Ventspils University College
| Aivars Lembergs|
Ventspils ( Russian: ; German: ; Polish: ; Livonian: ) is a town in northwestern Latvia in the Courland historical region of Latvia, the sixth largest city in the country. At the beginning of the 2012, Ventspils had a population of 41,998. It is situated on the Venta River and the Baltic Sea, and has an ice-free port. The citys name literally means "castle on the Venta", referring to the Livonian Orders castle built alongside the Venta River. Ventspils holds the national record for the highest temperature ever recorded in Latvia with +37.8 °C on 4 August 2014.
Ventspils developed around the Livonian Order Ventspils Castle, built along the Venta River. It was chartered in 1314 and became an important mercantile city of the Hanseatic League.
As part of the Duchy of Courland, Ventspils blossomed as a shipbuilding center. 44 warships and 79 trading ships were built in the town, and it was from Ventspils that the Dukes fleet set out to colonize Gambia and Tobago. Metal, amber, and wood-working shops also became important to the citys development.
During the Polish-Swedish War and the Great Northern War, Ventspils was destroyed, and in 1711 a plague wiped out most of the remaining inhabitants. Ventspils fell under the control of Imperial Russia and its re-growth was stalled.
It was not until about 1850 that shipbuilding and trade became important again. The port was modernized in the 1890s and connected to Moscow by rail. It became one of Imperial Russias most profitable ports, by 1913 turning a yearly profit of 130 million rubles. The population soared as well, growing from 7,000 in 1897, to 29,000 in 1913.
During the German occupation from 1915–1919, the population decreased almost by half, though some returned home during the First Republic of Latvia (1918–1940).
In 1939, the Red Army established a base in Ventspils. Under Soviet rule, an oil pipeline was built to Ventspils, and became the USSRs leading port in crude oil export. Thirty kilometres north of Ventspils is the ex-Soviet radioastronomy installation VIRAC (Ventspils Starptautiskais Radioastronomijas Centrs or Ventspils International Radio Astronomy Centre). The existence of the Centrs was unknown to most Latvians until 1994. After independence, the Latvian government began a city-beautification process to make the city more attractive to tourists.
In 2004, Ventspils was a host city for a multi-national (United States, United Kingdom, Poland, Sweden, Russia, Latvia, Denmark, Finland, Norway) naval exercise called Baltic Operations XXXIII (BALTOPS). The force was led by the guided missile cruiser USS Anzio and the destroyer USS Cole. The US vessels were the first American warships to visit the port of Ventspils since Latvian independence was declared.
A characteristic feature of Ventspils economy is the high development level compared to that of Latvia in general. At the moment, employment indicators (lower unemployment, higher employment) and indicators on income (higher average salary) suggest that Ventspils has created a favourable environment for business development.
The municipality tries to provide all inhabitants of Ventspils with good opportunities to attend various cultural and leisure events according to their interests ensuring both the availability of professional art, and opportunity to cultivate ones artistic talent in amateur art groups. After the reconstruction of Theatre House "Juras varti" and the construction of the new building of Parventa Library, Ventspils has certainly become an important regional cultural centre.
Ventspils is famous for its big concerts, festivals and other cultural and leisure events gathering thousands of people. The municipality does its best to establish new traditions and turn ordinary days into holidays.
Every winter Ventspils hosts the awarding ceremony of the Latvian Radio broadcast "Musical Bank" and the televised national selection for the Eurovision Song Contest. In July everyone can enjoy the final concert of the Latvian pop music poll "The Musical Hits" in Renka Garden.
On the second weekend of July, the city holds celebrations of the Sea Festival. On the first weekend of August, people from far and near places come to Ventspils to take part in the annual City Festival.
Other traditional celebrations include the formal opening of summer tourism season, the Parventa Festival, the Childrens Festival, the Blue Flag Raising Celebrations, the Festival of National Cultures "Ventspils Crown", the Meet of Baltic Sea Regions Bikers, the International Modern Rhythm Music Festival & Master Class organized in collaboration with Ventspils Music College, etc.
