Latvia. The land that sings.

In the past, I’ve been guilty of calling Latvia many things. Land of Misery, Land of Crappy Winters, and Land of Leopard Print spring to mind. However, this week, Latvia truly lived up to its reputation as the Land that Sings, with the 24th Latvian Song and Dance Festival taking place in various venues throughout the country.

I happened by a few small free concerts as I was walking around the city during the week and managed to take a few photos.

A good sport from the crowd becomes a Latvian Folk Dancer

A good sport from the crowd becomes a Latvian Folk Dancer – temporarily anyway

The Latvian Corrs. They've even got a Jim...

The Latvian Corrs. They’ve even got a Jim…

This festival only takes place every five years and as such, is hugely popular. Of course, with my limited interest in folk music, I didn’t fully realise how popular, so by the time I got around to looking for tickets, the only concert that was still available was the rehearsal for the grand finale – at 10am on a Saturday morning. With tickets priced at 1 or 3 lats, I decided to splash out and go for the latter. Of course, this being Latvia, it didn’t really matter as nobody checked the tickets once you were inside the grounds and you could sit pretty much anywhere you liked.

Getting into the grounds was the most difficult part of the day, with queues stretching for what seemed like miles. And of course, the concert took place in a forest so you had to walk through trees, trees and more trees to get to the entrance.

More trees

More trees

Once past the charming security guards, we found ourselves in a sort of Latvian wonderland, surrounded by people in traditional, regional costumes from all over the country.



Making new friends

Making new friends

Singers, dancers and musicians from all over Latvia took to the stage – thousands of voices filled the forest and the atmosphere was one of celebration. Some Latvians even smiled.

Hundreds of choirs fill the stage at Mezaparks

Hundreds of choirs fill the stage at Mezaparks

The Latvians, I must admit, put on a great show. A few singers fainting in the hot sun, and being carried off on stretchers, added a little drama to the proceedings. Līgo Līgo (thud), Līgo Līgo (thud).

Of course, there were still some slightly confusing aspects to the day. I had been told, by a student called Janis, that alcohol would not be sold at the concert. But there were beer stands everywhere. So we went and ordered a couple of pints. ‘Oh no, we’re not selling beer during the concert.’ Um, ok. So why are you here?

At 1.30, the time the concert was supposed to finish, they started selling beer. So we got a couple of pints. The day being so hot and having worked up a thirst by this stage, we polished them off fairly quickly and went back for two more. ‘We’re not serving anymore. You have to wait 15 minutes.’ Why, why, why? Nobody seemed to know. ‘Organisators” rules seemingly.

At around 4pm, things were winding down. Having just been served our long-awaited third beers, we were approached by a couple of burly security guards.

SG: Everyone who’s not a participant has to leave now.

Me: But they just served us these beers!

SG: You’ll have to finish them outside.

Me: But it’s illegal to drink on the street.

SG: Shrug.

Me: Can I at least use the toilet? (Having had the blinding foresight to bring my own loo roll, I was determined to give it an outing)

SG: Sure, why not?

Me: Because you just told us we had to leave.

SG: Shrug.

Me: Glare.

2013-07-06 11.28.48

Still, it was a great day overall and the concert was definitely worth seeing. However, I’d like to make a slight amendment to Latvia’s moniker. I think it should be changed to ‘Latvia. The Land that Sings AND Home of Pointless Circular Conversations and Stupid Licensing Laws’. Who’s with me?

About BerLinda

Adjusting to life in Germany, after living in Latvia for four years. Should be easy, right?
This entry was posted in Culture and Traditions, Humor, Humour and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

48 Responses to Latvia. The land that sings.

  1. Evona says:

    yees, i was there :)) except the fact that i had to wait hours for the toi-toi, and i didn’t understand any single words, it was a lovely celebration, and the final show was really impressive.
    Btw, the latvian girls are really beautiful, latvian men likes to be naked and swim in every kind of water, doesn’t matter how deep/cold/dirty is that. The Latvian Balsam is terrible, Riga has the best pastry shop ever (Kukotava), and the sunset is from 6 pm to 11 pm 🙂 And yessss all the men’s name ending with S, even Davids Beckhams. :))
    These r my first impressions about Latvia.
    And 1 more thing… compare to other eastern european countries, it’s so clean.
    It’s different to read ur blog now, but still love it, couse i experienced the same things… 🙂
    (the hungarian girl with latvian boyfriend) 🙂

  2. 1WriteWay says:

    What fun! Glad to hear you brought your own loo roll!

  3. With ya. What do we want? Beer! When do we want it? Now!

  4. gina4star says:

    Exasperating weird rules aside, the festival looks really lovely! I like stuff like that, and the backdrop is gorgeous! 🙂

    • Expat Eye says:

      Yeah, it’s a pretty venue alright! Trust the Latvians to think of putting a massive stage in the middle of a forest 😉 Pics of the final concert look amazing – shame we could only get tickets for the morning show but at least we saw it!

  5. bevchen says:

    The beer thing is bizarre… but the festival sounds interesting.

  6. Jude says:

    Why does this only happen once every five years? I sympathize, we sometimes have very strange rules like this as well.

    • Expat Eye says:

      I guess the sheer amount of effort and organisation that has to go into getting that amount of people together. Some shows had around 15,000 dancers at the same time! And none of them are paid, they’re just local choirs and folk dance groups as far as I know!

      • laine says:

        makes it more fun when its so eagerly awaited. also, for the mixed choirs it takes nearly 2 years to learn the whole programme.
        glad you liked it, despite the morning tickets.
        sorry to have missed you in riga, but its a tiny place- i was planning to introduce you to my friend, turns out she s been your student.

      • Expat Eye says:

        No way! What’s her name?

  7. ls says:

    aw, the worst time to attend, with all the sun and all. its meant to be seen in the evening. initially it was supposed to be closed to the public…see, i am going home from the final one now (3:22)

    • Expat Eye says:

      Wow, late night! Was it good? I did really enjoy it – I liked the silver things moving in the sun! Unfortunately, I left it too late to get tickets for the main show – oh well!

  8. Aggie says:

    Actually 24th song festival and 15th dance festival… And there was singers not only from all Latvia but Latvian nationality singers from other countries either took a part…

  9. Awwwww those traditional costumes are so cute!!! 😀

    • Expat Eye says:

      I know! I really wanted to try some on but it wasn’t an option! They were so heavy though – no wonder people were fainting!

  10. Pecora Nera says:

    Funny, love the singing followed by thud

  11. pollyheath says:

    I love how happy the pink-shirt guy looks. So proud.

  12. I don’t know about Ireland… but England also has stupid licensing laws. Admittedly, Less so now than when I moved there 20 years ago. At that supermarkets’ alcoholic drinks isles were covered with heavy grey plastic curtains at weekends till 11am or something, I can’t quite remember.

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