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I first lived in Latvia as a diplomat from 1996-1999. I returned to live in Latvia in 2022. This story-telling and reportage podcast is my personal observation of aspects of life in Latvia and things to see and experience.
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Before getting ready to celebrate America's independence day, Otto and Joe sit down to discuss some major stories of the week such as planned tough new road safety measures following a week of deadly crashes, the first few days of same sex partnerships in Latvia, more plans for renewable energy, the NATO summit, and much more!Opening and closing mu…
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Having just celebrated midsummer Līgo/Jāņi celebrations in the US state of Maine, Joe sits down to talk about major stories such as more headaches for both rail and road travel, Kristaps Porzinģis' success on the Boston Celtics, a final goodbye to Rezekne City Council, coalition shakeups, plant protein plans in Liepāja, and much more!Theme song "Mē…
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To get into the midsummer spirit, Joe drives a bit outside of the city to sit down with "ZELT" Sea Buckthorn Garden co-founder Eduards Vilks to discuss his and partner Elīna's experiences in setting up a major agricultural endeavour as well as some of the most interesting aspects of the not yet so well known sea buckthorns, or smiltsērkšķi in Latvi…
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With the results of the European Parliament election in, Otto and Joe break down the biggest takeaways and discuss a few other stories such as the mounting costs of the Rail Baltic project, possible prosecution for a controversial former member of European Parliament, the passing of a literary giant, and more!Theme song "Mēs esam ārzemnieki" by Aar…
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With temperatures above 30 degrees in some places, Joe discusses the hot weather as well as a few other important stories from the week. He also sits down with a few students who have participated in the ENGtegrationForUkraine project's free English lessons for Ukrainian refugees that Otto and Joe have been organizing. If you have not yet done so, …
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Please support our project by sharing this link as widely as possible!https://gogetfunding.com/help-ukrainian-refugees-in-latvia-continue-learning-english-2/Joe sits down with co-host and fellow project organizer Otto Tabuns, head teacher Kris Akenfelds, and volunteer Sydnee Wilke to discuss the ENGtegrationForUkraine project to provide free Englis…
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The "ziemeļblāzma" (northern lights) shining above Latvia last weekend seem to have been a good sign, with singer Dons securing Latvia's best Eurovision result since 2016 and a string of victories to open the 2024 International Ice Hockey Federation Championships. Otto and Joe discuss these and other issues including more headaches for Rail Baltic,…
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Those who took their winter tires off might have done so too soon as winter returned with a vengeance early this week. Otto and Joe discuss the strange weather along with new developments in the plan to move away from Russian as a second foreign language in schools, Minister of Culture Agnese Logina surviving a no confidence vote, military training…
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As Latvia's likely new foreign minister gets introduced to the public, Latvia's previous foreign minister deals with the continued fallout from a questionable amount of state and EU funding being used on private jet flights. Otto and Joe meet to discuss the newest developments to this story as well as going through good news for animal rights activ…
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Mežaparks is a suburb of Rīga, Latvia's capital. It is a beautiful area of villas, a forest park, and a zoo. The Englishman George Armitstead, while Mayor of Rīga, created it in 1901 as the first Garden City in the world. Join me as we explore this delightful neighbourhood of Rīga and learn of its fascinating history. Walk with me through the park,…
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Sir Stephen Tallents was a distinguished British civil servant and a trailblazer in public relations. I focus on his work in Latvia between 1919 - 1920. Due to his skill and determination, he assisted Latvia and the other newly independent Baltic States to achieve peace and prosperity for 20 years. His story is fascinating. Join me as we learn more…
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While Krišjānis Kariņš has resigned from the post of foreign minister after mounting criticism over his use of private jets while prime minister and the announcement of criminal proceedings for those involved with arranging them, Mayor of Jelgava District Madars Lasmanis hangs onto his position despite a widely spread video of seemingly indecent be…
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Latvia has a rich music scene, from classical music to the internationally acclaimed Song and Dance Festival, ancient folklore dainas, and a thriving popular music culture. In 2000, Latvia even came third in the Eurovision Song Contest! Not bad for a country of 1.8 million people. In this episode, we will explore the folklore, classical and popular…
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Otto and Joe explain the difference between the Latvian words "degt" and "dedzināt," especially in the context of one dangerous tradition, before discussing major stories of the week such as the rapid approval and beginning of border defense construction, a major resignation in the wake of passenger rail difficulties, criminal proceedings for a for…
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For a visitor to Latvia, there is a massive choice of public transport. From trains, buses, smaller mini-buses, trolleybuses, trams, and coaches. There are also a few taxis. A few of these forms of public transport are brand-new. Many give you a feel for life during the Soviet occupation. There was even a song written about my favourite tram line! …
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On a gloomy day that marks two years since Russia's unprovoked wide-scale invasion of Ukraine, Otto and Joe discuss major stories of the week such as Latvia's massive assistance to Ukraine, a new depth to Rēzekne's financial governance troubles, a farewell to one of Latvia's most controversial members of parliament, and much more!Photo: Valsts kanc…
