Latvia 08/09

Vista is a chicken!

A small introduction to Latvian language.

Latvian language belongs to the group of Baltic languages which developed directly from an old Indo-European language, thus it does not belong to Slavic or any other European language group. There are only two live languages nowadays – Latvian and Lithuanian, the rest of them have gone extinct. The first notable evidence is from the time around 10th century, however first known official source dates to 1530. The alphabet is Latin, with several specific letters which may remind of Western Slavic group (Czech, Slovak, Slovenian etc).

Recently the number of people having Latvian as mother tongue has reached 1,5 million in Latvia and 0,5 million abroad, some 0,5 million more have Latvian as second language – these people are of (mostly) Russian or other origin living in Latvia. Several primary school for minorities have been established, because from 1999 Latvian is the only official language in the country and students may study for free in public universities if only the education is given in Latvian. Ministry of Justice is running even a State Language Centre which supervises the use of the language in public areas or institutions.

Due to influence of German (from Prussian times, around 18th century) and Russian (after World War II) there is a visible reminiscence of these language in current Latvian, however there is a strong feeling for language purism. In 19th and 20th century several “updates” and “upgrades” for the language have been set and accepted, namely ortographic and grammar part. During the times under Russian rule (first the tsar, then Soviets) some groups proposed usage of Cyrilic alphabet, but this movement was not received positively.

Here are some examples:

Good evening! – Labvakar!
See you later! – Uz redzēšanos!
railway – dzelzceļš
4, 5, 6 – četri, pieci, seši
cafeteria – kafetērija or kafejnica
library – bibliotēka
office – birojs
swimming pool – baseins
bread – maize
chicken – vista 🙂

Links to read if you want to know more: Latvian language, Baltic languages, EN-LV dictionary.

Latvia 08/09

The fridge

Since my arrival to Riga the weather was the main topic of any conversation.

My questions concerned possible frozen sea during the winter, lowest January temperatures and common amount of snow in the city. Beginning of September was very sunny and I thought of nice trips into the countryside. However, things changed quite rapidly.

Everyday locals talk about terrible cold which is not common for this time of the year. I can handle low temperatures well, but I was not prepared for the fact that I will have the same cold air will be in our flat. The heating is not working yet as this is a decision of the government. Official news are that heating season starts if temperature does not rise above 8 C for three consecutive days. Usually this occasion comes in the second half of October. What surprised me more, local people are afraid of beginning of heating season. Reason? Prices were increased by 30% compared to last year.

Having cold flat is good for your fruit or vegetables because it has no possibility to rot in these conditions. The bad thing is that you become vegetable as well.

Today I wanted to buy a thermometer and start regular measurements. However, in 3 shops that I visited, there was no such thing as this. But I was told these things are available only through specialized shops, so I need to search more. Or perhaps go to outdoor shop and buy a sleeping bag..

Latvia 08/09

Why Latvia?

Hello and welcome!

My name is Premek, I come from the Czech Republic and I am studying International Business here in Riga since September 2008. I am 25, this is my final year at the university and so I decided to have it a little special..

So why Riga?

Usually there is a plenty of reasons why you do a certain activity. As several people asked me this question in past weeks over the time I’ve come up with some answers:

  1. For a long time I was thinking of going to the Baltics because of its natural beauty, old architecture and castles from medieval age and also cold weather.
  2. I met some Latvians 3 years ago, we talked a lot about the country and I just wanted to visit them.
  3. RSEBAA (the school where I study now) just recently signed an agreement with my university and thus I supposed only few people would for this school.
  4. One of my friends, Lucka, has studied here 2 years ago and this meant that I will not go into completely unknown place and I will be able to have some connections even before my arrival.

Things went well and last week I left Prague for another capital, this time a lot far north..