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Take a drive through the crossroads of two mighty European powers: Estonia and Latvia twist their own brand of Northern culture with a history steeped in millennia.

At a dinner in Riga over a decade ago, as I pushed around a slab of grey pork and side of boiled potatoes, I learned that the Latvian language – one of the oldest tongues still spoken on the planet – has no word for ‘mountain’. The term kalns, or hill, serves as the best substitute, as there are no true mountains in the entire region; no borrowed term has been added to the local lexicon. And there’s really no need for one: the entirety of the Baltic shield is blanketed by an undulating current of towering pine.

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