The total length of EuroVelo 13 in Latvia is 561.8 km. The route has been planned to follow the sea coast as closely as possible from the Estonian border (Ainaži) to the Lithuanian (Nida). There are partially preserved military objects in Carnikava as well as the only military cycling museum in Saulkrasti. There are also many military heritage objects in the capital Rīga, including the Museum of Occupation, Museum of Barricades, Daugavgrīva fortifications etc. Ventspils has the most developed cycling infrastructure in Latvia whilst Liepāja and Karosta are very fitting destinations for the Iron Curtain Trail route thanks to their rich and well preserved Soviet military heritage.
The northern crusades during the 12th and 13th Centuries saw catholic kings of the west undertake major military operations against the pagan populations of the Baltic. Following the crusade period, the principality of Terra Mariana was set up which covered modern-day territory of Estonia and Latvia.
After a power-vacuum following World War I, an opportunistic People's Council of Latvia proclaimed its independence on the 18th of November 1918. During the years that followed a war of independence was fought. At one point in 1919 there were three Latvian governments in place, one supported by the Red Army, one by the German Friekorps and one by the Latvian sovereign powers. With the help of Estonian and Polish forces, the Latvian sovereign powers were able to expel their rivals in 1920 and to adopt a liberal constitution known as Satversme in 1922. This constitution was subsequently suspended following a coup in 1938 and reinstated in 1990. While certain ammendments have been made, the Satversme is still effective in Latvia today.
In the lead up to World War II, Latvia was secretly assigned to the Soviet sphere of influence in the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. After the setting up of a pro-soviet government, Operation Barbossa saw Latvia switch hands and become a Nazi-controlled territory. An estimated 200,000 Latvians died during the war, including 75,000 Latvian Jews. At the end of the war part of the Latvian territory once more came under Soviet control which began to reinstate the Soviet system. The Soviet era saw some major waves of deportation, of which the most important was the 1949 March Deportation which saw over 90,000 people exported from the Baltic States to remote areas of the Soviet Union.
In 1989, the Supreme Soviet of the USSR adopted a resolution on the Occupation of the Baltic states, in which it declared the occupation "not in accordance with law", and not the "will of the Soviet people". Pro-independence Popular Front of Latvia candidates gained a two-thirds majority in the Supreme Council in the March 1990 democratic elections. On 4 May 1990, the Supreme Soviet of the Latvian SSR adopted the Declaration on the Restoration of Independence of the Republic of Latvia, and the Latvian SSR was renamed Republic of Latvia.
Latvia has a rich landscape of which 56% is covered by forest. Latvia has a long tradition of conservation. The first laws and regulations date back to the 16th Century. Today, Latvia ranks highly in environmental protection indexes due to the high environmental performance of the country's policies.
Curious to learn more about cycling in Latvia? Read the article of Roman Helinski (Dutch journalist) on his experiences in Latvia here.
Vidzeme Tourism Association
Vidzeme is one of the four historic provinces in Latvia, located in the north east. Its regional tourism association is responsible for the development of EuroVelo 13 in Latvia, and provides information about the route and work in progress as well as information about accomodation and cycle-friendly actvities in the region.