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Business trips to the Baltic countries: Two birds with one stone

Riga, which is going to become a European Capital of Culture in 2014, promises to offer about fifty events aimed at attracting art and entertainment lovers. Meanwhile, every year, Vilnius and Tallinn bring crowds of tourists from abroad to their annual music, theatre, film events and festivals reviving the Baltic tradition. A growing number of foreigners who visit the Baltic countries for business are eager to come back here again with their families. The following year, you should plan your business trips and conferences in the capital cities of the Baltic States to make them both useful and fun.

“When planning a business trip, it's worth looking into the events happening in the country,” said Rasa Martens, a famous Lithuanian entrepreneur and tourism business expert. “I think it is necessary and useful, as you can combine work, leisure, broaden your horizons and get to know the cultures of other countries. I admit that one must get to know the city, rather than sitting in a hotel room and waiting for the next day. Of course, not everyone loves art, but I have never met a person indifferent to music, excluding those who are not interested in anything at all, and who, upon arrival to a foreign country, head straight to the hotel.”

R. Martens believes that foreigners coming to the Baltic countries are mostly fascinated by their people, the comfort and by our old towns. “All the world knows about the Soviet legacy of the Baltic countries, but I’m pleased that entrepreneurs who came here expecting to see the sorry state of affairs, leave the country satisfied, and then come back again. The organization of conferences and inclusion of cultural programs is a new opportunity for businesses to get to know the countries, and a good method for promotion for the country.”

To the library, after opera       

In 2014, after a five-year preparation and 24 million euro investment, Riga will become a European Capital of Culture. The Force Majeure cultural program prepared for residents and tourists includes 127 large projects, and will not only attract art lovers, but also entrepreneurs coming to the Latvian capital city for business, the organizers said. Next year, Riga will host 500-600 events: the cultural virus will spread throughout the city, which will be converted into a fun leisure venue with the help of artists.

You will certainly have many things to do upon arrival in Riga during January 17-18. The opening of the European Capital of Culture will solemnly start with Richard Wagner's contemporary opera Rienzi at the Latvian National Opera on January 17th.

The “Book lovers’ chain” on January 18th should be of interest not only to the fans of culture, but also to random passers-by – people are going to link the old National Library to the new library building. Books will travel from hand to hand, and thus reach the new, modern library, named the “Light Castle”.

This impressive building was designed by an American-Latvian born architect, Gunnar Birkerts, well known on the other side of the Atlantic as the designer of the Corning Glass Museum and the Law Library in Michigan. A huge building, reminiscent of the Himalayan peaks, attracts the eyes of curious tourists. The shape of this modern architectural monument embodies the mystical Glass Mountain and the Light Castle – symbols of Latvian folklore. A legend says that the Light Castle sunk in an ancient lake, and will only emerge from the depths when the Latvians are again the masters of their land. The “Book lovers’ chain” will intersect the Daugava River and symbolically repeat the Baltic Way of 1989 significant for the Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian history.

1914 Exhibition – history of the First World War in new colours

All the upcoming events in Riga in 2014 are divided into six thematic lines by their type. One of them is called the Liberty Street, with the most interesting event – the 1914 Exhibition to be opened in the Latvian National Museum of Art in January. It is dedicated to the centenary anniversary of the First World War. It will display non-traditional historical and personal reflections of European artists on the First World War theme, and look at it from a different angle.

French poet Paul Valery wrote that “history is the most dangerous chemical product invented by the mind: it gives birth to dreams, false memories, intoxicated people, rubs salt on the wounds, disturbs sleep and makes the nation arrogant and intolerable”.

Memories and experiences of certain historical events are commemorated in artworks. The programme of the European Capital of Culture in 2014 is unthinkable without the topics of war, power and freedom” said Diāna Čivle, Riga 2014 project manager. She reassured that the exhibition, like a good, engaging film aided by visual media and installations, will help to move the spectator back into the past and learn the true history of the war and to see its consequences.

Baltic tradition on the night of bonfires on Riga beach

No matter what, opera, contemporary art and modern architecture impress everyone. You can have a different yet thoughtful and interesting way to spend some time in Riga: the traditional bonfire night will invite you to give a farewell the summer on August 25th, 2014. In ancient times, bonfires were lit on the Baltic Sea coast to warn ships of potential dangers. Now, the festival has been revived to new life, and its main objective is to save the Baltic Sea. People gather together on bonfire night and not only relax, but also discuss the pollution and ways to reduce it and save the sea.

Every year, its mystique not only charms the locals, but also foreigners: with wild dances, concerts and games replicating ancient traditions in the light of bonfires. Hydrobiologists install aquariums, displaying the sea creatures for residents and even offering to listen to a snail’s heartbeat. This night has already been celebrated for twenty years in Finland and Estonia, and is becoming increasingly interesting and impressive in the Baltic Sea countries, especially in Latvia.

Tallinn Music Week, for the fans of various music styles

If you are going to visit Tallinn in April next year, squeeze in some time at the Tallin Music Week – one of the largest music festivals in the Baltic and Nordic countries, to start on April 27th. This event will bring together more than 200 musicians from all over Europe, making it a great opportunity for coming to the Estonian capital city in early spring and watching performances in the most unexpected places, while having a good time in Tallinn's top clubs and concert halls for three days.

The Music Festival menu includes a full range of different styles – from folk and indie to jazz and punk, from classical music to metal. It will not only present everyone’s favourite performers, but also new talents. In addition to the abundance of concerts, there will be a lot of famous musician debates and food tastings in cosy Tallinn restaurants. The Guardian wrote about this festival: “Tallinn Music Week suggested the Baltic States will be the next region to burst on to the European music scene. This is no ordinary music festival, and Estonia is not an ordinary country”.