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With temperatures fluctuating between around -30 and +5 degrees Celsius throughout Latvia over the past week, Otto and Joe discuss the effects on infrastructure as well as a number of other news stories from the week.Photo: Emilian Robert Vicol, used with a Creative Commons BY 2.0 DEED Attribution 2.0 Generic licenseTheme song "Mēs esam ārzemnieki"…
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After briefly discussing the bitter cold that's caused more than a few problems for Latvia's new electric trains, Otto and Joe count down the top 10 biggest stories of 2023 and announce the Latvia Weekly person of the year."Auld Lang Syne" performed by Starlifter and Roots in Blue of the United States Air Force Band of Mid-America. Track 11 from th…
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It's an exciting time for Latvian passenger rail, as not only long promised new electric trains are finally in service, but daily train service to Vilnius has finally been reestablished! Joe discusses the exciting news along with a number of other news stories from the past month while he was recovering from illness including the ratification of th…
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Latvia is a nation that loves sport. it has achieved outstanding sporting success. We will examine that success. We will look at the most popular sports in Latvia, some Latvian sporting heroes, and share some of the proud glory from 2023’s success in ice hockey and basketball. Above all, I wanted to discover why this small country was so good at ce…
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Every Saturday until December 23rd, German musician Jöran Steinhauer will be playing a series of free holiday season concerts at St. Peter's Church in Riga that all are welcome to attend. Joe sits down with Jöran to discuss German, Latvian, and American holiday traditions, the internationalization of the holiday season, and much more!Music: Jingle …
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Joe sits down with Eamonn Shanahan (IE) and Katrīna Tračuma (LV), artists of the international "Nua Collective" which will be opening an exhibition called "Blackout" about climate change and the energy crisis on December 9 in the Jelgava Old Town House. To find out more about the exhibition, you can visit their website here!https://nuacollective.ie…
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The Suiti are a 400-year-old ethnic Latvian group. They are Catholic people in the centre of the Kurzeme region in western Latvia, surrounded by Lutherans. They preserved their culture over the years by never marrying someone from a different ethnic group or religion. This has resulted in the Suiti developing distinct traditions. The Suiti are crea…
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As temperatures drop to -10 Celsius in parts of Latvia, Otto and Joe discuss major stories such as Sigulda's renewed Olympic dreams, President Rinkēvičs' trip to Israel and the West Bank, the strangest police confiscation of white powder imaginable, and much more!Theme song "Mēs esam ārzemnieki" by Aarzemnieki, used with permissionClosing theme son…
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Otto and Joe sit discuss the meaning of the 18th of November in Latvia along with some major stories from the previous week, such as the passing and then pausing of new amendments to the civil partnership laws, the announcement of major new transit infrastructure projects in Riga, sentencing for two badly behaved former parliamentarians, and much m…
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Otto is back with Joe to discuss commemoration of Latvia's most important military victory in its history, as well as other stories such as controversy over a new sign for Riga Central Station, Major new legislation projects over hot button issues, the dismissal of Rezekne's mayor, good news for regional train service, and much more!With Otto in Am…
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Anatole ‘Tony’ Lapine lived a dream to be a great car designer. He was chief designer at Porsche for nearly 20 years, one of only four chief designers at the car maker since it was founded exactly 75 years ago. He had a hand in shaping some of the most impressive and iconic sports cars ever. Despite being a refugee from war-torn Latvia, his story i…
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With Otto in America, Joe takes a look at some of the biggest stories of the week including new survey results regarding language, the opening of a new high speed road, troubles with teacher salary calculations, the shelving of a chaotic income declaration proposal, help from Estonia for Latvia's border situation, and much more!Theme song "Mēs esam…
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On a bright weekend at the end of September, I went to Kuldīga. The town was buzzing with people, strolling the cobbled streets, sitting at cafes, walking down to the waterfall. The small electric tourist buses were full. Why? Kuldīga had been added to the UNESCO World Heritage list a few weeks beforehand. In tourism terms, that is a huge thing. We…
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With the first snow having fallen in Latvia as part of a weekend storm, Otto and Joe discuss seasonal issues such as the lowering of speed limits throughout the country along with other major stories like bomb threats to schools and kindergartens Latvia's support for Israel following Hamas' attacks, and more expensive alcohol taxes over the next fe…
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Otto and Joe look back on the biggest stories of the last few weeks, including the surprise election of Daiga Mieriņa as the new Speaker of Parliament, major developments in the criminal processes for two long-controversial politicians, harsh new penalties for intoxicated drivers, a major honor for the town of Kuldiga, and much more!heme song "Mēs …
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Ķemeri is a former resort in Latvia. It has seen many highs, like being regarded as an outstanding spa of the Russian Empire, rebuilt to be one of the finest resorts in the Baltics during Latvia’s first independence, and later developed into a sanatorium for the Soviet elite during the Russian occupation. To the lows of being destroyed during the W…
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In the 1990s, while working as a diplomat in Latvia, I bought three paintings by the artist Edgars Valdmanis. I found the first one in a gallery in Rīga’s old town. It is a landscape with trees in the pointillism impressionist style. Soon, I had my second and third paintings from this artist. The third one, a winter scene complimenting my spring an…
