Jūrmala

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Jūrmala
City
Sunset on the coast of Jūrmala, looking out into the Baltic Sea.
Sunset on the coast of Jūrmala, looking out into the Baltic Sea.
Flag of Jūrmala
Flag
Coat of arms of Jūrmala
Coat of arms
Location of Jūrmala within Latvia
Location of Jūrmala within Latvia
Coordinates: 56°58′N 23°45′E / 56.967°N 23.750°E / 56.967; 23.750Coordinates: 56°58′N 23°45′E / 56.967°N 23.750°E / 56.967; 23.750
Country  Latvia
Town rights 1959
Government
 • Mayor Gatis Truksnis
Area
 • Total 100 km2 (40 sq mi)
Population
 • Total 56 060
 • Density 560/km2 (1,500/sq mi)
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
 • Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)
Postal code LV-2003; LV-2008; LV-20(10-17)
Calling code +371 67
Number of city council members 15

Jūrmala (Latvian pronunciation: [juːrmala] ( ) "seaside"; German: Riga-Strand, Baltische Riviera[1]) is a city in Latvia, about 25 kilometres (16 miles) west of Riga. Jūrmala is a resort town stretching 32 km (20 miles) and sandwiched between the Gulf of Riga and the Lielupe River. It has a 33 km (21 miles) stretch of white-sand beach, and a population of 55,580, making it the fifth largest city in Latvia.

While Latvia was part of the Soviet Union, Jūrmala was a favorite holiday-resort and tourist destination for high-level Communist Party officials, particularly Leonid Brezhnev and Nikita Khrushchev. Although it has many amenities such as beach-houses and concrete hotels remain, some have fallen into disrepair. Jūrmala remains a tourist attraction with long beaches facing the Gulf of Riga and romantic wooden houses in the Art Nouveau style.

Imants Ziedonis, one of Latvia's most important poets and folklorists of the Soviet and post-Soviet eras, was born in Jūrmala district.

Visitors can access Jūrmala from Riga by suburban rail (30 min) or along the highway by car (20 min). Since 2008 Jūrmala and Riga airport have been connected by a bus service. Visitors with private vehicles must pay 2 euro for each day spent in Jūrmala.

In publications dating from the Soviet period, the city name was occasionally spelled in English as Yurmala, a back-transliteration from Russian.

History[edit]

House in Jurmala
Soviet era concrete resort hotel in Jūrmala. Now it is restored and called "Baltic Beach Hotel"

The city of Jūrmala actually consists of a string of small resorts. From west to east, these include Ķemeri, Jaunķemeri, Sloka, Kauguri, Vaivari, Asari, Melluži, Pumpuri, Jaundubulti, Dubulti, Majori, Dzintari, Bulduri and Lielupe.

The area now comprising the city of Jūrmala was formerly part of Riga, known as Rīgas Jūrmala. Some parts of the area, like Sloka and Ķemeri, have been known as health resorts for centuries. Jūrmala was once known in German as Riga-Strand, or "Beach of Riga".

Jūrmala's reputation as a spa destination began in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Wealthy landowners began the tradition of relaxing at the seaside, and Russian army officers came here to rest after the Napoleonic Wars, returning later with their families. The peak of the Jūrmala area's development was the opening of the Riga - Tukums railway in 1877 (which still passes through Jūrmala) that gave a great boost to the numbers of visitors, and thus a boost to the development of the town as a resort. Jūrmala also gained a reputation as a health spa. The sea breeze, pine aroma, mineral springs, and sandy beach encouraged many sanatoriums to develop within the city.

In Soviet times Jūrmala was popular with the Communist officials because of its beach and sanatoriums - holidays were also given as rewards for top union members. It became one of the most popular holiday destinations in the whole Union. The spas offered facilities from mud baths to riding therapy and hiking in the woods. In summer there are many concerts.

Jūrmala gained official status as a city in 1959. The railway line became electrified and today it features the most regular train service in Latvia.

