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Cow Town: Ventspils, Latvia

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Breezy air, colder temperatures and a lot of cows! Welcome to Ventspils, Latvia, where we first met the Baltic Sea on our journey. The town holds a special distinction - the first Eastern European city in which the international cow parade was held. This annual event was completely unknown to me before the trip, but some U.S. cities have hosted the event. What's so special about cows that an entire festival is organized in their honor every year? I don't consider them to be very cute, though certainly tasty. However, everything changes when an artist gets hold of a blank canvas in the shape of a cow. Suddenly bright colors, designs and even jewelry bring life to an otherwise dull animal. With the right guidance and government support, they can even transform an entire town.

1. Ventspils is primarily an industrial town, with transport and storage being the economic driving forces. In this area, an ice-free harbor. No frozen waterway! What a pity. I remember this was one of the must beautiful things to me when I visited Russia in February - the ability to walk freely in the middle of the Gulf of Finland and Neva River. Standing on pure ice and snow. Wondrous!

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2. Ships and the nautical theme are woven into the entire infrastructure of the town. Tourists can view a docked fishing boat perched on the ledge of the waterway.

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3. On an autumn weekday, there was almost no activity going on. Everything sitting still, including numerous passenger ferries like this. The Scottish Viking transports passengers from Sweden to Latvia. You can even take a sea journey here from St. Petersburg! I don't know how long the journey lasts, but I imagine more than a day. Ferries, and even trains, not popular long-term transportation options for Americans. We're completely tied to our cars, traveling from State to State via great road infrastructure almost everywhere. Easy to go long hauls if you have the energy to drive long hours.

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4. The main focus of Ventspils is the cows. This one is known as the "Traveling Cow," displaying stickers from various international cities in which the annual cow parade has been held. It was here I learned that Raleigh, North Carolina and Chicago, Illinois have been prior hosts. The first cow parade was held in Ventspils in 2002 and residents enjoyed it so much they petitioned for another chance to host. It came in 2012, ten years later.

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5.This one is known as the "Sailor Cow." Perfect time to express a very special thanks to macos, the navigator of our Chevrolet Captiva during the trip. He was behind the wheel the entire 7,000 kilometers. An arduous task! Thanks also to Chevrolet for the comfortable car in which we traveled. You can read all about the Captiva here in Alexander's report, and in Russian.

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6. Another great feature of Ventspils is the overflowing flowers! Bouquets, flowers - the easiest way to my heart. They're hanging from many light fixtures in the town and plotted in a lot of gardens in various locations. Even flower molds made from cows when you first enter Ventspils!

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7. Ventspils has done everything right with respect to tourism, even on par with U.S. tourist infrastructure. Sitting right in the center of town is a big tourist information center, all kinds of information available in a variety of languages. I picked up a brochure and map in English, highlighting the location of each cow and other tourist points in the city. I will never understand Russia's aversion to tourism. You may not like foreigners, but you must certainly like the money they could bring to Russian cities. Provide jobs for local residents, so many positive returns for a country and its citizens if tourism infrastructure is built.

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8. They've even created local cow currency branded as "venti." How does it work? Tourists or locals can earn ventis by participating in local events or mentioning the town on social networks. The imaginary currency is accepted in all local hotels, restaurants and other tourist spots. Presumably local government gives the business owners some type of financial kickback for acceptance of the cow cash. Cooperation between citizens, business owners and local government - a magical thing! Everyone earning money and happy. I read online that the tourism industry employees over 20% of local residents, and each year the Ventspils City Council presents awards to the best hotels, restaurants, etc. and their employees. Here it's common sense. Residents have a vested interest in preserving and promoting the beauty of the town because there's personal gain, both financially and mentally. A feeling of community and contribution to its well being. Thus, there's little chance that this place will turn to shit in the future.

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9. Outside the tourist center sits one of my favorite cows. I call her "Narcissistic Cow," in love with her own reflection. And you know such women? I do!

