Ventspils, 117 mi/188 km northwest of Riga, is Latvia's largest harbor for crude oil exports and still has a bleak image as an industrial town. Its renovated old center, however, is charming.

A stroll along the old warehouse street Ostas, which is now a pretty harbor promenade, is a favorite of romantic souls who enjoy the beautiful sunsets from the Southern Mole (Dienvidu mols). The beautiful St. Nicholas Orthodox Church (Sv. Nikolaja Baznica) is a classicist masterpiece that looks like a Greek temple.

The lavishly renovated Castle of the Livonian Order, built in 1290, has an interesting multimedia show about the history of the Baltic States.

North of Ventspils is Slitere National Park, a unique coastal area with primeval forests. Sea eagles breed in the old trees, and wolves and lynxes freely roam the woods, which have remained untouched because the area around Cape Kolkas was an off-limits military zone in Soviet times.

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