Educational and entertaining programmes for children are an integral part of the cultural life of Ventspils. Ventspils families with kids eagerly attend Sunday events in the childrens playground "Childrens Town" and the childrens park "Fantasy".
Ventspils City Council regularly supplies a number of grants to help fund cultural events and free-time activities for the youth, thus promoting participation and engagement in the city life and increasing diversity of professional art.
There are several institutions taking responsibility for the cultural life of Ventspils, including:
Ventspils is a family-friendly city offering various possibilities both for families living here, and visitors with children from other cities and countries. Harmony between the modern port, innovative plants and factories, and the beautiful and tidy beach that has been flying the Blue Flag since 1999 makes Ventspils a very special place.
Ventspils is a capital of flowers and fountains; all over the city (even in electrical posts) you can find colourful cow sculptures, but streets, parks, squares and courtyards are decorated with flower sculptures, figurative flower compositions and tasteful flowerbeds. Ventspils is in unwithering bloom even during the hottest summer days.
Ventspils is always an attractive tourism destination with its 600 mm (1 ft 11 5?8 in) narrow gauge train Mazb?n?tis and childrens playgrounds that are perfect for families with children; the Beach of the Blue Flag and dunes offer good sunbathing conditions even if the air temperature is just 15 °C (59 °F), not to mention the stargazing with an up-to-date telescope at the observatory and unforgettable cosmic impressions at the most contemporary digital planetarium in the Baltics (which is the only one in Latvia).
Old Town of Ventspils Ventspils developed rapidly as a commercial harbour in the years of growth of Duchy of Courland and Semigallia, therefore the most active building works took place in vicinity of the present Market Square where a number of former storehouses of 17th century are preserved, and a dwelling house at the crossing of Tirgus and Skolas Streets is one of the most ancient houses of such type in Latvia (built in 1646).
Next to the Market Square, in historical school building on Skolas street, there is located Ventspils House of the Crafts (2007). International Writers’ and Translators’ House (2006) was opened in premises of the former City Hall (1850), on the City-Hall Square. The building is reconstructed to accommodate creative work and everyday needs of its writers. The recently renovated Ventspils Central Library (2006) and Evangelic-Lutheran Church of Nikolay (1835) are located next to it. The City-Hall Square, the Market Square and the Ostas Street Promenade are popular walk places.
CowParade in Ventspils took place in 2002, and now several cow sculptures reside in the city:‘Latvijas meln?’ (Latvian Black Cow) dwells on the Promenade of Ostas iela;
‘Pretim gaismai’ (Towards the Light) that usually climbs the lamp post on Pils iela next to ‘Latvenergo’ JSC;
‘Ms. Moo-Dunk’ the basketball cow resides near the Basketball Hall of the Olympic Centre ‘Ventspils’;
‘Dz?ve ir skaista’ (Life is Beautiful) is situated at the Children’s Park ‘B?rnu pils?ti?a’ (Children’s Town);
‘J?ras govs’ (Cow of the Sea) dwells next to the Livonian Order Castle facing the River Venta;
‘Nafta’ (Oil) lives next to the Children’s Home ‘Selga’;
‘Londonas govs’ (London Cow) welcomes the residents of the camping site ‘Piej?ras kempings’.
There are also three considerably larger cows:‘Ce?ojoš? govs’ (Travelling Cow) is shaped like a huge suit-case and awaits the city guests on the Promenade of Ostas iela to take some pictures;
‘Govs-Matrozis’ (The Sailor Cow) is a giant blue-coloured cow dressed as a seafarer and situated at the Southern Pier of Ventspils;
‘Š?pojoš? govs’ (Cow on the Swings) is a large, but cute and girly cow sitting on the swings not far from the excursion boat ‘Hercogs J?kabs’.