Historians say that the Livs or Livonians lived in the territory of Latvia long ago, starting in the 10th century. They populated Northern Kurzeme and the river banks of the Daugava and Gauja rivers. They asked the first German tradesmen who appeared in the area about the price of textiles at the market in Visby. This means that they were familiar with the island of Gotland. The Livonians were courageous and spiritually strong seafarers, because only strong men can live with the sea, go fishing and seal trapping, and take root in the by no means fertile sands of the seashore.
The territory between Ģipka and Ovīši is known as the Livonian coastline. There are still romantic seashore fishing villages of Livonian origin, as well as Cape Kolka, where the great Latvian activist Krišjānis Valdemārs insisted that it was the centre of Europe. Livonians all along the seashore responded to his call by taking part in building sailing ships all the way up to Ainaži, where there was a maritime school. That allowed the ships to sail to the far corners of the world, thus creating a century of sailing ships. This wasn’t possible without the Livonians. Also on the coastline are the oldest lighthouses in Latvia, with the one at Ovīši still serving as a star that shows the route for seaborne ships that are heading for Rīga.
The Livonian heritage is also seen in the tradition of fishing for lamprey eels – something that is still very much in place in Carnikava, Svētciems and Salacgrīva. Old-time fishing equipment that cannot be seen anywhere else is on display in the latter town.
The Latvian nation emerged when the Livonians flowed together with the Lettigalians, the Livonians joke. It may be that there is some truth in the anecdote. Liv or Livonian culture, lifestyles and history are closely linked to Latvia and cannot be separated from it.