Best Enjoyed Slowly

“Best Enjoyed Slowly” – so runs the new tourism slogan for Latvia, a country not well known for tourism, but which is the out of the way place I’m currently lucky enough to be visiting.  While I would venture to say that most of life is best enjoyed slowly, I’m happy to say that I’ve been able to follow this advice particularly well in a country that, while it may lack the well known attractions of a France, has plenty of its own to offer those with the patience to enjoy it.

The Latvian beach stretches for nearly the length of the country.

The Latvian beach stretches for nearly the length of the country.

Among the many things I’ve found to enjoy here have been the Baltic Sea with miles upon miles of sandy beach, the immense forests filled with Birch trees and the beautifully preserved capital city of Riga.  Still, more than all these things – each of which is worthy of attention – I have enjoyed getting to know the distinct culture of this small nation, a culture which has survived against the odds over the centuries.

The symbol of Latvia's independence, the Freedom Monument is truly a symbol of the country.

The symbol of Latvia’s independence, the Freedom Monument is truly a symbol of the country.

Nestled between the other Baltic States in the Northeast corner of Europe, Latvia, like its neighbors, really has a culture all its own.  It is only that in

After six months of winter spring is a really special event.

After six months of winter spring is a really special event.

Latvia’s case its cultural isolation may have been even more extreme without a friendly neighboring country to pull closer to.  In fact, Latvia’s strongest influences have come from nations that sought to dominate it: Germany – whose influence is still visible in architecture and culture – and Russia – whose occupation has left a very large Russian minority living in the country.

Perhaps as a reaction to these outside pressures, Latvians have clung to their own culture all the more fiercely, although perhaps fiercely is the wrong word for a people who are so peaceful and quiet, in which case perhaps steadfastly is the more appropriate word.  Choice of word aside, this distinct culture  – the proud possession of a just over a million people, has preserved a unique language, a great body of literature and a strong musical tradition, all despite eight centuries of invasions and a scant 50 years as an independent nation.

Sunset on the Daugava River

Sunset on the Daugava River

Attempting to define a culture in words is a business best left to literary masterpieces, since lesser efforts almost inevitably come out sounding like cliches or trite stereotypes.  Even so, the slow time I’ve spent here has been time well spent and yet another reminder that its not in the checking off of lists of monuments seen and museums visited but through the experiencing of new peoples and cultures that travel gains its value.

“Without culture, and the relative freedom it implies, society, even when perfect, is but a jungle. This is why any authentic creation is a gift to the future.”
― Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays
Categories: An Out of The Way Place, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Best Enjoyed Slowly

  1. On a related note, I’m proud to be featured on “The Departure Board”‘s Picture the World Project for my photo of Latvia. Be sure to check out the photo and all the other amazing photos they’ve collected from around the world already! http://www.thedepartureboard.com/picture-the-world-project-latvia

    • How wonderful! Congrats on your picture with The Departure Board. You’ve inspired me to fill an unrepresented country with a picture, hopefully no one will beat me to it. 🙂

      • That’s great! There’s nothing I love more than hearing I inspired someone 🙂 Let me know if you fill a country so I can check it out!

  2. I’ve only had the opportunity to visit Riga, but fell in love with the country on that visit and would love to go back.

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