1836 KM AROUND LATVIA
Enrico Podnieks, Manager of the 1836 Foundation
We have river valleys, seashell-littered beaches, pine forests and golden fields. We have ancient oak trees, ancient valleys, legendary mounds and caves. We have the smiles and life stories of the people we meet along the way. We are so very rich because the most beautiful and precious things have already been given to us. All we have to do is look around, see, feel and appreciate it.
In order to boost tourism, tackle environmental issues and improve the knowledge base on nature-friendly lifestyles, we need to look for different solutions. One of them – the Idea Cleanup project, initiated last year as a part of the Big Cleanup, inviting everyone to come up with innovative ideas on how to reduce the waste in our country, how to create less waste and to keep Latvia sustainable and clean. This is a wonderful platform for sharing ideas who care about the environment. The work on the project “1836” started with the idea to develop a tourism route along the Latvian border. At first, we established the physically accessible roads and trails as close to the Latvian border as possible, we also research the unique people and cultural and historical heritage of each location. We also involved Latvian musicians in the creation of this route, who were excited to be involved and performed to the participants of the hike and the locals at the end of each research hike.
The territory of Latvia consists of four cultural and historical districts, which still have many beautiful, untouched and undiscovered natural locations. When traveling around the world, tourists are encouraged to explore various trails to enjoy the country’s beautiful nature. However, before we go to the wider world, I would recommend starting with Latvia. We have the potential to create organized, interesting and culturally significant hiking and nature trails. In 2015, we established the “1836” foundation with the long-term goal to create a 1836 km long tourist trail along the entire Latvian border. Why 1836? That is the length of the Latvian border. When the idea for this project came into being, it was clear that it would be a gift to Latvia in its centenary, thus, gaining a deeper meaning and realization. However, as the idea develops, we want us to have our own story and hiking route to offer not only to foreign visitors but also to Latvians. Unfortunately, the environmental tourism for which our country seems to be made for, is not developed to the extent it could be. Latvia has such a great potential in this respect and hopefully we will start to realize it at some point.
When exploring the areas near the Latvian border, I can say with certainty, that we have very beautiful, diverse and often completely untouched nature. Tourism is still an undiscovered value for us today, and it is certainly necessary to talk more about it, presenting to the wider public the opportunities that are offered. With the 1836 km long trail the hikers will be able to explore many different locations, see the diversity of nature and the kindness of our residents. The trail around Latvia is made for walking, cycling, taking a ride on a motorcycle or in a car. This is the exploration of your own land, as well as recreation – the travelers must have access to well-organized and well-maintained infrastructure.
Latvians have always been close to nature and appreciate everything it provides – both the beauty and the bounty of the land. One of the Latvian greats, Imants Ziedonis, mentions in the introduction of his book “Leišmalīte”: “One day there will be a tourism route around Latvia (it must) and people will ask for interesting places to shine.” Needless to say, the song with the words of Ziedonis – “Gods Dievam augstībā” – has become a hymn for our hike. Therefore, I think it is important to listen to each other, to support one another, and to travel together to find inner peace, to draw on the power of nature and energy for life.