|Touring in South-East Latvia|
|Tour 1: Riga-Ogre-Lielvarde-Koknese-Jekabpils-Rezekne-Kraslava||
Riga is the perfect base to begin a tour of the Sousth-Eastern region
of Latgale, home to some of Latvia's most spectacular scenery as well
as charming towns and villages. Only 33 km away, where the Ogre river
meets the Daugava, is the town of Ogre, known for its beautiful
scenery which made it a famous summer resort and leisure area at the
end of the 19th century; the construction of a railway line linking
it to Riga made the town even more popular. The dry microclimate of
the region meant that it was an ideal place for the construction of
the children's sanatorium in 1927, and in 1930 a sanatorium for TB
patients was built on Baku hill. In the 1950s, however, the town
became more of an industrial centre, and a major knitwear factory
was built there in 1965. But there is much more to the town than
hospitals and factories, and more can be learnt at the History and
Art Museum, 3 Kalna Prospect.
Seventeen kilometres south-east brings you to Lielvarde and, a little
out from the town, Lielvarde Lutheran church and the Museum of
A.Pumpurs, dedicated to the author of the famous Latvian epic
Laplesis (1888), the themes of which are illustrated by wooden
sculptures in the surrounding park. Also try to see the ruins of
the Lielvarde Castle, located in the beautiful park where the
Rumbina river flows into the Daugava. On your arrival in Koknese,
built at the confluence of the Perse and Daugava rivers, be sure
to see Koknese park, home to castle ruins and a Lutheran church,
dating from 1687, which offers marvellous views of the surrounding
countryside. The cannons and stone crosses which dot the park date
from medieval times.
Still further south, you'll reach the modern city of Jekabpils, created in 1962 by uniting the older towns of Krustpils and Jekabpils on opposite sides of the Daugava. It's a pleasant town to visit, particularly Meza Park, near the Brodu reservoir, and Struve Park, both favourite places for locals to get away from it all. Popular with visitors is the open-air section of the Museum (6 Filizofu Street), where you can see 19th-century buildings and household artefacts typical of the Augszeme region, as well as the Sunkaste windmill, dating from 1820, and the district rent-house, built the same year.
Krustpils Castle, dating from the 18th century, has been rebuilt several times and finally converted into a manor house. It's still worth seeing; the main building of the old castle has remained intact, and in the park, by the pond with the mill (214 Riga Street), is the castle's chapel.
Thirty-five kilometres east of Jekabpils, on the banks of Lake Marinzeja, is the magnificent Marinzeja Manor House, built in 1847 and surrounded by rolling parkland; it is currently in use as a school.
Back on the road, continue east towards Rezekne, stopping in Sakstagals, birthplace of the Latgale hero Francis Trasuns. In 1992 a museum in the from of an ancient Latgale homestead was built in his memory.
Rezekne itself is noted for its unique location among seven hills in the very centre of the Latgale region. The town is built on the Rezekne river, and in its southern section is the lovely Lake Kovsa. Apart from the scenery, Rezekne is noted for Latgale Street, the town's oldest, lined with buildings constructed on the plans of Catherine II of Russia at the end of the 18th century. An important symbol of independence is the Latgale Liberation Monument - a woman with a cross in her upraised hand - symbolising the liberation of the region from the Bolsheviks in 1920. You can learn more about the history of Latgale and Rezekne itself at the Museum of Latgale Culture and History at 102 Atbrivosanas aleja.
Back on the road, you'll be stunned by the scenery which has given Latgale the name 'Land of Blue Lakes'. Twenty-five kilometres from Rezekne and sheltered by hills is Lake Razna, the second biggest lake in the country. The lake's eastern and southern shores are easily accessible. Twenty kilometres from Rezekne and particularly beautiful is Lake Ezezers, with more bays and islands than any of Latvia's hundreds of lakes. Ezernieki, on the shore, is a popular and pleasant place to relax before continuing your journey through some of the most stunning areas of Latvia. Between Aglona, Kraslava and Ezernieki there are almost 300 large and smaller lakes, and the Daugava valley between Kraslava and Daugavpils - where the steep banks of the river can be up to 40 metres high - really must be seen. The landscape is home to Daugavas loki, the nature reserve, and many rare species of plant which are protected by law.