Mushrooming in Latvia, August 2023

When my guide for the day asked me if I knew anyone else who had been to Latvia I thought for a moment then replied no. Apparently that’s the usual response so it feels like I now belong to an exclusive club.
Latvia sits on the Baltic Sea – next to Russia and opposite Sweden. Eighty percent of the country is covered in forest and they are an outdoor-loving people. Latvians are very proud of their ice hockey team but the national sport enjoyed by most people is foraging for wild mushrooms in the forest!
The first settlements in Latvia were German sea-traders of the Hanseatic League back in the 13th century. The Swedish King then took charge for a couple of centuries, before Soviet occupiers and then liberation in 1991.
I’ve spent a few days in the capital city Riga and a then couple of days exploring the countryside and Baltic coast. Riga has a quaint medieval old town with cobblestone streets, pastel coloured buildings, piercing church spires and an obligatory castle. The wider city is also renowned for its numerous elegant Art Nouveau architectural style buildings. The Latvian countryside is dotted with medieval castles built by Crusader knights- the locals belonged to the Livonian Brothers of the Sword, and later the Teutonic Knights. Warm late-summer days have been the perfect time to cycle along the Baltic coastline and try my hand at mushroom foraging!
Latvians have a unique perspective on the world- of mostly Lutheran religion who love their beer and mashed potatoes stemming from their German roots, and with a lifestyle that leans towards Scandinavian but with a persistent Soviet hangover.
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