Liepaja - Latvia

Latvia's third largest city is located in the far southwest corner of Latvia on the Baltic coast only 100km from Klaipeda in Lithuania. It straddles a narrow strip of land between the sea and a lake. Following Soviet isolation, today Liepaja is known as a progressive city with beautiful architecture, an internationally recognised Blue Flag beach and a raging nightlife. Sights in the city include the Holy Trinity Church with the world's largest historic unreconstructed organ with 141 stops and 7000 pipes, St Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral: built in 1900-1903 and St Anne's Lutheran Church, the oldest in Liepaja, dating from 1508 . At Karosta Military Harbour visit the Officer's Palace, Marine Cathedral, Riding Manege, Fortifications and the Northern Breakwater, the Old Prison and interactive show Behind the Bars. The coast here is a long dune backed beach and there is a fine Seaside Nature Park. Beginning as a humble fishing village, Liepaja eventually became a major trading port under the Duke of Courland. It suffered heavily during the Great Northern War when the population was decimated by an outbreak of the plague in 1710 and only regained its importance as a port and mercantile centre in the 19th century as a part of the Russian empire. In the early 20th century it had beautiful parks and Art Nouveau buildings but WWII brought Soviet and Nazi troops, bombings and devastation to the city's historic centre. After the war, the Soviets isolated the city and even Latvians from other parts of the country weren't allowed to visit it. Despite this the citizens of Liepaja managed to cultivate their traditions and were among the first to begin the independence movement in the 1980s.