I know the saying is typically “all roads lead to X”, but in this case, both are true, though I’ll be talking more about RÄ«ga rather than the rest of the country for this.

Many old cities have pretty some pretty unimaginative street names. One type of street name particularly common in Latvia is naming streets after major cities in neighbouring countries. More often than not, these were the roads that once led (or still lead) in the direction of the named city. Some important RÄ«ga streets that fulfill this task – Maskavas street (Moscow), TÄ“rbatas street (Tartu), PÄ“rnavas street (Parnu) and Tallinas street (Tallinn street). Of course, at the time they were named, they were all a part of the Russian Empire, but these names still remain today. Many RÄ«ga streets, as we discussed last week, have changed over the years to reflect different political powers, but these street names have remained (for the most part, TÄ“rbatas had a few name changes, but always reverted to the old name), presumably because there’s not really anything offensive to political sensibilities about a street named after the city it (eventually) leads to. One that does not survive to present day, however, is the Saint Petersburg highway, which formed part of what is now BrÄ«vÄ«bas boulevard/street/avenue.

Once we’ve got the major international cities out of the way, there are plenty of Latvian towns and villages that get their own street names (it is only fair after all, most of them will also have a RÄ«ga street – according to BalticMaps, 86 towns, villages and cities in Latvia have a RÄ«ga street, all the way from Liepāja in the west to Krāslava in the east and everywhere in between). In most cases, they point in the direction of the town they’re named for, but not always. Central RÄ«ga has CÄ“sis and Valmiera streets. The southeastern Moscow suburb has many streets named for eastern Latvian towns and cities – Aglona, Daugavpils, JÄ“kabpils, Krāslava, Ludza, RÄ“zekne and Zilupe. Going northeast from the city centre, into the Teika suburb, there are streets named after central Latvian towns such as Aizkraukle, DzÄ“rbene, Lielvārde, Piebalga and Ropaži.

Crossing to the other side of the Daugava, one will predictably find cities named after western and southern Latvia – Bauska, Jelgava, Ventspils, even smaller parishes like Bāta and TadaiÄ·i get street names. In fact, go south of Kārlis Ulmanis avenue and almost every street name is also the name of a Latvian parish.

The only part of RÄ«ga that isn’t overrun with place names as street names is Old Town – but Old Town street names are the subject for a different post! Perhaps we’ll tackle them next week? Stay tuned!

Mappy Monday – All Roads Lead Out of RÄ«ga
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