half of them are Latvians, our language can be considered as not very popular.
It is quiet complicated to learn it, because even you speak Latvian but are traveling
around Latvia, you can hear some dialects which might sound very different. And not
always u will understand what people are trying to tell you.
Some most needed words:
Hello - Labdien!
Thank you - Paldies
How are you? - Ka tev iet?
Good bye - Uz redzesanos!
My name is___ - Mani sauc____
It is as interesting to me as in other towns I see much different religion churches in old town. In Riga old town there are mostly Lutheran and some Catholic churches. The main Orthodox Russian Cathedral is in centre, Brivibas iela.
Surely, in Riga much Russians by percents live (about 35%), but I haven’t had that feeling as I heard mostly Latvian language around, only in old town some English, German...
It's not allowed to smoke in public places and public transport. If it's necessity to smoke better to check whether there are special signs which allowing to do that. Mostly in all restaurants and bars nowadays smoking is prohibited, you can smoke only outside.
It's not allowed to drink alcohol in public places, except restaurants and bars where it is served. It also isn't allowed to walk with open bottle. With alcohol I mean also beer.
In the park next to the Freedom Column there is a small bridge. This bridge is full of padlocks. Young couples put a lock right there to evidence their never ending feelings! What a wonderful idea! Well, Heinz and I felt that after 8 years of marriage it would be a great thing to more or less renew our vows by putting up our own padlock there - and that was what we did first thing in the morning! What a fantastic feeling!
This place was the best thing with whole our trip, the park is so beautiful and peaceful. The Pilsetas kanal runns right through and there is a small bridge in the park (look at the pictures) on this bridge it´s tradition to hang a padlock there with the names of those in love. It means that the love of the people who hang their padlocks there will last for ever, and the couple throw the key in the kanal when they locked the padlock.
This is one of the most beautiful parks I´v seen. It´s definatly worth a trip just to go to the park.
This bridge is located in Bastejkalns park just besides Freedom Statue.
Not much soviet relicts left in Riga till this time. Even pavement from Soviet Union times is removed and new put in the central part of the city. But some things left and it is because (I guess) that Latvia was a part of Soviet Union and you can’t change it, it is a part of history. Near the Daugava river you can see old sculpture from Soviet Era.
The titular nation - the Latvians - are in Riga still heavily outnumbered by the Russians. Latvia’s autochthonous population suffered most of the 3 Baltic states of the 45 years Soviet rule. The result of deportation, genocide and emigration of Latvians and mass immigration of Soviet occupants resulted in only 51.7 % of Latvia’s population being ethnic Latvians at the beginning of independence. This has now slightly changed in favour of the Latvians because most of the Latvians who survived the deportations came back as did quite many who emigrated overseas. At the other hand some Russians etc. emigrated after independence, but mostly not to the neighbouring former homeland Russia. But the number of non-autochthonous residents (legal and illegal ones) is still by far the highest in Europe.
As a means to integrate the non-autochthonus residents the Baltic countries offer now the easiest way of access to citizenship of all civilized countries (in Switzerland for example fulfillment of these conditions would not even be enough for a permanent residence as a foreign citizen). It is more than generous and quite unique that citizenship is offered to occupants and this seems still not to be enough for the former occupants as the cases at the European Court of Justice show.
But nevertheless the integration seems partially to be successful, other than in 1992 I found in 2002 that many of the ethnic Russians living in Latvia today appear quite assimilated and far less “Russian” than the “Germans” from Russia who emigrated under the last two decades to Germany and are there living often in some sorts of ghettos and are still speaking Russian.
I'm not sure if this should be in the customs or the warnings and dangers section to be honest!
In Latvia they have symbols for Gents and Ladies toilets, in the shape of upwards or inverted triangles. This may seem really clever and logical to Latvians, but it totally confused me, and even after reading and re-checking my guide book, I still got it wrong and used the wrong loos in the hotel lobby almost the whole weekend.
This culminated in me hiding away in what had turned out to be the ladies loos for a good 15 minutes when I heard a group of women entering, all chatting away and doing whatever a gaggle of women do in the loo. I had to wait until I could hear no more noise and then make a dash for the door.
Thing was the staff had seen me go in there before and hadn't said anything, so either they were being polite or having a laugh. So perhaps best to ask if you're unsure, and don't always trust your guidebook!
Photo attached is important if you want to avoid the hazards of being trapped a cubicle by your shame at using the wrong facilities!
A tradition for newly married couples in Riga (I also saw it in Sigulda) is to put a padlock on a bridge railing and then throw the key in to the water below. Many of the padlocks are engraved with the names of the couple. It is a way of declaring the bond between them forever. The bridges are cleared now and then though to give space for new padlocks. Footbridges over the Pilsetas canal are popular places to put the padlocks.
This custom is done in other cities as well, for example in Rome, Tokyo and Pécs. The custom is believed to have begun in Pécs in the 1980s.
I was at the Ethnographic Open Air Museum during the celebrations of the Winter Solstice. An old Latvian tradition on this day is to drag around the Yule log, which represents all problems and bad things of the previous year. I followed the crowd around for the two hours the celebrations took place. The Yule log was two small log of woods dragged around in a long rope. People were holding on to the rope as we moved on. At several occasions we stopped and there songs, dances and other rituals were taking place. In the end we stopped near the entrance to the museum and there the Yule log was burned. We all got a small stick (our bad things) to throw in the fire. It was very interesting to see this tradition, which I didn’t know anything before coming here.
Coming back to Old Town in Riga I saw a procession dragging around the Yule log as well but it was a bit different.
In Latvia the most popular sports game is hockey. Already now Latvian hockey fans are well known abroad during Championships. :)
We are quiet nosy people while watching hockey! :)
And good news are that during 2006 in Riga will take place World Championship in Hockey.
For majority of mine foreign friends this was big surprise to try this Latvian speciality - smoked fish. We smoke almost any fish with hundreds of recepies. Some is treated as delicacy with a price which just few can afford, eel for example. However - try smoked fish with Latvian beer, you won't regret it. Easily to find in local markets or shops, but better to buy these at the seaside, just 35 kilometers from Riga.
If you are starving and can not wait anymore for diner, thats would be for you. Try Latvian rye bread with smoked gammon!!! Usualy when i leave Latvia for a longer time i take one with me. Once i didn't and that was too bad - i never thought that one can miss bread as I did and my friends. It can last fresh for a weeks, but that doesnt mean that there is some preservatives in it. Try "Laca" bakery's bread and you will understand what I mean. You will find it shops or in bazaars.
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