Welcome to Latvia: Kristaps Porzingis gives you a tour of the place he calls home.
In recent years, Latvia may not receive as much spotlight as it’s neighbors Estonia and Lithuania, but that is about to change thanks to the country’s hottest import—Kristaps Porzingis. This summer, Porzingis brought several guests to his home country to show off the sights and culture of his home. For AQ, he offers a special tour of one of Europe’s most undiscovered gems.
With centuries of history, Riga has become one of the most interesting cities to visit in all of Europe/ The architecture in Latvia’s capital alone shows hundreds of years of influence from the original churches of the 12th century, to the medieval buildings scattered around the Old Town, to the modern structures of today. Because the city is located at the mouth of Daugava, Latvia’s largest river, it has become a trade center of the Baltic region and the most multicultural city in the country. This has made Riga one of the popular shopping destination in the Baltic region.
Jûrmala literally means “seaside” in Latvian. Located along the Gulf of Riga, Jûrmala is the most popular beach destination in Latvia. Locals often summer at beachhouses in town and enjoy the local spas. it’s where many Latvians go to enjoy the local spas and beaches. “Whenever I want to relax in Latvia, there is no better place than the beaches at Jûrmala,” Porzingis says. “You’ve never seen sand as white as the sand there. It’s the perfect place to get away for a while.”
The Daugavpils Fortress was built in the 19th century to help repel the attacks of Napoleon’s Army. While the fortress is one of Europe’s most well preserved military artifacts, it also hosts the Mark Rothko Art Center. Though Rothko is one America’s most famous post World War II artists, he was actually born in Daugavpils. The Art Center contains permanent exhibits of Rothko’s work as well as many other works of Latvian and European contemporary artists.
Many of the stone castles built throughout the Middle Ages have been preserved and offer tours. The most popular, Cēsis castle, offers theatrical performances for its guests. It also allows visitors to learn about how ancient silversmithing brings traditional Latvian jewelry to life and even permits people to visit the dungeon of the castle to see what prison life was like in the Middle Ages. “When I was a student in Latvia, visiting the castles was always one of the biggest trips we would take,” Porzingis says. “It’s amazing to see how people lived back then, and the castles are still really well preserved.”
If you have a need for speed, Sigulda will definitely be on your itinerary in the winter. Located just 33 miles outside of Riga, locals call Sigulda “The Switzerland of Latvia.” It’s become a destination for extreme sports athletes as the bobsled and luge track is one of the few in world that hosts both pro athletes and visitors. The 1,200-meter track features 16 curves and will allow the pros to travel at speeds nearing 80 miles per hour! “People go down the track crazy fast,” Porzingis says. “I don’t think they’ll let me do it now, but it looks like a lot of fun!”
The third largest city in Latvia holds a special place in Porzingis’ heart. “It’s my home,” he says. “It’s where I always go back.” The city of wind, as it’s known, plays host to a vibrant art and music scene, including the Sea Festival, where residents enjoy local musician performances as well as prepared delicacies from the sea. “You won’t regret visiting Liepãja,” Porzingis says. “I can promise you, the people there will show you a great time.”