12 facts you didn’t know about Latvia

1. Over 50% of Latvia is covered by forest, and it’s one of the most environmentally friendly countries on the planet, ranking 2nd in the Environmental Performance Index.

2. Latvia has one of the highest rates of fashion models per capita in the world.

3. Latvia is the smallest nation to ever become a colonial power, as the Duchy of Courland set up a number of colonies in Tobago, Trinidad and Gambia in the 17th century (pictured: memorial cannons in Fort Jekabs, Tobago).

4. Latvia has the 5th fastest internet speed in the world, ranking between Hong Kong and the Netherlands.

5. Latvian/Baltic German Nobel prize winner Vilhelms Ostvalds developed the Ostwald process in 1902, which led to the mass production of explosives and fertilizers (which gave the world lots and LOTS of potatoes!)

6. Juris Upatnieks, a Latvian scientist, is one of the inventors and pioneers of 3D holography.

7. A Latvian-Jewish tailor named Jākobs Jufess invented the jeans (Levi Strauss backed him financially).

8. Latvia holds one of the largest song and dance festivals in the world (with over 40,000 participants), while choir singers and conductors are celebrities in Latvia. Latvia also has one of the largest collections of traditional folk songs in the world, numbering over 300,000.

9. The Latvian culture still retains many Baltic pagan traditions, such as the celebration of the Summer solstice (Jāņi in Latvian), when all Latvians flock to the countryside to drink copious amounts of beer, to dance, and to light huge bonfires and engage in an activity called ‘seeking the fern flower’ (hint: it’s a Latvian euphemism for having sex in the forest, which is an integral part of the festivity).

10. Latvia is one of only 3 countries in the world, along with Canada and Finland, where ice hockey is the most popular type of sport.

11. Latvian is one of the most archaic/oldest European languages and it has conserved many features of the over 5,000 year-old Proto-Indo-European, which is the ancestral language to all European languages.
12. When Swedish Vikings were at the height of their power in 1187, ancient Latvian chiefdoms not only repelled their attacks and remained independent, but one of them (the Curonians) sent a fleet of ships to the Swedish capital of Sigtuna and burned it to the ground.

via @ imguru

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