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10.  A big futbol stadium sits on the outskirts of the town and, yes, a cow there too! On the day we visited, a big match had just let out so a lot of people were walking around the stadium. I think it would be interesting to attend a sporting event next time I'm in Russia, to compare the crowd to an American football stadium. This, you know, my favorite sport but my home team the Washington Redskins are having a very bad season!

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11. The overall feel of Ventspils is very European. Everything you'd expect from a quaint European town - cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, bells ringing from churches. It's all there.

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13. It's all a bit romantic, charming and cozy!

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14. A very long walkway on the waterway with a lovely barrier decorated in the form of wall art. I liked the aquatic goddess paintings the best, but there were many images - crabs, lobsters, sea shells all painted on the wall.

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16. Ventspils has taken a lesson from the American tourism handbook. If you've traveled here, you know we like to put warning signs everywhere! In Ventspils, they do it also and even with English translation!

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17. Maybe this town is some type of illusion, giving tourists a false impression of how life is in the area. It's my impression that the high development and economic boom in this area aren't typical of Latvia as a whole, but I'm no expert on the country. Local residents appear to live well. Few ugly, grey Soviet type buildings. In fact, most are very modern and aesthetically pleasing.

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18. Cow - defender of the apartment complex! :)

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This place is colorful, full of energy and creates a positive mood. Lots to do for both children and adults. In summer, music festivals, swimming on the sea and outdoor recreational activities. During autumn, all tourists have disappeared. The ice-cream and souvenir stands boarded up. If you're in the area, I recommend making a stop. You're sure to have fun and leave with a smile on your face!

Comments

( 77 comments — Leave a comment )
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sommer_fugl
Oct. 24th, 2013 04:49 am (UTC)
Beautiful photos of my hometown!
Thanks :)
peacetraveler22
Oct. 24th, 2013 01:30 pm (UTC)
You're welcome! Have you seen a lot of American tourists in Ventspils, or are they mostly European?
(no subject) - sommer_fugl - Oct. 24th, 2013 05:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
bodenkundler
Oct. 24th, 2013 05:39 am (UTC)
Very interesting, thanks!
peacetraveler22
Oct. 24th, 2013 01:30 pm (UTC)
My pleasure! Glad you enjoyed.
andrey_kaminsky
Oct. 24th, 2013 05:58 am (UTC)
Ты так наивна
I will never understand Russia's aversion to tourism. (с) You will :) Just as the Russian aversion to good roads or free elections, it is a myth. If the tourism industry is poorly developed, there is always an objective reasons for this. I assure you, my stone-faced-poker-face is not the cause of this. If there are people willing to work as prostitutes on the road, then there are even more people willing to serve the tourists with a happy smile on faces. Because the service of tourists is much more pleasant job then prostitution. The government of Russia not only pumps oil from the depths, but also suppresses the political activity of the population. One of the methods of suppression of political activity is the creation of bureaucratic obstacles to running a small business. Businessmen are afraid of losing their business and, therefore, show loyalty to the government. Side effect of this policy is the weak development of the business, including tourism.
I'm not too boring?
How to write correctly? - "happy smile on faces" or "happy smileS on faces". In Russian there is no difference.
And cheer up, life got better. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vbI-P6mFbg
peacetraveler22
Oct. 24th, 2013 01:36 pm (UTC)
Re: Ты так наивна
Service of tourists will not pay as well as prostitution and it's harder work, though safer. If a woman doesn't care about selling her body for financial gain then prostitution is a better profession. Monetary gain by working on a shoulder highway is probably minimal, but as a real escort you can earn thousands of dollars a day (at least in America). One of my friends did it during university to pay for school. I thought about it frequently when we passed the women on the shoulders. I wonder how many tricks they turn in a day and for how much money?

I know all the bureaucratic hurdles of doing business in Russia. But your government also is greedy, like all others. It can take simple steps to make travel in the country more comfortable for foreigners. Russians are always boasting about the vast beauty of their country. Don't you want others to share the joy?

