Liepāja, Latvia's third biggest town, situated in Lower Courland 220 km from Riga on the Baltic coast, is the industrial city with an ice-free harbour and a huge metallurgical complex (Liepājas Metalurgs). The second half of the 19th century saw the rapid expansion of industry and industrial related activities. Having direct railway connection with the fertile parts of southern and south-eastern Russia, Liepāja (Libau, Lipawa) has become the modern port for foreign trade on the Baltic specialized in exporting Russian grain. Before WWI Liepāja was also the biggest Russian emigration port. It had a regular transatlantic shipping service to New York and Halifax, between 1906 and 1913 ca. 330,000 emigrants from Eastern Europe passed through the city on their way to the New World and to the New Life. As a result of this prosperity, the Liepāja's population, which was only 9,970 in 1863, increased to 64,489 in 1897 and to over 100,000 in 1914 (more than today). Yet in 1863, nearly 80% of the inhabitants were Germans, 16% Latvians and 3% Russians. Destroyed during WWII and then rebuilt, Liepāja was in the Soviet period a completely closed city, Westerners were not allowed to come here and even nearby villagers needed a special permit to enter it. With the area of 60 sq km, Liepāja is sandwiched between coastal Lake of Liepāja (Liepājas ezers) and the Baltic Sea. The city can be divided into two parts: New Liepāja (Jaunliepāja) and Old Liepāja (Vecliepāja) which are separated with the navigable Trade Canal (Tirdzniecības kanāls) flowing from the Lake of Liepāja to the sea. The bus and railway stations are together right at the end of Jaunliepāja, north of the city centre, about 20 minutes' walk from the Tram Bridge (Tramvaja tilts). Description & Photo: Summer 1999.