Whereas Riga has advanced rapidly to embrace and cater for growing numbers of Western tourists, Jūrmala has lagged behind. Russians are now subject to strict visa requirements and its beaches have yet to attract significant numbers of Europeans, leaving the tourist industry with a hard task on its hands. However, during the past few years, Jūrmala has started to recover. Many Russian celebrities, successful businessmen and others have been buying houses near the beach, and lots of different festivals and other activities have brought more and more people to the town each summer. At the moment, Jūrmala has almost achieved the popularity that it experienced by the Soviet elite.

The main beach at Majori and another at Bulduri now bear blue eco-flags signaling their safety to swim in, and the Latvian Academy of Science boasts a hotel for its members in the town. There is also the Midsummer Festival in June, celebrating the longest day of the year. The 'Jaunais Vilnis' New Wave (competition)[1] music festival showcases the latest music from all over Europe. The Lonely Planet guide to the region states that it is one of the highlights of Latvia.[citation needed]

Architecture[edit]

Wooden structure on the beach in Majori

The most distinguishing architectural feature in Jūrmala is the prevalence of wooden houses dating from the 19th and first half of the 20th century. Most of the buildings were built by Baltic German and Latvian architects, but there also are works of Russian, Finnish and other architects. Jūrmala's architecture typically falls into classicism, national romanticism, and modern styles. The town has an official list of 414 historical buildings under protection, as well as over 4,000 wooden structures.[citation needed]

Beach[edit]

Jūrmala's beach is 33 km (21 mi) long, covered with white quartz sand. The shallow coastal waters are suitable and safe for children. The beach is equipped with playgrounds, small benches, football fields and volleyball courts, as well as descents for prams and wheelchairs. In Spring and Autumn amber pieces can be found on the beach.

Each region's beach has its own character. In Majori and Bulduri, where the Blue Flag flies, it is possible to rent water bicycles or relax in the beach cafe. In Dubulti and Dzintari competitions in beach football and volleyball take place, but on Pumpuri beach there is kite surfing and windsurfing.

International water sports contests, including rowing, sailing, and waterskiing that take place on the river Lielupe. In January 2012, Jūrmala hosted the 2012 Winter Swimming World Championships.

Panoramic View of the beach at Jūrmala

Demographics[edit]

As of 1 January 2011, the city had a population of 56,060.

Demographics of Jūrmala 2011 [2]
Latvians
  
50.8%
Russians
  
35%
Belarusians
  
3.9%
Ukrainians
  
2.7%
Poles
  
1.7%
Lithuanians
  
0.9%
Others
  
5.0%

Festivals[edit]

During the Soviet era, Jūrmala was a venue for various festivals, the most notable of which were the annual Jūrmala Chess Festival[citation needed] and the pop music festival "Jūrmala" (1986–1993).[2]

Since 2001 Jūrmala has hosted a competition for young pop singers "New Wave" from all over Europe.[3] Jūrmala also hosts the "Singing KiViN" KVN each July.

The Jūrmala International Piano Competition, arranged by the City Council and the Latvian Piano Teachers Association in collaboration with Ministry of Culture of Latvia, for pianists of all nationalities aged 19 years and under, was established in 1994 and is held every two years in the "Dzintari" concert hall. As the International Academic Music Competition (with various categories) it reached its 11th Season in 2010.[4]

Twin towns - sister cities[edit]

Jūrmala is twinned with:[5]

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ Der Rigasche Strand - Baltische Riviera: illustrierter Führer durch Die Badeorte des Rigaschen Strandes. - Herausg. - [Riga] : Kulturverein des Rigaschen Strandes, [1928?]
  2. ^ About Jurmala pop music festival
  3. ^ Info about festival
  4. ^ See The 7th International Festival, and also 11th International Academic Music Competition "Jūrmala 2010", May 16-23, 2010.
  5. ^ "Sadraudzības pilsētas". jurmala.lv. Retrieved 26 April 2014.  (Latvian) (English)

External links[edit]

Photos and videos[edit]