Half-assed work ethic, this is not the American way. :)
Re: Ты так наивна - andrey_kaminsky - Oct. 24th, 2013 01:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Ты так наивна - peacetraveler22 - Oct. 24th, 2013 02:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Ты так наивна - andrey_kaminsky - Oct. 24th, 2013 03:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Ты так наивна - peacetraveler22 - Oct. 24th, 2013 03:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Ты так наивна - andrey_kaminsky - Oct. 24th, 2013 03:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Ты так наивна - peacetraveler22 - Oct. 24th, 2013 01:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Ты так наивна - plushevii_zaits - Oct. 25th, 2013 06:12 am (UTC) - Expand
livejournal
Oct. 24th, 2013 06:05 am (UTC)
Cow Town: Ventspils, Latvia
User olya_orange referenced to your post from Cow Town: Ventspils, Latvia saying: [...] Originally posted by at Cow Town: Ventspils, Latvia [...]
olya_orange
Oct. 24th, 2013 06:07 am (UTC)
Thank you! This is my hometown:)))
marfanever
Oct. 24th, 2013 07:19 am (UTC)
Ventspils is my hometown too :) I used to live on Kosmonavtov street.
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Oct. 24th, 2013 01:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - marfanever - Oct. 24th, 2013 07:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Oct. 24th, 2013 01:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
Alex Winter
Oct. 24th, 2013 07:14 am (UTC)
этих коров наверное как в берлине медведей раскрашивают
peacetraveler22
Oct. 24th, 2013 01:48 pm (UTC)
Oh, how cool! The bears I like better than cows. :) I see the images from Berlin on google. In Washington, DC, we once had a display of painted donkey sculptures.

Edited at 2013-10-24 01:49 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - qi_tronic - Oct. 24th, 2013 02:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - qi_tronic - Oct. 24th, 2013 02:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Oct. 24th, 2013 03:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - qi_tronic - Oct. 24th, 2013 03:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
krisa_rat
Oct. 24th, 2013 07:20 am (UTC)
I travelled by ferries from Riga to Stockholm this summer. It was amazing experience :) open sea is beautiful! And the journey was rather short. We left Riga at 5 p.m and arrived to Stockholm at 11 a.m.
peacetraveler22
Oct. 24th, 2013 01:43 pm (UTC)
I've never traveled on the sea, but went on a 10 day Danube River cruise with my family. This is not my preferred method of travel, but there was minimal time on the river boat. Mostly we just used it to travel overnight, and spent full days off the boat in the dock cities. The room was lovely and quite romantic! Staring right at the river from the bed. Relaxing and dreamy to view night sites from bed. Here's the cabin on the boat. I was surprised by how nice it was.

