Located in North Eastern Europe, by the Baltic Sea, Latvia has always been a multi-ethnic country, rich in different cultural and education traditions, and sees its role as a bridge between the East and the West. The higher education institutions in Latvia are members of international cooperation within many different fields of study.
Latvia is not renown for a world-class culinary tradition, but the food, influenced by German or Russian cooking, is simple, hearty and filling. Riga has an overwhelming choice of places to eat in all price ranges. Many restaurants now offer discounts and ‘happy hours’ to attract visitors, so eating in Riga shouldn’t be a problem any time of the day – or night.
As cities go, Riga is pretty peaceful. Touring the city on foot or by bike is a great way to get to know your way around, and there are lots of eateries on the way. Generally the food is good quality and extremely cheap. Beets are served up in every possible way imaginable, and a meal of baked salmon, beet salad and bread, followed by cake for dessert, in a cozy bistro will set you back around $5.00!
There are companies offering walking and cycling tours all over the city, or you can go it alone. Places worth visiting on the food trail are the Riga Central Market (especially the old warehouse – Maskavas iela – behind the fish pavilion) and Hospitalis, one of the newer attractions of Riga; a crazy hospital-themed restaurant where you can sit in a dentist’s chairs, be spoonfed while in a strait-jacket or have food served from trolleys by surgical instruments.
Make sure you visit the landmark buildings that used to house one of the biggest markets in Europe. The five enormous former Zeppelin hangars were converted into market halls in 1930 and have retained their traditional division into different types of food for sale.
Buy fish, meat, dairy, bread and vegetables inside and clothes, CDs and appliances outside. You might not pick up any exclusive fashion items or souvenirs, but a visit to the giant Bazaar will give you a feel for local everyday life.
A great education system…
In Latvia, there are both state-financed and fee-paying higher education. Public grants and scholarships are available for top students.
Latvia offers two levels of higher education programs – academic and professional (for example translators, bank staff, business lawyers, pilots etc.). University-type higher education institutions offer both academic and professional education, while the “non-university type” institutions provide only professional education.
Academic higher education in Latvia follows the Bologna system and is divided into three levels: Bachelor’s studies, Master’s studies, and Doctoral studies. A Bachelor degree takes three or four years, while a Master’s degree will take one or two years.
Only graduates holding a Master’s degree or equivalent higher education diploma may take up doctoral studies. These last three to four years, involving advanced studies, examinations and the preparation and defense of a doctoral thesis.
Location .. location
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 you might have seen pictures of elegant men and woman strolling arm in arm along the tiny streets of Riga, which is a mix of Russian glamour and elegant Art Nouveau boulevards!
Riga is a metropolis pulsing with life, romantic walks, live music and celebration. It’s a well preserved medieval city which still shows traces of its religious and Romanesque past and in 2014 was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for the uniqueness of its architecture in the “old town” and as one of the European Capitals of Culture.
Much of Latvia’s wilderness is similar to nearby Scandinavian countries. There are beaches, parks and forests, all of which are teeming with wildlife and perfect for exploring. Latvia’s low population density has helped retain the natural environment and make it the perfect spot for ecotourism and ethical travel.
About 25km west of Riga, the resort town of Jūrmala is made up of beaches, with the most amazing ice blue Baltic waters. It’s a quaint little village offering thermal waters, pine forests, and white quartz sand beaches.
All European cities have impressive architecture, but did you know that Riga has the largest collection of Art Nouveau buildings in Europe? Wander around and marvel at the work of Latvian architects of the late 19th/early 20th centuries on over 800 buildings. The main streets to view are Elizabetes, Alberta, Strelnieku, and Antonijas. One of the finest buildings is the 1904-built Riga Graduate School of Law at Alberta 13 and while there, you may as well pop into the Art Nouveau Museum at number 12.
Whether you prefer art nouveau, romanesque, gothic or baroque architectural style, you can find it all here.
Locals and language Travel
The language spoken in Latvia is Latvian, but most people speak English, often with an interesting mix of accents; American English, Swedish and Dutch. Oh, and they also have a warm sense of humour!
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 lack of finance. These capital cities still retain 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.”
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 stay for a few days.
Andrejsala used to be a very busy and important harbor, but since its decline it has been taken over by the creative contingent of Riga who have turned the old dock buildings and warehouses into artist studios and workshops, exhibition halls, offices for trendy businesses and party rooms. The cafes are always buzzing and there’s usually an event going on – which could be anything arty, theatrical, musical or electronic. Find a local person to find out what’s going on, or simply head on down and discover for yourself.