- General Info
Area: 64 589 km² (24 938 miles²)
Capital: Riga. Population: 727 578
Population: 2.3 million
Currency: Latvian Lat (LVL symbol Ls) = 100 santims
Government: Republic. Gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Tipping: Restaurant bills usually include a tip. It is customary to give a little extra for good service.
Legal drinking age: 18
Time zone: GMT + 2 (GMT + 3 from last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October)
Latvia: Social customs
Handshaking is customary. Normal courtesies should be observed. The Latvians are somewhat reserved and formal, but nevertheless very hospitable. They are proud of their culture, and visitors should takeRead more care to respect this sense of national identity.
Latvia: Food and local specialties
Hors d’oeuvres are very good and often the best part of the meal. Overall, cuisine can be heavy but almost always tasty and nourishing. The national specialties are: Kotletes (meat patties). Skabu kapostuRead more zupa (cabbage soup). Alexander Torte (raspberry- or cranberry-filled pastry strips). Sweetbread soup with dried fruit. Piragi (pastry filled with bacon and onions). Riga’s Black Balsam is a thick, black alcoholic liquid which has been produced since 1700. The exact recipe is a closely guarded secret, but some of the ingredients include ginger, oak bark, bitter orange peel and cognac. It is drunk either with coffee or mixed with vodka. There are several good local beers, including the dark beer Bauskas Tumsais and the pale Gaisais. Kvass is a refreshing summer drink. Sparkling wine is popular.
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