Animals and Plants
What is growing there in Latvia?
There are still many forests in Latvia. It is the country in the European Union where the fifth most forest grows (after Sweden, Finland, Estonia and Slovenia). 56 percent of the country’s area is covered with forest.
Oak and linden are the national trees of Latvia. Spruce and birch grow particularly frequently. Pine trees in particular grow in the Baltic Sea. In addition to forests, you can see fields, pastures, moors and lakes when you drive through the country.
Which animals live in Latvia?
Typical forest animals that you also know are at home in Latvia: hares, deer, roe deer, foxes and wild boars are among them. But large mammals such as bison, elk and wolves can also be found in Latvia. Brown bears returned to the north and east. Otters and beavers frolic in the waters.
Birds also come in many species. Some species are endangered in other countries, but still occur in sufficient numbers in Latvia. These include the black stork, the corncrake, the lesser spotted eagle and the white-backed woodpecker.
Eating in Latvia
What do you eat in Latvia?
The cuisine in Latvia is rather hearty. Grains such as rye, wheat and oats are staple foods in Latvia. There are many types of bread and many dairy products are also eaten. There are also potatoes, cabbage and peas.
Meat is available with almost every main meal. A lot of fish is of course also served on the Baltic coast. Honey, blueberries and mushrooms are often used. There is little seasoning, especially with pepper, caraway seeds and dill.
What is Rupjmaize?
There are many types of bread, but the most popular is Rupjmaize. It is considered the national dish of Latvians. It is baked only from rye flour, without any light-colored flour. That’s why it’s getting very dark. Rupjmaize is also used to make a popular dessert. It’s called Rupjmaize kartojums. To do this, layer the crumbled bread, seasoned with sugar and cinnamon, in a transparent bowl with jam and cream. There is also bread soup.
Popular spice: caraway seeds
Caraway is often used as a spice, for example in caraway cheese, which is traditionally eaten on the midsummer festival. Also Sklandrausis is sprinkled with caraway. It’s a sweet pie made from rye flour, potatoes and carrots. You can bake them – you can find a recipe in the tip !
Children and School
How is the school in Latvia?
Latvian children start primary school at the age of seven, which they then attend for four years. Then it goes to secondary school for five years. The students are not split up but stay together until the 9th grade. With good grades you can then go to school, either in a general or vocational school. It is then three years to graduation. Then the students have their vidusskola diploma in hand.
Languages, grades and subjects
Classes are in Latvian. However, there are also Russian-speaking schools. There it is stipulated that from grade 10 onwards, at least 60 percent of the lessons must be in Latvian.
Grades are awarded from the 4th grade. The best grade is a 10, in Latvian the grade is iszili (excellent). Unfortunately, you failed with a 1 and a 2 or 3 lesson only lasts 40 minutes. Classes take place Mondays to Fridays, usually between 8.30 a.m. and 3 p.m. In the afternoon there are other offers, for example choirs or sports.
English is usually the first foreign language from the 3rd grade onwards, while Russian, French or German can be chosen as the second foreign language in the 6th grade. Other subjects besides Latvian are those you also know: history, mathematics, biology or chemistry, for example. Great emphasis is also placed on music lessons.
Holidays and teachers
The summer holidays start in June and last for three months! School does not start again until the beginning of September. Traditionally, the teachers are given flowers and gifts at the start of school. The teachers are not addressed by their name, but with skolotājs or skolotāja, which means teacher. That’s why you hear this word so often in schools! There are far more female teachers than there are teachers. Unfortunately, the job is rather poorly paid.
How do children live in Latvia?
Imagine if you were born in Latvia. You would probably like to sing. Latvians like to sing and they pass this tradition on to their children. There are big song festivals at which children also like to perform the Latvian folk songs.
You would celebrate midsummer and enjoy eating rye bread and sklandrausis, a pie with potatoes and carrots. You would start school when you were seven. Your class would stay together until the 9th grade. You would be happy about a 10, not at all about a 1!
In your free time you might also like to play ice hockey or support your club as a spectator. You can swim wonderfully in the many lakes in the country – and of course in the Baltic Sea too.
What are the names of the children in Latvia?
As a girl you would be called Anna, Kristine, Inese, Inga, Ilze, Liga or Dace. As a boy, you could be a Jannis, Andris, Juris, Edgars, Maris, Aivars, or Martins. Do you notice anything about the boy names? They all end in -s. Today it is a requirement that all male first and last names end in -s. This is how Russian names become Latvian, for example from Sergej Sergejs.
In 2016 a bill was submitted according to which only Latvian first names should be allowed anyway. This is difficult to accept for the Russians in the country. By the way, the most common surname in Latvia is Bērziņš. That means “birch”.
As in Estonia and Lithuania, people particularly like to sing in Latvia. Most Latvians sing along in a choir. There are big song festivals where people like to dress in traditional costume. The big song festival that takes place every five years in Riga is particularly well-known. The Dainas are typical. These are the traditional Latvian folk songs and poems. They are short, no more than four lines, and have no rhymes. They tell of Latvian myths, but also of everyday stories.
Midsummer in Latvia: Jāņi
Midsummer celebrations are particularly well known in Sweden, but in the other Scandinavian countries and the Baltic States this festival is celebrated at the summer solstice on June 24th. In Latvia this festival is called Jāņi. Both June 23rd and 24th are public holidays. Women traditionally adorn themselves with wreaths of flowers, men wear oak leaves. The front door and the gate are decorated with locust grass. You eat cheese and drink beer, sing and dance. The children go from house to house, decorated with wreaths and grass. The bonfires are lit before sunset.
According to neovideogames, Latvia’s national sport is ice hockey. In 2006 the World Cup took place in Riga. A well-known ice hockey player is Zemgus Girgensons.
In Latvia, the name day is often more important than the birthday for older people. You then invite the family and receive presents and sung about.