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E-Everything

I was told yesterday, by Latvians, that Estonians are slow people – however, the very same Latvians acknowledge that Estonia is 5 years ahead of Latvia in many areas. Following the example of neighbouring Finland, Estonia has heavily invested in informatics infrastructure. Wireless internet is available in the vicinity of over 1,000 registered public hotspots, located in cities, villages, bars restaurants, trains, buses and highways, you can get online wherever you want: Estonia has embraced the internet. As a logical result, papers, rubber stamps and bureaucracy have been replaced or rather, supplemented, by web-based services.

Posted by Bruno

A tale of two countries

I`m crossing the next border today, from Latvia to Estonia. I have been promised that these two countries are more different from each other than Latvia and Lithuania are. The village of Valka (Latvian) or Valga (Estonian) spreads out on both sides of the border. It `s a nice stopover on the way from Valmiera to Tartu and moreover, it seems like a perfect place to measure the Latvio-Estonian differences.

Posted by Bruno

Women and Politics

Last week, I was surprised hear at least a few Lithuanian women tell me that they found themselves, and/or women in general, unqualified to get involved in politics or in higher management. I have not come across such conventional opinions in Latvia. One of this reasons may be that Latvia`s previous president was a woman. Vaira Vike-Freiberga, that`s her name, stepped down as recently as last summer, because her second and final term came to an end. However, she is still a very popular public figure and remains renowned for her political achievements.

Posted by Bruno

Personal reflections (1/12)

Instead of interviewing people today, I thought it would be a nice idea to write about what I have seen so far. It`s the first of September, and I am planning to write similar reports again on the first of each other coming month.

Posted by Bruno

About Alien Latvians

When Latvia became independent from the Soviet Union in 1991, only ethnic Latvians were granted citizenship. Russians who lived in the area were only offered an `alien passport`. Today, I am travelling to the mainly Russian city of Daugavpils, in the east of Latvia, to find out about the relation between Latvians and Russians.

Posted by Bruno

Spare time activities

Life is not as simple everywhere as it is in Ireland. While the Irish are largely satisfied having a church, a pub and a sports pitch around, their Latvian counterparts have many different activities at hand. Here`s a short overview of what Latvians do when they are not working or studying.

Posted by Bruno

What the papers say

I still have some interesting topics to cover in Latvia, but this morning I will let the newspaper decide what the subject is going to be. Before taking the bus from Ventspils to Kuldiga, I choose one out of many Latvian and Russian newspapers. It’s Diena (The Day), and I later find out that it is one of the two most popular countrywide newspapers in Latvia. One problem: I can`t read a word of it. Assistance required and I do manage to get some although it takes me a while to locate English-speaking people in the small town of Kuldiga.

Posted by Bruno

I am in Ventspils today, one of Latvia`s seven university cities. Anda (22) and Sandra (23, ) are MBA students at Ventspils University: I have found myself two experts in Latvian student life.

Posted by Bruno

Latvia in the EU

The year 2004 marked a new start for Latvia. It first became member of the NATO, then joined the EU on May 1st. At the time of joining, it was the EU`s poorest country, but it has shown the highest growth figures ever since. A large share of that may be considered a result, direct or indirect, of the EU membership. Today, I am trying to find out how the EU membership has affected people`s lives and whether they are happy to be in the EU.

Posted by Bruno

Baltic neighbours

During the previous days, I have been told how Lithuania and Latvia are very similar, while the third Baltic state Estonia is not. While crossing the Lithuanian-Latvian border in northerly direction, I am trying to find out how the southern Baltics compare to each other.

Posted by Bruno