Flag of Latvia
It's been said that the country of Latvia is one of Europe's hidden treasures; and that very well might be true. Found along the Baltic Sea, Latvia is uncrowed, and chocked full of history--all the way back to when it belonged to the Teutonic Knights.
The best time to enjoy Lativa is from June to September, when the days are bright, warm, and sunny. Winters can be long, harsh, and snowy; so if you don't mind that, October to May is perfectly wonderful, too.
Colder weather will keep you from Latvia's sandy coastline, but the Black Balsam (served with either coffee or Vokda) can help keep you warm. And dishes like piragi (stuffed pasty with bacon and onion) will stick to your ribs during the rough winter.
When a happening nightlife is what you're looking for, Riga (its capital) has it. Not only are there the traditional nightclubs, cafes, and bars; but the city has a good number of "adult entertainment" places.
Oh, isn't that a nice way of saying that Riga's full of strip clubs.
Latvia's full of lakes (12,000 of them), too; so find one you like, and just walk. It's exercise for the body and soul.
Walking is what's on the agenda during the Procession at the Basilica of Aglona, a pilgrimage that's some 150,000 people strong on August 1th.
Rather have peace and quiet? Latvia is full of forests, so it's easy to lose yourself within them. Over by the Gauja River Gorge you will find a ruined castle, if you're interested.
Within the Gauja National Park you'll also find pretty forest speckled with caves, and camping facilities. There are 22 other campsites spread out over Latvia's other National Parks, in case you're wondering.
One of the most famous castles in Latvia is Turaida Castle, an imposing structure that was built for defense. Another castle awaits in Cesis, a cobblestoned medieval town. But nothing compares to the Rococo styled Rundale Palace, richly and ornately decorated in bright reds, pastel pinks, and all other colors of the rainbow.
For a look back at Latvia's more modern history head to the town of Liepaja to see its KGB Museum. For anyone not old enough to know who the KGB were, they were the Soviet's dreaded secret police. Then go to Liepaja's beaches--a quiet place to contemplate.
Do you see what's hidden within Latvia; and how lucky its 2 million residents are to live around National Parks (with camping, no less), eat stick to your rib goodies, or just to wander around cities like the capital of Riga.
What's even more remarkable is how easy it is to get around, with its excellent public transportation, rail network, and inexpensive shared taxis. All you need to get here is a simple passport, no visa or onward ticket necessary. Beautiful and easy-going, you can't ask for more than that about any destination.
Why hasn't everyone heard about Latvia? Maybe it's better they haven't, let it be a wonderful secret between friends.