 photo boat_zpsf17508af.jpg

mybathroom
Oct. 24th, 2013 07:22 am (UTC)
Nice town! Thank you, Shannon!
peacetraveler22
Oct. 24th, 2013 01:46 pm (UTC)
I know you read Alexander's blog, so maybe it's boring for you to hear about the same cities again, and see the same sites? In general, we have the same eye when taking photos but not always. So there's some variance in the photos from our reports. This town is perfect for a family vacation, your son would like it!
(no subject) - mybathroom - Oct. 24th, 2013 05:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
real_marsel
Oct. 24th, 2013 07:53 am (UTC)
Such cosy town!
peacetraveler22
Oct. 24th, 2013 01:46 pm (UTC)
Yes! I was surprised to find such solid infrastructure in an Eastern European town.
Erik Shindler
Oct. 24th, 2013 02:42 pm (UTC)
where would we be without cows :) most helpful animal to mankind.
By the way nice report.
peacetraveler22
Oct. 24th, 2013 03:04 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I like sheep or goats, cuter animals. But cows are more tasty. :) In Slovakia, I ate sheep cheese for the first time and it was quite good.
pasha1980
Oct. 24th, 2013 08:34 pm (UTC)
Ha, I laughed out loud when I read your closing joke. I'm pretty sure a large cross-section of your Russian-speaking readers wouldn't mind seeing a tortured American. It reminds me of my university years here in Minsk. We have mandatory military service here in Belarus (they have it in Russia, too, as far as I know). It means that upon reaching 18 years of age all young men have to serve in the army for 2 years I think. If you enroll in university, you get a postponement until you graduate. Conditions of military service here are very rough: compared to the US military it's like a dilapidated concentration camp. So most recruits go out of their way to dodge it. I was extremely lucky because there was a military training department at my university that trained me to be a military translator and gave me the rank of a lieutenant, and that was my way of dodging active duty. Anyway, the reason I'm telling you this is that a bunch of those military translation classes was dedicated to the interrogation of prisoners of war and they trained me to interrogate American POWs!
peacetraveler22
Oct. 24th, 2013 08:37 pm (UTC)
I think it's still mandatory in Russia and Ukraine, yet none of my male friends from either country have ever served. I don't know how they escaped, probably university or payment of some bribe. I'm sure this interrogation training for American POWs was very interesting! :)
(no subject) - pasha1980 - Oct. 24th, 2013 08:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Oct. 24th, 2013 08:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
:) - andrey_kaminsky - Oct. 25th, 2013 06:39 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - Erik Shindler - Oct. 25th, 2013 03:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
rider3099
Oct. 24th, 2013 08:44 pm (UTC)
Very nice little town and interesting story! Thank you Shannon :)
peacetraveler22
Oct. 24th, 2013 08:53 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Olga. There are things to see in Latvia, worthy of a visit!
general_denikin
Oct. 24th, 2013 10:01 pm (UTC)
Regarding the football stadium. It is completely different there in Latvia comparing to american football. It is called soccer.
Russia loved foreigners back in 25 and more years ago, but everything changed under Putin.
peacetraveler22
Oct. 24th, 2013 10:07 pm (UTC)
Yes, I know the distinction between futbol everywhere else in the world, and football in America. :) I took a Russian to an American football game last year. A big playoff game and he was amazed at the lack of fights in the stadium. There were none. :)
(no subject) - general_denikin - Oct. 24th, 2013 10:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Oct. 25th, 2013 12:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - general_denikin - Oct. 25th, 2013 12:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
plushevii_zaits
Oct. 25th, 2013 06:05 am (UTC)
It looks like lady in red is expiriencing unrequited love! She smiles at him hoping to get a little attention, but this man isn't interested in her at all. Sad feelings!
peacetraveler22
Oct. 25th, 2013 12:09 pm (UTC)
You're also a body language expert? Man of many talents! :) Why unrequited? He's smiling and standing very close to her. His head is down but he looks like the artsy, shy type so maybe they're in the beginning stages of courtship and everything is uncertain. This is the type of man to which I'm almost always attracted, so I know this male personality type. I see a great romantic life in this couple's future. :))

Edited at 2013-10-25 12:20 pm (UTC)
denis_berdnikov
Oct. 25th, 2013 06:28 am (UTC)
Shennon as you already discovered russians are very "strange people", especially for westerners. If you really wish to understand this country you should live among russians but even so, there is no garantee for it because sometimes russians don't understand their own country as well.

You said:

"I will never understand Russia's aversion to tourism. You may not like foreigners, but you must certainly like the money they could bring to Russian cities. Provide jobs for local residents, so many positive returns for a country and its citizens if tourism infrastructure is built."

Ahahaha :) Do you think that russian tourists, when they visit to Moscow, do not suffer like foreigners? :)
peacetraveler22
Oct. 25th, 2013 12:17 pm (UTC)
Many of my readers love Moscow! I have the opposite reaction, and after the last visit I hate it even more. What about beautiful St. Petersburg? It's not a chaotic city in the way Moscow is, lots of beautiful things like bridges and canals. More colorful and artsy. Yet no tourist infrastructure there either. Btw, I was recently contacted by a language institute in the Urals who discovered my blog. They wrote to see if I would be interested in working as an English teacher there. So, who knows, maybe someday I'll spend some time living in Russia. But not too long! :))
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Oct. 25th, 2013 12:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Oct. 26th, 2013 12:18 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - Erik Shindler - Oct. 25th, 2013 03:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Oct. 25th, 2013 03:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - qi_tronic - Oct. 26th, 2013 07:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Oct. 26th, 2013 07:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - qi_tronic - Oct. 26th, 2013 08:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
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