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Riga - Europe
Me2Desi Travel Information
Riga the capital of Latvia, is situated on the Baltic Sea coast on the mouth of the river Daugava. Riga is the largest city in the Baltic states. The Historic Centre of Riga has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the city is particularly notable for its extensive Art Nouveau (Jugendstil) architecture, which UNESCO considers to be unparalleled anywhere in the world

Riga is located at the site of an ancient settlement of the Livonians, an ancient Finnic tribe, at the junction of the Daugava and the Riga River, at one point forming a natural harbor called the Riga Lake, neither of which exist today . It is believed that the name of the river gave Riga its name. The modern founding of Riga is regarded by historians to have begun with the arrival of German traders, mercenaries and religious crusaders in the second half of the 12th century, attracted by a sparsely populated region, potential new markets and by the missionary opportunities to convert the local population to Christianity. German merchants established an outpost for trading with the Balts near the Liv settlement at Riga in 1158. The Augustinian monk Meinhard built a monastery there ca. 1190. Bishop Albert was proclaimed Bishop of Livonia by his uncle Hartwig, Archbishop of Bremen and Hamburg in 1199. He landed in Riga in 1201 with 23 ships and more than 1500 armed crusaders, making Riga his bishopric. He established the Order of Livonian Brothers of the Sword (later a branch of the Teutonic Knights) and granted Riga city rights in that same year.

Business and leisure travel to Riga has increased significantly in recent years due to improved infrastructure. Most tourists travel to Riga by air via Riga International Airport, the largest airport in the Baltic states, which was renovated and modernized in 2001 on the occasion of Riga's 800th anniversary. In the near future, the face of Riga will undergo notable changes. The construction of a new landmark — the Latvian National Library building — is beginning in the autumn of 2007 and is due to be built by 2010. Currently discussions are underway in Riga council about the development of the central areas on the left bank of the Daugava. The major dispute surrounds plans to build skyscrapers in Ķīpsala. The construction of 3 buildings in Ķīpsala has already started — the Da Vinci complex (25 floors) and two high-rises called Z-Towers (30 floors). Almost all important Latvian financial institutions are located in Riga, including the Bank of Latvia, which is Latvia's central bank. Foreign commercial trade through Riga has been on the increase in recent years and received new impetus on May 1, 2004 when Latvia became a member of the European Union. Riga accounts for about half of the total industrial output of Latvia, focusing on the financial sector, public utilities, food and beverages, pharmaceuticals, wood processing, printing and publishing, textiles and furniture, and communications equipment manufacturing. More than 50% of Latvian companies are registered in Riga region. The port of Riga is an important cargo shipping center. It is the main all-weather port in the Baltic and is expected to grow in the next few years due to increased trade with other ex-Soviet states and China. Riga has one airport, Riga International Airport, that serves commercial airlines. Air traffic at the airport has doubled between 1993 and 2004. Baltic sea ferries connect Riga to Stockholm, Kiel and Lübeck. Riga was also home to two air bases during the Cold War: Rumbula and Spilve. Riga as a city-port is a major transportation hub and is the center of the local road and railway system. In 2008, the first stage of the new Southern Bridge route across the Daugava will be completed. The Southern Bridge is currently the biggest construction project in Baltic States in 20 years, and will help to reduce traffic jams and the amount of traffic in the city centre. Another big construction project is the planned Riga Northern Transport Corridor, which is scheduled to start in 2010. Public transportation in the city is provided by Rīgas Satiksme which operates a large fleet of trams, buses and trolleybuses on an extensive network of routes across the city. In addition, many private owners operate minibus services. Riga is connected to the rest of Latvia by trains operated by the national railway company Pasažieru Vilciens, whose headquarters are in Riga. There are also international rail links to Russia and Estonia .
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