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"Jauns" is the Latvian word of the week as Otto and Joe discuss the newly agreed upon coalition before taking a look at a number of important stories from regions all over Latvia, such as Valmiera's local government under investigation for corruption, an eye-raising 1.7 million euro playground in Ogre, a requirement for all municipalities to have t…
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Latvia has a rich history in film and animation making. It is also re-emerging as a significant industry. Latvia is the choice location for many European and UK films. I will take you on a tour of Latvia’s Cinevilla studio. We will explore the history of Latvian film and animation and discover a few fascinating characters. We will visit the Latvian…
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The first of September is "Zīnibu diena" (Knowledge day) in Latvia, and Otto and Joe are back in Jelgava for not just the beginning of a new school year, but also to discuss stories such as the formation of a new three-party coalition, Latvia's jaw-dropping performance at the FIBA World Cup, the planned resumption of rail service between Latvia and…
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Joe sits down with Alan Anstead, a former British diplomat who lived in Latvia in the 1990s and returned to live in Latvia last year and start producing the "An Englishman in Latvia" podcast. The two discuss connections between the UK and Latvia, how things have changed since the 1990s, some of the best places to visit in the country, and much more…
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Latgale is Latvia's easternmost region and the country's poorest. It is a region of contrasts, with some distinct cultural differences from the rest of Latvia. For example, while most of Latvia is Lutheran, Latgale is predominantly Roman Catholic. The region’s history helps explain the religious differences in Latgale and its ethnic diversity. I sp…
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After years of climbing the ladder of Rīga city government, Jaunā Vienotība's Vilnis Ķirsis gets his turn in the big chair as the new chair, or priekšsēdētājs, of city council — but how long will he able to manage a rowdy coalition of factions already sharpening their knives ahead of the 2025 municipal elections? Otto and Joe break discuss his pros…
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After making history as the first ever Latvian prime minister to last from one regularly scheduled election to another, Krisjānis Kariņš has finally announced his resignation while his party has put forward Minister for Welfare Evika Siliņa as their nominee to replace him. Otto and Joe break down the dramatic developments as well as the possible el…
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St. Saviour’s Church is in the old town of Rīga. It is an Anglican parish church, part of the Church of England. It was founded on British soil, shipped to Latvia in 1857, and built with British red bricks. It has a fascinating history, from being made by British businessmen in Rīga for wayward British sailors, to being closed down as a church duri…
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As much of Zemgale and Latgale starts cleaning up after an unusually powerful and devastating storm, Otto and Joe discuss the impact on residents, nature, and the agriculture sector along with a few other major stories from throughout the week.Theme song "Mēs esam ārzemnieki" by Aarzemnieki, used with permissionClosing theme song: Think Tank by Aud…
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"Kaimiņš" is the Latvian word of the week as Latvia's neighboring countries of Russia and Belarus continue to make life difficult for Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland with the arrival of Wagner Group militants close to the EU border. Otto breaks down the security threat and discusses a number of other important stories with Joe such as amendments to a…
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The Livonians, or Livs, are an indigenous ethnic group in Latvia. They were one of the first nations to settle in what is now modern-day Latvia. They speak a different language, yet only 30 people can now converse in it fluently. Few people outside of Latvia, and many people living in Latvia, are unaware of the Livonians. We will get to know this w…
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Otto and Joe celebrate 200 numbered episodes by getting back to the first topic they ever discussed on the podcast — a messy and complicated coalition building process, this time on Rīga City Council. They also discuss issues related to energy and food security, new scooter regulations, a proposal to unify high school entry requirements, the latest…
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With Otto away in Argentina, Joe looks through some transit-related stories in Latvia such as the reestablishment of daily passenger train service between Rīga and Liepāja, the seizure of drunk drivers' vehicles, delay in implementing "average speed" cameras, penalties for reckless scooter drivers, and much more!Theme song "Mēs esam ārzemnieki" by …
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The Latvian Song and Dance Festival is probably the most important Latvian cultural event. Held every five years and started 150 years ago, 40,560 singers and dancers and a 500,000 audience joined events in Riga in July 2023. We look at this phenomenon and explore interesting aspects of the festival like the food served to participants, how environ…
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As tens of thousands of Latvians perform impressive songs and dances in Rīga's capital and many tens of thousands more spectators take in the experience, Otto and Joe break down the biggest happenings of the XXVII Nationwide Latvian Song and XVII Dance Festival and other major stories from the previous week such as the inauguration of President Edg…
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Joe checks in with ENGtegrationForUkraine head teacher Kris Akenfelds as they prepare for a sixth round of free English courses for Ukrainian refugees in Latvia. Please help spread the word about our project, and share the donation link. Every bit helps. Thank you so much to everyone who has helped!https://gogetfunding.com/help-ukrainian-refugees-i…
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