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Latvia Information - Page 1
Geography
The Republic of Latvia is in Eastern Europe and is bordered by the Baltic Sea, Estonia, Russia, Belarus and Lithuania.

Riga is the capital city and main port. Daugavpils is Latvia's second largest city. Other cities include Jelgava, Jurmala, Liepaja, Rezekne and Ventspils.

Latvia's longest rivers are the Daugava and the Gauja. The country's terrain is mostly flat. Gaizinkalns (312 m above sea level) near Cesvaine is Latvia's highest point.

The weather can be hot in summer (20-28°C) and cold in winter, with snow.

Environment
Latvia has established a system of national parks to protect its environment. The Gauja National Park covers the area surrounding the Gauja River. Other national parks include Kemeri National Park and Slitere National Park. Latvia also has many nature reserves.

The UNESCO MAB North Vidzeme Biosphere Reserve covers coniferous and mixed forests, wetlands, raised bogs and open bog pools, fens and wet meadows, lakes and rivers, coastal dunes and marine area.

Latvia also has a number of regions listed by Ramsar as Wetlands of International Importance: Lake Engure, Lake Kanieris, Lubana Wetland Complex, Northern Bogs (Ziemelu purvi), Pape Wetland Complex and Teicu and Pelecares bogs.

The country's wetlands attract numerous birds. There are many bird-watching sites, for example in Liepaja, on a bird migration route, and Kolkasrags, one of the best places to see birds in Latvia.

Architecture
The historic centre of Riga is a World Heritage site. A thriving centre of the mercantile Hanseatic League, the wealth of the League is reflected in Riga's medieval architecture. Some of the oldest medieval houses, known as the Three Brothers, are in Maza Pils Street.

The Dome Church in Riga, dating from the thirteenth century, is an impressive medieval building. Other thirteenth century churches in Riga are St. Jacob’s Church, St John's Church and St Peter’s Church.

In the nineteenth century Riga was an important economic centre. During this period various buildings of note were constructed. Riga is recognized as having the best Art Nouveau (Jugendstil) architecture in Europe. Examples of Art Nouveau architecture can be seen in Alberta, Elizabetes and Strelnieku Streets.

Population
The population of Latvia was estimated at 2,245,423 in 2008.

Languages
Latvian (also known as Lettish) is the official language.

Religion
The main religion is Lutheran. There are some Roman Catholics and a Russian Orthodox minority.

Food
Traditional Latvian cuisine includes soups, rye bread, blood sausages and piragi (meat, bacon and onion pastries).

Main meals consist of meat (chicken, pork, veal and beef) or fish (including salmon and trout) with vegetables such as potatoes, beans, peas, cabbage, carrots, onions and mushrooms. Dairy products are part of the Latvian diet.

Favourite desserts are pastries and fruit: apples, cranberries, raspberries and red currants. Honey is used as a sweetener.

Beer is a traditional Latvian drink. Coffee is usually preferred in the morning and tea in the evening. Various juices and drinks like cola are also popular.

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