World By Shotglass

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Thursday, January 20, 2011


World By  Shotglass
Chapter 8 :

  •    Location :  Europe (Baltic Region)
  •    Capital: Riga
  •    Language: Latvian
  •    Population: 2.21 million
  •    Total Area: 64,589 km2
  •    Currency: Lats
  •    Annual average liquor consumption per capita: 10.6 liters per year
  •    Annual Beer Consumption Per Capita: 68 liters per year
  •    The Most Popular Drink: Cezu Dzins

Latvia Riga Shot Glass (Thanks Alex P.)

Latvia Riga Shot Glass (Thanks Alex P.)

Latvia Shot Glas (Thanks Alex P.)

Latvia Riga Shot Glass (Thanks Alex P.)

Latvia  Shot Glass (Thanks Alex P.)

  • The City

Latvia is the central country of the Baltic States located in North-eastern Europe on the east coast of the Baltic SeaLatvia’s capital is Riga where more than one third of Latvia’s population lives and works.   Riga was founded in 1201, and it is one of the oldest medieval cities in Europe.  It has been listed by UNESCO as one of the world’s most important cultural and natural sites.  Riga also had an honor of hosting a NATO summit, a world hockey championship, the Eurovision Song Contest and many other large-scale international events.

  • The People

Once Latvia re-gained independence from Russia, Latvians became very nationalistic.  Inherited citizenship was applied to all citizens of the Republic of Latvia in 1940 and their descendants as well as some minorities.  Others were offered to either get citizenship from their native country or to become permanent residents without a citizenship. 

  • Drinking

The main alcoholic drink in Latvia is beer. If you want to sample local drinking culture head for a beer bar although it is not recommended for single ladies or even groups of ladies only.  The most popular local brand is Aldaris.  Famous back in the Soviet Union, Riga’s Balzam or Riga’s Black Balzam is a bitter brew made from a secret recipe of various roots, grasses and herbs.  It is supposed to cure your cold or flu in a snap.  While I did not test it for that, it certainly has a very distinct taste, perhaps best described as something that must be good for you because it tastes awful. 

  • Checking Out Architecture
Rīga’s elegant Old Town and distinctive Art Nouveau architecture serve as a stimulating setting for a vibrant modern business and cultural life.  A whole district is dominated with examples of the architecture and art works from the late 19th Century.  There are over 800 Art Nouveau buildings in the city and they are certainly worth seeing.

  • Dining

Riga is just emerging as a gourmet capital.  To experience Riga gourmet routes, there are three to choose from: Old City, Art Nouveau and Pardaugava.   If these restaurants do not satisfy your thirst for adventure and innovation, try “Hospitalis”.  Doctors in Riga have opened it and the dining room looks like an operating room and the waitresses wear nurse's uniforms on wheeled beds.  There are syringes and operating tools for cutlery as well as test tube and beakers for wine glasses.   If you order the cake then you're likely to see some fake fingers balanced on the top!

Latvia Riga

Latvia Riga Panorama

Latvia Riga City Center

Latvia Riga Dome Cathedral

Latvia Riga House Of Blackheads

Latvia Riga Old Town

Latvia Riga Old Town 2

Latvia Riga Old Town 3

Latvia Riga Old Town At Night

Latvia Riga Panorama

Latvia Riga St Peter's Cathedral

Latvia Riga View From St.Peter's

Latvia Sigulda

Latvia Jurmala

Latvia Pilsrundale

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


World By  Shotglass
Chapter 7 :
  •      Location :  Europe (Baltic Region)
  •      Capital: Tallinn
  •      Language: Estonian, Finnish
  •      Population: 1.34 million
  •      Total Area: 45,227 km2
  •      Currency: Euro
  •      Annual average liquor consumption per capita: 10.2 liters per year
  •      Annual Beer Consumption Per Capita: 80 liters per year 
  •     The Most Popular Drink: Vodka, Kvas, Vana Tallinn 

