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Latvia Adventure Travel: If you're yearning to hit Europe's untrodden jackpot, cash in your chips in Latvia (Latvija).
Still undiscovered by the tourism masses, this sizzling Baltic sexpot is poised to become the continent's next A-list star.
A country in transition, hellbent on shedding its stalwart old-Soviet image, the Latvia of today is vibrant, enigmatic and altogether mesmerising.
Refreshingly unpretentious, Latvia manages to tantalise even the most jaded traveller.
Many arrive expecting little and leave overwhelmed, certain they've uncovered long-buried treasure.
Latvian amber was known in places as far away as Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire.
In the 12th century, German traders arrived, bringing with them missionaries who attempted to convert the pagan Finno-Ugric and Baltic tribes to the Christian faith.
The Germans founded Rīga in 1201, establishing it as the largest and most powerful city on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea.
After independence in 1918, Latvia achieved considerable results in social development, economy, industry and agriculture.
It has always been a multicultural melting point, where foreigners and locals worked together and brought prosperity to the country.
On June 16, 1940, Vyacheslav Molotov presented the Latvian representative in Moscow with an ultimatum accusing Latvia of violations of that pact, and on June 17 Soviet forces occupied the country.
Elections for a "People's Saeima" were held, and a puppet government headed by Augusts Kirhenšteins led Latvia into the USSR.
The annexation was formalized on August 5, 1940.
During the time of the Iron Curtain, Latvia was a province of the Soviet Union, but the concentration of heavy industry was enormous.
Contacts with the West were regulated.
The Baltic region had the reputation of being the most urbanized and having the highest literacy rate in the Soviet Union.
Latvia gained independence on September 6, 1991.
Between 1991 and 2007 the country saw unprecedented economic growth.
However, the global recession and the banking crisis hit Latvia brutally, and severe economic contraction and destructively high unemployment have returned.
Because of a tribal past and divisions between occupying nations, there are regional differences between parts of Latvia which are interesting to explore.