Liepaja

Liepaja is the third largest city in Latvia after Riga and Daugavpils. However, for its location on the coast of Baltic Sea, Liepaja is more popular city than Daugavpils. Liepaja is a beautiful ice-free port city that is situated about 220 km west of Riga with a population of about 84.400 inhabitants. Liepaja is well known for its lovely white sand beaches; therefore, every year, especially in summer, the city attains many holidaymakers from Latvia and from abroad.

History

For the first time in history, the name “Liv” (former name of Liepaja) was mentioned in 1253. This name of the city was taken after a name of river Lyva. In 1263, on the bank of this river, Livonian Order established Liv village that became an important trading point between Marienburg and Riga. Unfortunately, in 1418 Lithuanians burnt down the unfortified Liv village. However, it didn’t brake down the village and skills of local inhabitants as already in the same 15th century Liv again became an important trading point.

Down the Lyvu River there extended essential trading lines between Amsterdam and Moscow. However, passing by years made the river more and more shallow and in the beginning of the16th century, it was no more possible to use it for big boats. In 1560, Gotthard Kettler sold the Liv village together with all Grobina district to Prussia for 50.000 guldens. The land was returned to Kettler family just in 1609. The 17th and 18th centuries were challenging to Liepaja and all Courland. It had to survive Livonian War, four waves of diseases, Polish-Swedish War, enormously large fire, which was the biggest tragedy in Liepaja and several marching troops during the Great Northern War. However, the17th century brought not just bad things. In 1625, Liepaja was granted the city rights and in 1649 for the first time Liepaja`s name was mentioned and the city became an essential ice-free port city. The port was enlarged and deepened in order to receive more and bigger ships. In the end of the 18th century, Liepaja entered the Russian Empire and its name was changed to Liba or Libava. During Russian ruling, Liepaja became a significant port city through which, with the help of new railway and a well developed ice-free port, 7% of Russian export was passing. The stronger became Liba town, the more essential appeared a necessity to build a costal fortifying system against Germans. Besides several military bases, a separate navy port Kara Osta (War Port) was also constructed. Liepaja became a home town to the first Baltic fleet of Russian submarines. These constructions inured their main purpose when Germans attacked in the beginning of WWI. Liepaja then suffered a lot of loses: more than 40% people died, economical development was stopped, import and export decreased… Although in 1918 Latvia became independent Republic, Liepaja had to put all its strengths to rise the city up again. During 20 years of independence, Liepaja restored the work of port and railway junctions, built the first air way between Liepaja and Riga, established new factories, small and middle companies… People and all the whole city started reviving. Unfortunately, an insatiable desire of Russia and German to own more and more countries put Liepaja in to fire of WWII. During the war Liepaja went under huge economical and human loses, cruel and unequal fight between German Nazi and Jews. These four years for Liepaja were coloured just with black and red colours. After WWII Liepaja was occupied by Soviet Union. Liepaja became closed city and everyone, who whished to enter the city had to show special permits.  Liepaja port was reconstructed into Soviet military naval base and moreover, was closed for commercial traffic. However, Liepaja still had its white sand beach and was the inspiration city for artists. During the Soviet Occupation there were written scripts for such films like comedy “Gentlemen of Fortune”, Soviet ones “Do not shoot at white swans” and “Frenchman”. Liepaja was rising up from the dark hole into the beautiful sunny daylight and in 1991 together with all Latvia recovered the independence.

Nowadays

Today Liepaja is modern, constantly developing and internationally active city. As a result of Russian military input, today the city stores the largest warehouse of ammunition and weapons in all Baltic countries. Liepaja is also famous for the biggest wind power plant in Latvia that includes 33 wind turbines.  During the WWII the historic centre of Liepaja was destroyed. Therefore, unfortunately, Liepaja city has no old town. However, there are still preserved a number of beautiful architectural monuments that are involved into a tiny blanket of stages of Liepaja`s history. While walking to the centre of Liepaja you will see Art Nouveau, wooden, Classicism, Baroque and modern architecture styles that merge into one style of architecture that is typical just to this lovely and cosy Liepaja. You should not miss a chance to visit at least these sightseeing points: The Holy Trinity Church with the second largest Organs in the World, the main city square – Rose Square, that is blooming with number of roses during the summer time, Port promenade from which a view to a harbour dock, ships and yachts opens, symbolic fountain and an amber clock, Latvian musicians hall of fame alley including the largest guitar in Latvia and one of the largest parks in Latvia - Seaside Park. Of course, this article wouldn’t be about Liepaja if the Karosta prison wouldn’t be mentioned, which offers various tours from simple viewing till extreme experiences. Also, a  Blue Flag white sand beach that is full of relaxing tourists during warm time periods and a couple of the most popular festivals like “Baltich Beach party” and “Liepaja Windsurfing festival” should also be mentioned.
Liepaja is known also as “the city where the wind blows”. This second name perfectly explains a few things: why are words about city of wind in an anthem of Liepaja; whyay Liepaja is the biggest wind power plant in Latvia; why Liepaja is one of the main “spots” for windsurfers and kite surfers not just from Latvia but also from Lithuania.  In 2010 Liepaja received a great appreciation as in this year in 14-19 of June Windsurfing World Championship in the class of “Raceboard” was taking place on the coast of this city.

Beautiful and peaceful Liepaja city has plenty things to offer for its visitors. Therefore, every year more and more city guests are leaving this place with the hope to come back here and to have perfect relaxation during the day time and more fun time in night clubs or bars with locals and other tourists during the night time.

Location
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