Estonia Shot Glass (Special thanks to Alex P.)
  • The City
The settlement of modern day Estonia began around 8500 BC, but over the centuries, Estonians have endured rule of other nations: Danish, Polish, Swedish and most recently Russian.  Estonia finally gained independence in 1991 and have emerged as a very nationalistic yet poor country.  Estonian is an official language and Tallinn is the capital.  Tartu is the second largest city and reins as the educational center.  At the time of Soviet Union, Tartu University attracted the brightest talent from all over the country, especially Jews, Armenians, and Georgians who have been unable to enter the Universities in other parts of the Soviet Union.  This talent inflow created a spirit of constant academic exploration and discovery that can still be felt in the air walking through cobblestone streets of the cities.
  • The People
Estonia has yet another very unique distinction. It is the only country in the world comprised of mostly atheists.  More than 70% of the people aged 15 years or older have stated that they are not affiliated with any religion or religious faith.  This pragmatism paired with extreme wireless capabilities in Estonia has produced the world communication phenomenon, Skype.  Not many are aware that Skype was in fact created in this obscure country by Estonians who called themselves Jaan Tallinn. 
What to do:
  • Walking
Tallinn is best explored by walking.  An absolute must see includes one of the most controversial churches in Europe, St. Olav’s.  This 13th century church used to be the tallest and doubled as a watch tower for approaching ships.  However, it was also such an attraction for lightning that it has been struck multiple times over the years and burned down completely three times.  In light of this, pun intended, no wonder so many Estonians are atheists.  You might also dare and try to get some money out of a cash machine as you are exploring the city.  Recently, a mouse made a cozy home out of a bed of note in one and chewed its way through hundreds of bills. 
  • Drinking
Estonians would probably resent this comparison, but just like their neighbors the Finns and the Russians, they do know their alcohol.  Favorites include the local beer Sake or A. Le Coq, the local vodka Viru Valge and the surprisingly smooth and tasty rum-like herbal liquor Vana Tallinn (Old Tallinn).  Be especially careful as you try to order A.Le Coq, sounds just like “I’d like a coke”, so you might be starting to drink earlier than you have intended.  There is also a local soft drink is "Kali" (the Estonian equivalent of "kvass"), made from fermented brown bread.  It can be described as an acquired taste.
  • Chocolate
No trip to Estonia would be complete without sampling a wide array of chocolates produced by the Kalev confectionery.  My favorite is the dark bittersweet chocolate.  Although not as famous as Swiss made, it is a smooth perfect blend of sweetness with just a touch of bitterness.  An Estonian “must eat”!

Estonia Tallinn old Town Narrow Street

Estonia Tallinn Panorama

Estonia Tartu

Estonia Tartu Town Hall Square

Estonia Tigutorn

Estonia Toompea Castle

Estonia Alatskivi Castle

Estonia Kadriorg Castle

Estonia Kuressaare Castle

Estonia Paks Margareeta Tower

Estonia Rakvere Castle

Estonia Tallinn Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

Estonia Tallinn Old Town

Estonia Tallinn Old Town 2

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


World By  Shotglass
Chapter 6 :

  • Location : Northern Europe
  • Capital: Helsinki
  • Language: Finnish, Swedish, Saami
  • Population: 5.4 million
  • Total Area: 338,000 km2
  • Currency: Euro
  • Annual average liquor consumption per capita: 9.3 liters per year
  • Annual Beer Consumption Per Capita: 85 liters per year
  • The Most Popular Drink: Punsch, Mead, Lakka, Glögg, Julmust 

  • City
Finland is a Nordic country bordered by Sweden on the west, Norway on the north and Russia on the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.  Finland declared independence from Russia in 1917 and became a republic in 1919.  Its national awakening in the 19th century is summarized well in one succinct and abrupt quote: "We are no longer Swedes, we do not want to become Russians, so let us be Finns".  Helsinki is the capital, with a population of 539,000 but with the little cities around it, it's around 900,000.  While Helsinki is one of the largest cities in Northern Europe and attracts a fair share of tourists, North of Finland boasts the most famous Finish attraction - Santa Claus's office on the Arctic Circle.
  • People
To me, the best way to describe Finns is by explaining the philosophy of sisu that they subscribe to.  It is very unique and very Finnish.  Sisu stands for special strength, persistent determination and resolve to succeed regardless of the circumstances.  One needs sisu to survive Finnish nature, especially in the far north section of Finland where sun does not set for 73 days in summer and does not rise for 51 days during winter.

  • Drinking
It is also hardly surprising that Finns apply sisu to other areas of their life, namely in drinking.  Drinking is not about socializing, it is about getting drunks.  Finns will use all of the perseverance and determination to get there.  Most crimes in Finland are homicides committed by drunken people during weekends.
  • Ice Hole Swimming
Another winter activity and a national hobby is "ice hole swimming".  Finns take dips in a large opening cut through the ice of a frozen lake or a sea.  If this sounds too extreme, you can always just do somersaults in the snow after a hot sauna.  It should be easy enough to find one as there are 2 million saunas in Finland for 5 million residents.
  • Wife Carrying Competition
An unusual sport to indulge in while in Finland is wife carrying.  The sport is thought to have originated in Finland with a famous robber who lived in a forest with his gang of thieves.  Tales get a little blurry, and it is not clear if he used the wife carrying to endurance train his gang or to give them practice in women stealing, but the sport exists to this day and is extremely popular.  Currently, there are two different techniques to carry the wife.  One is over the shoulder, and the other is "Estonian" style with the wife hanging upside-down with her legs around the husband's shoulders, holding onto his waist.  I think this sport has one of the more curious prizes for the winner - wife's weight in beer!  Bottoms up, travelers, in both senses of the word!

Finland Helsinki Aerial View

Finland Helsinki Aleksis Kivi Statue Railway Station Square

Finland Helsinki Botanical Garden

Finland Helsinki Central Station

Finland Helsinki Harbor

Finland Helsinki Harbor View

Finland Helsinki Lutheran Cathedral And Uspenski Orthodox Church

Finland Helsinki Sibelius Monument by Eila Hiltunen

Finland Helsinki Submarine Vesikko At Suomenlinna

Finland Helsinki Suomenlinna Fort

Finland Helsinki Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral

Finland Oulu City Hall

Finland Tampere City Hall

Finland Tarvaspa, Gallen-kallela

Finland Northern Lights Lapland 1

Finland Northern Lights Lapland 2