The famous Tallinn Jazzkaar – for the most demanding jazz lovers

Jazz aficionados visiting Tallinn on April 18-27, 2014, will have the opportunity to attend the largest Baltic jazz festival – Jazzkaar. Every year, the festival team creates an interesting and unique program of events, making it the most famous jazz festival in the Nordic countries. Ten-day-long Jazzkaar in Estonia attracts the most well-known jazz artists from around the world and all of Tallinn is filled with miraculous jazz sounds.

Jazzkaar has already been visited by stars such as Bobby McFerrin, Angie Stone, Chick Corea, Dianne Reeves, Jan Garbarek, Richard Bona, John Scofield, Charles Lloyd and many other jazz musicians. For those who cannot come to Jazzkaar, the festival team also organizes seasonal jazz festivals: Winter Jazz, Autumn Jazz and Christmas Jazz. The latter lasts two weeks and is famous for its cosy, festive and intimate atmosphere.

“I would love to have some business affairs in Tallinn”, said R. Martens. “Events like the Jazz Festival, Tallinn Music Week, are very tempting to me. If I could combine my business trips, I would definitely go there. In terms of culture, Tallinn seems very strong to me.”

Kaziukas Fair – a key to the Lithuanian tradition

Visitors to Lithuania in 2014 will also have plenty of opportunities to combine business affairs with the cultural program.

The exclusive festival embodying the Lithuanian culture and old traditions is Kaziukas Fair, taking place every year on Casimir's Day, March 4th, in Vilnius. For a few days, people sell their arts and crafts, which are not only eagerly purchased by locals, but also by foreigners visiting the capital city.

Kaziukas Fair dates back to the seventeenth century, and “Palm” bouquets (called “verbos”) made of dried flower blossoms and herbs are one of its main specialties (it is a must buy for everyone) along with earthenware pots, wicker baskets, cracker necklaces and many other items crafted by talented folk artists. And, you will not go hungry while choosing your souvenirs. You can savour traditional Lithuanian meals, and be sure to taste the heart-shaped honey cookies called the “Heart of Kaziukas”, not to mention the Lithuanian culinary masterpiece – a tree cake (“šakotis”).

“I believe Kaziukas Fair is a good atmosphere to feel the spirit of the country. It does not matter that it has already become a popular phenomenon, and that it does not have so much art. Most people arrive without going deep into our culture, while this fair helps to understand our spirit and transmit good energy”, said R. Martens about Kaziukas Fair.

Singers from around the world will unite in the Vilnius Song Festival

Another no less important event cherishing the Lithuanian tradition and culture for many decades is the Lithuanian Song Festival, which will be called “Here Is My Home” in 2014. The festival takes place every four years, and this time it will bring together more than 35,000 participants from Lithuania and foreign countries. The event attracts a variety of artists – singers, dancers, composers, actors, writers, folk artists, painters and choreographers. The opening concert will be held in the Cathedral Square on June 28th. It will then be followed by a presentation of the Baltic tribal costume collection in the Rulers Palace, kanklės (traditional Lithuanian musical instrument) afternoon in St. Johns’ Church, Copper Brass Concert in Kalnų Park and in Žalgiris Stadium, and a host of other exciting events that are really worth a visit.

It should be noted that the Lithuanian Song Festival is a national cultural phenomenon with a spirit comparable to the ancient Greek Olympic Games. In 2003, the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian Song and Dance Celebration tradition was recognized as an Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

Klaipeda Sea Festival – 80 years

On July 25-27, the Lithuanian port city – Klaipėda – will host the 55th Sea Festival, celebrating its 80th anniversary this year. During this anniversary, the organizers promise to carefully explore the history of the celebration and bring to life the most successful projects of the last eight decades.

The festival will buzz for three days and three nights, and will not disappoint people with different tastes: the programme is abundant with events and generally everything your heart cares for – from exclusive sea ceremonies, entertaining concerts and street theatre performances, to venturesome sports and a large fair. Dalia Grikšaitė, the PI Klaipėdos Šventė creative director, says that creating a good impression about the only Lithuanian port city and maritime cultural centre is a matter of honour for Klaipeda residents. “The success of the festival has been around for eight decades, and every year it attracts thousands of visitors to the sea, indicating that Klaipeda has correctly chosen the heading of the feast. It is always a delight or even pride to be the nationals of a maritime country – both during the interwar period, and today”, she said.


What else is there to do?


Comedian Russell Brand show in Riga Congress Hall. 22 February 2014

Amber During The Ages exhibition in the Latvian Museum of Natural History. 15 January 2014

Opening of the former KGB building. 30 April 2014

Creative event, Potato Opera. 1 May 2014

Arturs Maskats opera, Valentina. 5 December 2014


Tallinn Christmas Fair. 21 November 2014 – 8 January 2015

Tallinn Maritime Days. 18-20 July 2014

Tallinn's Old Town days. 31 May – 7 June 2014

The 26th Estonian Song Festival and the 19th dance festival “Touched By Time. Time To Touch”. 4-6 July 2014

BMX and skateboarding competitions week in Tallinn. 27-29 March 2014


Cinema Spring film festival. 20 March – 3 April 2014

Street Music Day. 3 May 2014

Scanorama film festival. November 2014.

World 1st division ice hockey championship. 20-26 April 2014

French film festival, Winter Screens. 23-30 January 2014

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