Travel & Tourism: Lettlands weiße Küste. Vom Zauber einer Sommernacht. Eine arte Dokumentation über die Mitsommersnachtswende am Kap Kolka.

Image: Jūrmala in Latvia. Double click on the image to enlarge.

Die Mitsommersonnenwende ist ganz sicher das wichtigste Fest in Lettland. Am Kap Kolka – hier treffen die vergleichsweise raue Ostsee und der ruhige Meerbusen von Rīga aufeinander – leben noch ein paar hundert Menschen, die dem Stamm der Liven angehören. Kap Kolka ist vor allem im Sommer ein magischer Ort, denn es ist der einzige in Lettland, von wo aus man sowohl den Sonnenaufgang als auch den Sonnenuntergang im Meer beobachten kann. Dann verbringen die Bewohner des Dofes Kolka – und mit ihnen zahlreiche Besucher – die kürzeste Nacht des Jahres in der Natur. Die Produktion von arte ist bis mindestens 19. Juli 2021 zu sehen.

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Economy & Politics: The Orchestra of the National Guard of the Latvian Republic plays another song to make you again feel good

Image: The Vanšu Bridge in Rīgā. In the background you can see the SWEDBANK and both Z-Towers. Double click on the image to enlarge.

The National Guard of the Republic of Latvia – the Zemessardze – is an army made up entirely of volunteers. Today it has a little over 10,000 members. Its history is closely linked to the breakup of Latvia from the former occupying power of the Soviet Union. The Republic of Latvia, which had declared itself independent, saw the need for a militarily organized force for protection within the country in 1991 after the fighting over the barricades in Rīga and the Soviet OMON’s command of the Latvian border stations with several border guards killed. Today the Zemessardze also takes on general disaster control tasks. The following youtube video is performed by a handful of cool Latvian kids and Antra Stafecka and the Zemessardze.

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Travel & Tourism: A glimmer of hope in the middle of the Corona crisis – Lufthansa and airBaltic announce code share program for the end of March 2021

For customers, code share between airlines has a number of advantages. You can book flights continuously, for example Leipzig-Halle to Munich with Lufthansa and from Munich to Riga with airBaltic. The baggage is passed between the two aircraft. There is only one contractual partner for the entire trip. With the experiences I made on flights with airBaltic and Lufthansa, I have to say that there is no difference when it comes to safety and comfort. Both offer outstanding business class. airBaltic has probably the most modern fleet of any airline. It operates exclusively the brand new Airbus A220-300.

Lufthansa and airBaltic have announced that they will be using common code shares for their flights from March 28, 2021. According to a press release from airBaltic dated February 16, 2021, the agreement initially applies to the routes between Munich, Vilnius and Riga. The code share agreement is a good thing for both airlines and customers. Lufthansa has a global network of flight connections, while airBaltic is particularly active in the Baltic States and Eastern Europe. If we are ever allowed to travel normally again, that will give us as customers more connections between Munich and the Baltic capitals.

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Economy & Politics: The Orchestra of the National Guard of the Latvian Republic plays a song to make you feel good

Image: Mūsu Zeme means "My Home". Double click on the image to enlarge.

The National Guard of the Republic of Latvia – the Zemessardze – is an army made up entirely of volunteers. Today it has a little over 10,000 members. Its history is closely linked to the breakup of Latvia from the former occupying power of the Soviet Union. The Republic of Latvia, which had declared itself independent, saw the need for a militarily organized force for protection within the country in 1991 after the fighting over the barricades in Rīga and the Soviet OMON’s command of the Latvian border stations with several border guards killed. Today the Zemessardze also takes on general disaster control tasks.

