I’ve only been to Latvia twice, but I’m sure that number will change in the future.
As I prefer to travel sustainably, I often end up visiting countries close to my home country Finland. I’ve been to – or passed through – Sweden at least 10 times. I’ve been to Russia four times and at least once more in Norway.
But if I look south to the Baltics, I find countries that I’ve barely explored. I spent plenty of time in Lithuania during my 2-year trip around the world, but I’ve seen very little of Estonia and Latvia.
My longest visit to Estonia was in my teens when I participated in a Nordic championship fencing competition. After that, I’ve only spent one night in Tallinn at the start of my world tour.
And what about Latvia? Located right below Estonia, I’ve barely scratched its surface. Yet I’m very interested in the country, hoping to witness more of it in the coming years.
My Brief Visits to Latvia
I’ve been to Latvia twice. The second time I simply passed through the country on my way from Estonia to Šiauliai, Lithuania. I changed the bus in Riga, but that’s it.
My first visit was a little longer. We had just finished high school, so me and my friends did a short weekend getaway trip to Riga. I remember old deteriorating buildings on the outskirts of the town, cucumber-flavored water in a restaurant (we found it hilarious) and a nightclub we visited briefly.
However, my interest in Latvia has lasted much longer than that. I’ve been interested in Latvia since I was 8 years old, and it all started with music.
Music from Latvia
I love listening to music from different cultures. Whenever I study a new language, I try to find music in the language that I enjoy. And even though I have never studied Latvian, I’ve listened to Latvian music almost all my life.
The first Latvian band I heard was Brainstorm (Prāta Vētra in Latvian). They performed in the Eurovision Song Contest in the year 2000 when I was 8 years old, and I became a fan. After some more quiet years, I rediscovered the band in my youth.
I still occasionally listen to Brainstorm. They release music in both English and Latvian, though I prefer the Latvian versions that flow more naturally. It’s funny to think that I’ve been listening to the same band for most of my life!
Through Brainstorm, I’ve discovered other Latvian music that I enjoy. Carnival Youth is a band that was actually founded by two sons of the singer of Brainstorm, so I’ve been listening to the same family for two generations already.
More to Come
While I was traveling, I liked to learn a few phrases from the languages of the people I met. Gleanings for the Hungry, an organization I volunteered with in California, had a worker from Latvia, so I used the opportunity to use basic phrases there for his amusement.
Besides Latvian music, I also enjoy international artists from countries such as France and Russia. But my relationship with Latvia is more deeply rooted in its music.