Friday, July 20, 2007

Ideas for Gifts to Buy In Latvia

Since I wrote that posting about money several months ago, the U.S. dollar has gotten a little weaker. Today it is worth 0.508 of a Latvian lat. One lat is worth nearly 2 US dollars is an easy way to figure prices. Still, there are many nice and reasonably priced gifts to pick up in Riga and an abundance of shops and outdoor vendors to purchase them from. Some are closed on Sunday, but not all. The Ethnographic Museum, which we will visit Sunday morning, has a gift shop with reasonable prices, as does Lido Atpūtas Centrs, where we will have dinner. And everything will be open Monday. I’m preparing a list of some of the nicest shops to bring in case you’d like to refer to it (as well as some restaurants and museums).

What are some possible gifts?

Amber jewelry is a special favorite. It comes in various qualities (polished or rough) and colors (from almost white to dark brown, but most commonly it’s honey-colored). Amberison, an online jewelry shop, proved some ideas about how to tell the difference between genuine and artificial (plastic). In the Art Nouveau district, check out Ambra at 7 Alberta iela.

Linen from Latvian flax has been produced for centuries. It is much cheaper here than elsewhere in Europe. Shops carry tablecloths, placemats, napkins, pillow covers, bed linen, women’s clothing, and more. (Garage in Berga Bazārs even has a special linen room.)

Wooden objects and toys – Local craftsmen turn out all sorts of appealing items. My favorite shop that has gifts made in the Latvian countryside is Koka Varde (Wooden Frog) at 31 Lāčplēša, a few blocks above our hotel.

Leather goods – Wallets, address books, boxes, book cover, etc.

Colorful knitted items – Sweaters, mittens, gloves, hats, headbands. My favorite source for Latvian mittens is Tīne, an outdoor stand in the courtyard of the Small Guildhall in Vecriga, which has some of the nicest at better prices than the shops. (There is also another shop called Tīne at 2 Valņu, which has a huge selection of many kinds of gifts on two floors, but it is not as inexpensive as the outdoor version. (Incidentally, in Latvian tīne is a box where you keep your needlework.

Art Nouveau souvenirs – Silk scarves, ceramics, books, copies of some of the faces on the building façades (see earlier posting about Art Nouveau buildings). A shop at 9 Strēlnieku specializes in these souvenirs.

Riga Black Balsam – Since the late 18th century, this dark beverage has been considered an elixir by the Latvians. It’s made from a secret recipe and contains 24 different infusions of roots, foliage, blossoms, and buds. A website created for last fall’s NATO Summit provides more details.

Silver jewelry – Some really nicely designed rings, necklaces, and bracelets—both Latvian folk designs and modern—are available in many shops.

Collectibles – Antique shops carry icons, coins, books and Soviet memorabilia, such as military medals and busts of Lenin.

Christmas tree ornaments – I forgot to tell you that Riga claims to have had the very first Christmas tree (eglitis) in 1510. A number of craftspeople make charming little tree ornaments from natural materials (such as acorns, birch bark, and reeds). Two of them should be at the Ethnographic Museum on Sunday—I can show you where to find them.


At November 2, 2007 at 2:23 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...


Nice Blog Site, Thank you.

Our company offers quality Linen Products made in our own factory in Riga from 100% natural Linen Flax fabric. visit our site at: or our Linen Studio in Riga at: Elizabetes 22 directly across the street from Berga Bazars.

Riga is the home of the First Christmas Tree. See website

Mike Johnson, American living in Latvia since 1999


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