Located in the Baltic region of Northern Europe, Latvia is one of the three Baltic states. The capital city of Riga is also its largest city. Though Latvia is a small country, the current population is over two million, and is growing.
The official language of Latvia is Latvian. People at home still commonly speak Russian, which was introduced and made common during the years of Soviet rule. When a referendum was held to determine whether Russia should become the second official language, it was voted against in record numbers.
- In 1909, Latvian chemist Wilhelm Ostwald won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, and is now considered one of the founders of modern physical chemistry.
- Riga, Latvia’s capital, has some of the most impressive examples of Art Nouveau architecture in the world.
- A restaurant in Riga that was opened by doctors is called Hospitalis. It is meant to look like a real operating room, complete with waitresses in nurse uniforms, operating tools for cutlery and test tubes and beakers as wine glasses.
- The Basilica of the Assumption is a popular Catholic pilgrimage spot in Latvia. Within the Basicilica is an icon of Our Lady of Aglona that the Latvian people claim brings miracles.
- The staple foods of Latvia are gray peas and ham. However, residents enjoy a varied diet made of many agriculture-based products.
- Ice hockey is considered the most important sport in Latvia. Many popular hockey players, including some that played in the US, got their start in Latvia.
- Latvia is known for having one of the fastest and most reliable Internet connections anywhere in the world. This is surprising to many tourists especially who may have experienced spotty connections in other areas of Europe.