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 surprisingly charming.

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

Don't miss the lavishly renovated Castle of the Teutonic Knights (Ventspils means "Castle on the River Venta") built in 1290, which 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 while 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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