Cultural life in Vidzeme and Zemgale
First written evidence about Vidzeme dates back to the 13th century. Since then Vidzeme has been ruled by Germans, Poles, Swedes, and Russians whose influence is still present in the cultural landscape of the region. There are countless preserved ruins of medieval castles, churches of various architectural styles, times and confessions, castle mounds of the ancient Livs and Latgalls, and farmyards. Vidzeme is called the cradle of the culture of Latvia, because it has been the birthplace of several distinguished Latvian writers, poets, and musicians. Twenty-four percent of all Latvian state and municipal museums are located in Vidzeme (0.09 museums per 1000 inhabitants, the national average being 0.05 per 1000 inhabitants). The museums of Vidzeme (state accredited municipal museums, institutional and private museums) each fulfill their own functions. Valmiera is the home of the only professional theatre in the region. Many of the country’s state protected cultural monuments are located in Vidzeme, which makes them an important part of the region’s cultural environment.
Zemgale – a flourishing region, rich in cultural and historical heritage – is situated in the south central part of the state, which comprises of Aizkraukle, Bauska, Dobele, Jēkabpils districts and Jelgava city.
Zemgale has everything what the heart desires – blooming rye, potato and rape fields, extending as far as horizon, beautiful windmills, numerous theatre and music festivals, and rich fairs held in spring and autumn. You will also find there the best places for picking berries and mushrooms and for going fishing. There are ancient and modern guest houses in Tervete or Bauska, where you can enjoy the beer brewed of home-grown barley, bacon pies and other ecologically pure country benefits.
General information on cultural events in Lativa:
More information on cultural events in Zemgale:
More information on cultural events in Vidzeme:
Religious life in Latvia has always been unique for its centuries-old variety of religious beliefs. Latvia's own oldest religion is based in a belief of natural deities.These ancient traditions are preserved in Latvian folk songs and legends.
Christianity arrived in Latvia through the missionaries and crusaders in the 12th and 13th centuries. The Reformation had a significant impact on Latvia and since the 17th century, the main religion in Latvia is Lutheranism. Also, Russian Orthodoxy spread in Latvia as part of the Russification policies of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. The oldest Old-Believers' parish in the world is located in Latvia. Old-Believers' origins in Latvia trace back to the 18th century.
Independent Latvia (1918-1939) offered extensive religious freedom. With the Soviet occupation in 1940 the importance and influence of the church was greatly diminished. Over the years of Soviet occupation, religious organizations were closely supervised by the state, and religious believers were harassed and persecuted. Major churches in major cities in Latvia were turned into museums or concert halls, while smaller regional churches were allowed to deteriorate, collapse or turned into warehouses, silos and other facilities.
At the end of the 1980's, many of the restrictions were lifted and with the reinstatement of the independence of Latvia in 1990, a restoration of religious freedoms followed. In the past few years, congregations have regained their former properties, many churches are undergoing renovations and the rights of religious organizations are once again guaranteed by law. Currently there are about 30 religious confessions active in Latvia.
Latvian food typically consists of agricultural products and meat features in most of the dishes. Since Latvia is situated on the east coast of the Baltic Sea, fish is also often served.
Latvian cuisine has been influenced by the neighboring countries. Common ingredients in Latvian recipes are found locally, such as potatoes, wheat, barley, cabbage, onions, eggs and pork. Latvian food is generally quite fatty, and uses few spices. A typical example would be boiled grey peas with pieces of bacon. In fact, gray peas and ham are generally considered the stereotypical staple foods of Latvians.
A traditional Latvian cheese is caraway cheese; this is traditionally served during the celebration of midsummer. Other dishes are borshch (beet soup), rasols (potato salad), and sauerkraut. There is also a Latvian version of the smorgasbord. Like many Eastern European countries Latvia has its own version of pīrāgi, which is a customary, Latvian snack-sized roll of baked dough filled with bacon, ham and spices. Popular drinks are beer, vodka and balzam. Pickled mushrooms are also a Latvian speciality.
In order to get to know better the Via Hanseatica region one has to stop in pubs, cafes and restaurants and try the food and drinks made from ecologically pure products. Menus are very varied: there are different kinds of snacks, salads, meat, fish and vegetarian dishes, deserts. In addition to this, a wide selection of drinks is offered, which include Latvian beer and of course Riga Black Balsam. Gourmands will be pleased with dishes from game meat, mushrooms and forest berries. In every pub you will have a chance to enjoy the taste of real rye-bread. Pastries have a special place in menus as well: patties, pies and cakes are offered.