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Geschichte: Rīga – Das Polytechnikum von den Anfängen zur modernen Universität

The Polytechnic, Riga, Russia, (i.e., Latvia)] digital file from original - Library of Congress

Nach dem Ende des für Russland verlorenen Krimkrieges 1856 entwickelte sich Rīga innerhalb weniger Jahre zu einem der wenigen industriellen Zentren des Riesenreiches. Mit der wirtschaftlichen Entwicklung wuchs auch der Bedarf an gut ausgebildetem Personal für die Baubranche, Industriebetriebe, den Eisenbahnbau und dem Aufbau eines Telegrafennetzes. Überall wurden neben Arbeitern auch Ingenieure gebraucht. Es wurde klar, dass man in den Baltischen Ostseeprovinzen komplett auf Spezialisten aus dem Ausland angewiesen war. Rīga war bis dahin eine Kaufmann– und Handwerkerstadt – und es gab im gesamten Baltikum keine Technische Universität. Wer Ingenieurwissenschaften, Chemie oder Architektur studieren wollte, ging zumeist an die Universitäten in das deutschsprachige Kernland oder in die Schweiz. Sprachliche Barrieren gab es ja nicht.

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History: Rīga – The Polytechnic from the foundation to the modern university

Image: The Polytecnic - now Latvijas Universitāte - in Rīgā. Double click on the image to enlarge.

After the end of the Crimean War, which Russia lost in 1856, Rīga developed into one of the few industrial centers of the gigantic empire within a few years. With the economic development, the need for well-trained personnel for the construction industry, industrial companies, railway construction and the establishment of a telegraph network also grew. In addition to workers, engineers were needed everywhere. It became clear that the Baltic provinces were completely dependent on specialists from abroad. Up until then, Rīga was a town of merchants and craftsmen – and there was no technical university in the entire Baltic region. Those who wanted to study engineering, chemistry or architecture mostly went to universities in the German-speaking heartland or in Switzerland. There were no language barriers.

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Infrastructure: Rīga – Bridges over the Daugava – The Akmens tilts

Image: The Akmens tilts - Stone Bridge - in Rīgā. Double click on the image to enlarge.

The connection of the districts to the right and left banks of the Daugava in Rīgā has always been economically important. In the past, a pontoon bridge connected the east and west of the city. There was also the Zemgale Bridge, which was designed as a combined rail and pedestrian bridge. The Zemgale Bridge was destroyed in 1944. Therefore, in Soviet times, from 1951, the planning of a new road bridge over the Daugava, today’s Akmens tilts – stone bridge. This bridge followed the course of the pontoon bridge from the old town to the Torņakalns district.

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Infrastructure: Rīga – Bridges over the Daugava – The Vanšu tilts

Image: The Vanšu Bridge in Rīgā. In the background you can see the SWEDBANK and both Z-Towers. Double click on the image to enlarge.

The Vanšu Bridge was opened in July 1981. Latvia was still part of the Soviet Union at that time. The bridge was named after the Russian-Soviet writer Maxim Gorky. Technically, the bridge is still a masterpiece today. It is designed as a cable-stayed bridge with only one pylon at a height of 109 meters. At the time of its opening, it was the longest cable-stayed bridge in Europe with a length of 625 meters. The Vanšu Bridge is the northernmost of a total of 4 road bridges that cross the Daugava in the urban area of Rīgā.

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Economy & Politics: Why the Latvian airline airBaltic now only uses a fleet of Airbus A220-300

Image: airBaltic Bombardier CS300 at Rīga Airport. Recorded in October 2017. Today airBaltic has still only the modern and fuel efficient Airbus A220-300 in service. Double click on the image to enlarge.

The CEO of the Latvian airline and commercial pilot, Martin Gauss, is visibly enthusiastic about the Airbus A220-300. The aircraft was originally designed and built by Bombardier as the CS300. The type certification by Transport Canada took place in December 2015. airBaltic was the first customer to receive the first production aircraft at the end of November 2016. However, Bombardier ran into financial difficulties due to high development costs and delays in the project. After a sale of the CS300 to the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer failed, Airbus had a majority of 75% in this aircraft program by 2020. The Canadian province of Québec holds the remaining 25%.

