Daugavpils Stories and Tips


Daugavpils Photo, Daugavpils, Latvia

From the moment you step down from the train, Daugavpils feels very much like the back end of nowhere, one of those dour, end-of-the-world places still endemic in the old Eastern Bloc. The last jumping-off point before the Belarusian border, the station building's stab at monumentalism is neutered by a departures board listing four trains a day, half of which were returning to the capital. It's Latvia's second city, though the lingua franca on the slush-bound streets was Russian (Latvian speakers make up just 17% of the population, only slightly ahead of Poles).

Straight across from the station, Rigas iela begins. The town's pedestrianized main street, it has lots of attractive early-20th century architecture like the inter-war House of Unity and, at the far end, a small History and Art Museum featuring reproductions of work by the locally born Mark Rothko. Other than that, there wasn't a great deal else to see beyond the 19th-century fortress, a grid of decaying Soviet Aviation barrack buildings inside red-brick walls built to repel Napoleon (they worked, for a while). Our 20 santimes were taken by a man in jeans and a leather jacket with a half-smoked cigarette wedged between his teeth. Over his shoulder, a rusted playground looked as forlorn as the city centre sign saying Work in UK. Hanging above a locked-up office, it wasn't apparent whether it was an advertisement or a cry for help.

Before leaving we ate at Gubernators, a posh cellar-pub on a corner opposite the city's university. Meat and chips cost under 3 lats; half-litres of beer were just 80 santimes. It's not as pretty as Riga, but Daugavpils is a whole lot cheaper.

Train rides from Riga take around four hours. Return tickets are just under 10 lats.

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