RIGA - A recent Eurostat report surveying all major cities in the European Union and Bulgaria and Romania revealed a number of dubious distinctions for Latvia, placing it among the lowest in the continent in terms of sunshine and by far the highest in percentage of single-parent families.
According to the report, titled Urban Audit and covering 258 cities, the sun shines on the capital of Riga for an average of 4.5 hours a day, lower, albeit slightly, than neighboring cities in Estonia, Finland and Lithuania.
This revelation, coming during the current spat of gray skies and rain in Riga, is likely to come as no surprise to many.
By contrast, the sun graces Liepaja, the only other Latvian city surveyed, with its rays 4.9 hours a day on average.
But even though it may be grayest in the Baltics, the Latvian capital can take comfort in the fact that, according to Urban Audit, a number of cities in the Netherlands are even grayer, while the honor of the darkest city in Europe went to Bradford, England, which has and average of only 3.1 hours a day.
As expected, the cities with the most hours of sunshine were in Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Italy. Lefkosia in Cyrpus had the most sun, with nearly 9 hours per day.
Perhaps worse than the color of Riga's skies was the statistic that one-fourth of its families have one parent, putting the capital at the top of the 258 European cities polled in the survey. The European average is near 10 percent.
The Lithuanian cities of Kaunas and Vilnius both averaged around 5 percent of families with a single parent, while Estonia's Tallinn and Tartu each had numbers of around 6 percent.
The lowest numbers recorded in the European Union were from the Greek city of Athina, with only 3 percent of households in single parent homes, and the Bulgarian city of Plovdiv scored even lower however with 2.8 percent.
Latvia's official statistics office confirmed the Eurostat report, showing 44 percent of babies born last year were to unmarried couples.
The trend was attributed to Latvians increasing desire for common law marriages, and the spurring of official services in churches or civil registry.
Common law marriages are more common in Scandinavia, the office added. The number of marriages in Riga has decreased by 5 percent since 2000.
Riga also ranked among the highest in Europe in terms of living space: nearly 95 percent of its population resides in apartments. However, even here not all was lost. Paris, the city of love itself, beat out the Latvian capital by a fraction of a percentage.
Derry of England had the lowest number of its residence living in apartments, just under 9 percent.
Estonia also made an entrance near the top. Outside of EU centers, Brussels and Luxembourg, which employ large numbers of foreigners, Tallinn has one of the lowest portions of nationals of their workforce - at just 71 percent.
Over the years the Eurostat survey has grown from 58 to 258 cities, and in order to illustrate a wider cross section of society the cities surveyed are not always the largest. The survey was created in response to the European Commission's desire to learn more about how all the citizens in the Europe25 are living, as well as to formulate policies that can best correct inequalities.