Half a year deep into the global pandemic caused by the new coronavirus COVID-19 got us looking back at the timeline here in Riga, Latvia - one of the most successful places in Europe when it comes to fighting the virus as of September, 2020.
Seems like ages ago when in mid-March the Latvian state, following nearly the rest of the continent, decided to close its borders and impose new safety guidelines that forced us to terminate all scheduled free tours from end of March to end of June. July seemed promising with mostly European travellers coming over for the simple reason: Latvia was nearly the only place where they could travel and with such low COVID cases this was also “a safe place” to visit. The RV and camper van crowd was as active as ever(independent travel without much need to come in close contact with others) and we experienced what probably was the biggest influx of Finnish tourists of all time(Helsinki - Stockholm ferry was now travelling to Riga, regularly bringing thousands of Finns that otherwise would have gone to the Swedish capital or Tallinn)
However as the summer days were getting shorter and shorter, more and more countries were added to the 14 day quarantine list when travelling to Latvia (having more than 16 corona cases per 100’000 population). The mini-season was winding down with the last Erasmus students giving a slight push just before we went to a full standstill on the 21st of September when the RFT Team decided to stop all the scheduled activities until further notice.
Looking back at this very unusual summer the first thing that comes to mind is how relatively easy it’s been for us here in Latvia, all things considered: although the lockdown affected every member of the society it never got as disruptive as in other countries. After a several week period in April, where people were either isolating at home or enjoying the outdoors, bars and cafes started re-opening in a lower capacity, group activities took off and life seemed to be “back to normal”, just with an increased personal space of 2m and no tourists.
Due to the relatively low numbers of infections, Latvians have enjoyed the summer to the fullest: guest houses have been booked out; outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking and everything in-between have been taken up even by sworn indoor types; seemed like everyone was out and about. Besides Latvians reconnecting with the nature(as they would have done either way), the relatively high numbers of EU visitors travelling with their own mode of transport surely made a difference - beach campsites quite often seemed to have become German-speaking: boasting over 500 km of coastline and around 50% of Latvian land area being forests and bogs this small Baltic country was a sure bet this summer if your goal was to escape the crowds.
Now having reached October Latvians are still out foraging for the forest bounty of mushrooms and berries, but once the leaves turn yellow and hit the ground most will start retreating into the comfort of their homes until the first snow when we might be experiencing a little cross country skiing renaissance and for sure - plenty of outdoor ice skating.
Until then we wish to thank all the visitors of 2020 - thank you for your support and we hope to see you in 2021! Stay safe and best of luck.