58 Interesting Facts About Latvia

Last updated on March 8th, 2020

Latvia, officially the Republic of Latvia, is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. Since its independence, Latvia has been referred to as one of the three Baltic states. It has an area of 64,589 square km. Riga is its capital and largest city. Latvian is the official language of Latvia. Euro (€) (EUR) is its official currency. Its land bordering countries are Estonia, Russia, Belarus and Lithuania. Let’s explore more about this beautiful country with some funny and interesting facts.

Interesting facts about Latvia

1. The indigenous people of Latvia are known as Latvians and Livs.

2. A very old oak tree dating back to the times of Pharaoh (yes, you read it right), the ruler of Egypt, was found in Latvia during an excavation project. A small plaque near the Oak tree reads: “OAK TRUNK: Found during excavation work for Riga new Town Hall. It grew on the shore of Daugava 3500 years ago, at about the time when Pharaoh Tutankhamen was the ruler of Egypt.”

3. A secret Soviet bunker built in 1982, which has an area of 213,000 square feet, could support 250 people for an estimated three months. Armed with daily supplies to last months, and state-of-the-art equipment; the bunker was built beneath layers of dirt, cement and metal. The bunker, however, is a tourist attraction as of 2003.

4. It is said that Latvians are very proud of their country. Yes, so on your first visit to the country, when you meet some Latvian, do not forget to praise them or their country. You may be surprised to learn that Latvians are humorous, too.

5. Though the majority of Latvians speak Russian, do not misunderstand them as Russians. Latvians are a separate ethnic group.

Sun rays in a fog in the forest in Latvia.
Sun rays in a fog in the forest in Latvia.

6. Latvia’s forests are often called “green gold.” This is mainly because the country’s forests contribute handsomely towards the country’s economy.

7. The country is home to a large variety of deciduous tree species including – oak, aspen, birch, black and white alder and others. The region also has a large number of coniferous tree species such as pine and fir. The country has also been actively participating in tree plantations in recent years.

Riga Central Market Vegetables pavilion
Riga Central Market Vegetables pavilion. Riga Central Market is Europe’s largest market and bazaar.

8. In the beginning of the 20th century, giant hangars that were made to house German-made airships in the center of Riga, are today a place for 3,000 trade stands. The place is Europe’s largest market bazaar today.

9. It is also said that Latvia has the highest rates of fashion models; and the women from the country are considered to be tallest among women from all over the world.

10. You may be surprised to learn that there is a shortage of women in Latvia. We mean that there are fewer women in the country compared to men.

Flag of Latvia

Flag of Latvia
The National flag of Latvia. Image credit – CIA

11. In Latvia, there is a museum dedicated to the world’s greatest liar – Hieronymus Karl Friedrich Freiherr von Münchhausen. Yes, you heard it right! At the time, he was known for telling many fake stories related to his moon travel and of his exemplary services during the Russo-Turkish War. Now, the country is generating handsome revenue from a museum dedicated to their hero. Latvia also issued a commemorative coin in 2005 to celebrate this legend’s 285th birthday.

12. Germans ruled large parts of today’s Latvia during the beginning of the 13th century. FYI, the country was under foreign rule between the 13th and 20th century.

13. Gauja, Daugava, Lielupe and Venta are the four rivers that pass through Latvia and fall into the Baltic Sea. There are a total of 29 rivers that the Baltic Sea receives from eight European countries including Latvia. However, the Baltic Sea does not keep this water, as it empties itself into the Atlantic Ocean.

14. Did you know that Friedrich Wilhelm Ostwald is the only Latvian to ever win a Nobel Prize? The scientist won the prestigious prize in Chemistry in 1909 for his work on catalysis, chemical equilibria and reaction velocities.

Areal view of The old brick bridge across the Venta river in Kuldiga, Latvia, the longest road bridge in Europe built in 1874 , and Venta rapid in the background.
Areal view of The old brick bridge across the Venta river in Kuldiga, Latvia, the longest road bridge in Europe built in 1874 , and Venta rapid in the background.

15. Latvia is also the first country to produce citric acid from molasses, a spin-off of sugar production. Earlier, the acid was produced from lemons; and the production monopoly belonged to Italy.

16. An interesting point to note here is that Latvia contains more than 12,000 rivers. However, only 17 of these rivers are longer than 100 km. Now that’s interesting!

17. In the area, Latvia is larger than many European countries. Wondering which ones? Switzerland, Slovenia, Montenegro, Estonia, Cyprus, Croatia, Albania and others are smaller in area than Latvia.

Latvia on the map

18. More than one third of Latvia’s land area is covered by forests. As the majority of the country is covered by forest, timber and wood products make up the country’s most important products.

19. And 90% of Latvia was covered by forests some thousands of years ago.

20. Because of the high valuation paid by European Timber buyers, wood from Latvia is illegally sold to the other European countries.

21. A large population of Latvian Jews was killed during the Second World War when the country was occupied by Soviets and the Germans. Legend has it that Nazi forces were responsible for majority of these deaths.

22. At the beginning of the 21st century, Latvia had the lowest birth rates of the Baltic States and one of the lowest life expectancies in all of Europe. The aging population in the country was on the rise as a result of the above mentioned factors. Attempts were made to improve the situation; however, they failed.

Venta Rapid waterfall, Latvia.
Venta Rapid waterfall, the widest waterfall in Europe, Kuldiga, Latvia. Captured from above.

23. Are you a waterfall enthusiast? Note that Venta Rapid (Latvian: Ventas rumba) is a waterfall on the Venta River in Kuldīga, Latvia. It is the widest waterfall in Europe – 249 metres (817 ft) and up to 270 metres (886 ft) during spring floods. The height of the waterfall changes depending on the water level in the river.

24. The country also gave the world its first spy camera – “Minox.” It was produced by the Latvian factory VEF between 1937 and 1943.

25. During World War II, Latvia saw more than 250,000 of its countrymen flee the Soviet occupation.

26. Did you know that the modern denim jean that is worn by people all over the world was first invented by a Latvian-Jewish tailor and American immigrant – Jacob. W. Davis? The inventor was born in Riga, where he trained and worked as a tailor. The jeans were invented when a customer of his asked him to make a pair of strong working pants for her husband, who was a woodcutter. Jacob made the pants with duck cloth and reinforced it with copper rivets. The pants then became so successful that he could not keep up with demand. The invention was made in 1870 while Davis was living in the U.S.

27. Latvia also experiences flights of migratory birds that pass along the Black Sea and over the country. It is an amazing experience that you can have if you happen to visit Latvia during the migration season.

28. Acid rain, which is caused by a chemical reaction that begins when compounds like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are released into the air, is causing the destruction of forests in the country on a large scale.

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