When I first came to Latvia three years ago, I travelled from Prague to Rīga in a tiring bus trip – 22 hours in a small seat, surrounded by restless Czech, Russian and Polish students. It was the first time in my life that I was travelling outside of Brazil. For a traveller from a relatively small town called Balneário Camboriú, Prague’s cultural and historical greatness was a shock.
I found the city of “100 spires” to be stunning, but crowds of loud tourists from all over the world and noisy streets with buzzing bars and restaurants made me dizzy most of the time. I come from a tourist town myself, and though it cannot be compared at all with Prague in terms of history, size, numbers of tourists and attractions, it does have a great flow of humans. I desired more tranquillity. Rīga gave me the impression of simplicity and serenity, and that is what I was looking for.
Rīga is home to one-third of Latvia’s population and the country’s most visited city. Of course, there is also crowds of tireless tourists trying to find the best place to take a selfie, but you can also find aspects of a simple countryside in Rīga if you explore the city. It is easy to find uncrowded parks and places to walk alongside the Daugava River in Rīga. Silence, space and tranquillity are important to me, because I come from a beach city in the south of Brazil taken by the construction industry. With a population of around 124,000 and an area of 46,244 km2, Balneário Camboriú can be compared to Jūrmala with its 100 km2 of land and 56,000 inhabitants and receives each year about 150,000 tourists.
Known as the “Brazilian Dubai” because of the exaggerated number of skyscrapers. I always felt suffocated there. There are no trees along the streets. Basically you might consider it a good place if you enjoy consumerism, crowded beaches, bustling nightlife and loud music. I fell in love with this small fascinating country because of its green territory, history at every corner and the calmness of its people. I was surprised to find myself identifying so much with what I found in Latvia.
It is cheap and easy to travel in Latvia. You’ll discover fields, marshes and swamps, rivers, lakes, sea and calm beaches with white sand, as well as forests. One of my greatest experiences in Latvia was going out into the countryside to pick up mushrooms – something that is very much a Latvian hobby.
Half of the Latvia is still covered by forests. Of course, Brazil also has a lot of nature, but it is hard to find tranquility in the cities. Distances are much longer and it is a quite sad to notice the growing levels of deforestation including in my own city. Latvia is among the greenest and most sustainable countries in the world, and its low demographic density, to be sure, helps very much in this regard.
National symbols are important here, handicrafts are valued, local products are appreciated, and old traditions that relate to nature are still alive. It’s as if the simplest things in life are of much importance in Latvia, and that is why it is so dear for me and why I am here for the third time.
One of the three Baltic countries, Latvia has a cultural heritage that stretches back more than 1,000 years. The nation emerged from Baltic Indo-European tribes, including Courlandians, Lettigalians, Selonians, Semigallians and Livonians, the latter being a Finno-Ugric tribe. In the 12th century, the first missionaries, sent by the Pope arrived, followed by German crusaders and battles, to convert the local people.
Brazil is the world’s fifth largest country in terms of area and population. It was inhabited by many indigenous tribes prior to the arrival, in 1500, of the explorer Pedro Álvares Cabral, who claimed the area for the Portuguese Empire so as to exploit natural resources. The indigenous people were covered to Christianity by Jesuit missionaries. Some tribes still struggle to maintain their culture and languages.
Area: 64,573 km², of which 2,402 km2 are inland bodies of water
Location: Northern Europe
Borders: With Estonia, Lithuania, Russia and Belarus, as well as maritime border in the Baltic Sea
Population: 1,986,096 (2015)
Largest city: Rīga (698,529 inhabitants and 307.17 km²)
Government: Parliamentary republic
Area: 8,515,767.049 km², of which 55,455 km2 are inland bodies of water
Location: South America
Borders: With French Guiana, Suriname, Guyana, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay and an Atlantic coastline stretching 7,491 km
Population: 207,847,528 (2015)
Largest city: São Paulo (11,967,825 inhabitants (2015) and 1,522,986 km2)
Government: Federal presidential constitutional republic