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Economy & Politics: The Latvian airline airBaltic has published unaudited consolidated financial results for the first six months of 2020

Image: airBaltic Boeing 737 at Stockholm Arlanda Airport. Recorded by johanwiden69 - pixabay. Today airBaltic has still only the modern and fuel efficient Airbus A220-300 in service. Double click on the image to enlarge.

Because of the corona crisis and the resulting ban on operations, which lasted 62 days, the Latvian airline airBaltic had to accept severe losses in sales and passenger numbers in the first half of 2020. This is shown by the quarterly figures published on Wednesday, August 26th, 2020. In the first half of 2020, sales fell from € 219.5 million in the same period of 2019 to € 82.5 million. The number of passengers fell from 2.2 million to 800,000 over the same period. The loss amounts to € 184.8 million in the first half of 2020 compared to € 26.6 million in the first half of 2019. airBaltic is a stock corporation that is now slightly more than 96 percent owned by the Latvian state due to corona factors.

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Economy & Politics: The Latvian airline airBaltic is postponing the acquisition of new A220 NEO aircraft

Image: airBaltic Boeing 737 at Tallinn Airport. Recorded in August 2013. Today airBaltic has still only the modern and fuel efficient Airbus A220-300 in service. Double click on the image to enlarge.

The Latvian airline airBaltic is postponing the acquisition of new A220 NEO aircraft. It is also the only remaining scheduled airline in the three Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. airBaltic currently only operates a fleet of 22 Airbus A220-300s – formerly Bombardier C-Series – on medium-haul routes. AirBaltic originally wanted to fleet 28 additional A220-300s by 2023. But then came the COVID-19 pandemic, which also hit airBaltic very hard and practically overnight. It has been revealed that airBaltic has reached an agreement with Airbus to postpone delivery of the 28 A220-30 units to 2024, likely in the hope that the air travel market will pick up again then.

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Travel & Tourism: Why the Germans are no longer allowed to enter Latvia or have to go into quarantine

Image: The Central Market in Rīga. Recorded in October 2014. Double click on the image to enlarge.

Latvia has a rigid policy towards foreigners since the outbreak of COVID-19. There has never been a social lock down in this country like in Germany, but the small Baltic country has been largely free of the virus since March 2020 through border closings and operating bans for the Riga airport and a temporary ban on cross-border traffic. The number of cases of COVID-19 has therefore so far been limited. For people entering Latvia, the rule is that no more than 16 cases per 100,000 inhabitants may be infected in the country of origin. Germany exceeded this threshold with 16.3 per 100,000 inhabitants last Friday.

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Economy & Politics: Why the poverty line determined by Latvian lawmakers is unconstitutional

Image: Economic well-being appears to be more important than social justice in Latvia. Modern office buildings in the Teika district in the Latvian capital Rīga. Recorded in May 2019. Double click on the image to enlarge.

Latvia is undoubtedly not a country for social romanticists. There is no special social assistance system for disability and the elderly. However, those who are not entitled to disability benefits and old-age pensions can, under certain circumstances, receive the basic social security benefit (Valsts sociālā nodrošinājuma pabalsts). A family or individual is only considered to be in need if the average monthly income of each family member in the past three months has been less than EUR 128.06. Social benefits are only given to those who do not have savings, possessions or other support lines. You also have to be registered as unemployed with the State Employment Agency. For people with an employment but a lower income than 64, – EURO per month, there are special regulations, such as housing subsidy or a subsidy for the purchase of food.

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Economy & Politics: What the results of the EU Corona Summit mean for Latvia financially

Image: The global economy is suffering from the corona crisis, including Latvia. Port facility in the Sarkandaugava district in Rīga. Picture taken 2014. Double click on the image to enlarge.

At a special summit on July 21, 2020, the representatives of the EU countries agreed on the largest financial package in their history in the fight against the corona economic crisis. The package comprises a total of 1.8 trillion euros – thereof 1074 billion euros for the next seven-year budget and 750 billion euros for an economic and investment program to counter the economic consequences of the pandemic crisis. For this, debts are being raised on a large scale for the 27 member states, then the money is redistributed and repaid together over decades.

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