A few days in Daugavpils (Part two)

Of Daugavpils, my (admittedly out of date) Lonely Planet had this to say:

It’s hard to smile when the grey sky matches the grey of crumbling Soviet block housing… a city with as many prisons as churches… Rigans will snicker when the words ‘visit’ and ‘Daugavpils’ come in the same sentence…

In short, I was glad I hadn’t read it until after I’d got on the bus and there was no turning back. However, when I stepped off the bone-rattling tram on Friday, I was quite pleasantly surprised. The main street, Rigas iela, is actually very nicely maintained with some lovely buildings, and a newly-renovated pedestrian area. There are also some not so nice buildings around most corners, but it’s not like I’m a stranger to that.

I wandered along Rigas for a while, pretty much the only person who did. Noticing a sign for the market, I decided to take a chance that it might be a) open, and b) a little livelier. To my relief, it was both. Unlike Riga market, all of the clothing and accessories stalls are indoors so I spent a while soaking up the atmosphere (and the heat). The women working there were friendly and bantered with each other as well as the customers, which was nice to see, even if some of the, erm, ‘fashion’, wasn’t.

2014-05-02 11.56.00

Fashion that leaves you red-faced

Clothes that leave you red-faced

A stroll out one of the side doors led to the flower, fruit and vegetable part of the market, which was also bustling, at least in comparison with the rest of the city.

I continued along my merry way, snapping anything that was snap-worthy.

Deciding that it was high time to check out what cakes were on offer, I chose one of the few cafés I’d spotted along the way where it looked like I had a fair chance of making it out alive – the rather delightful Šokoladņa. For once, not really in the mood for chocolate, I chose a fruity number which also covered my 5 portions of fruit and veg for the day. (That’s how that works, right?)

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After enjoying wolfing my cake and a nice warming cup of tea (which the girl brought over as I was taking a picture of the cake…), I continued to Dubrovin park. If it hadn’t been so cold, I’m sure I could have enjoyed it for longer, but as it was, I had a quick walk round, took a few photos and headed to the adjacent Regional Studies and Art Museum.

The girl behind the counter was positively overjoyed to see me, and even more so when I told her I wanted a ticket to every part of the museum (I think it worked out at just over €2). She excitedly explained that there was even an upstairs which they’d be happy to show me, offered me advice on what I’d be seeing, and was simply charming. As I listened to her, her colleague ran on ahead, switching on the lights – they must be big into energy-saving in Daugavpils.

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I pottered about for close to an hour, looking at artifacts and learning a bit more about the history of Daugavpils – all in all, a very enjoyable experience, apart from the weird bug and fish display in the nature exhibition. Shudder. As I was leaving the girl asked me where I was from. I told her Ireland, and asked her if she’d had many other Irish visitors. “No, you’re the first. But then, I’ve only been working here for two weeks…” Hoping that she kept her enthusiasm level that high well into the future, I left.

Crap. It was still only 2.30pm. Hmm. What to do? I’d already explored the city, the market, visited a museum, had cake… Deciding there was only one thing for it, I decided to stop off for a pre-lunch aperitif in a bar/restaurant down the street, Lidadis.

2014-05-02 14.39.25As I was the only customer, the barman was also delighted to see me. Ordering a white wine, I sat at a table next to a window and people-watched all four people in town. Thinking that €4 was a bit steep for a glass of wine (in Daugavpils), I decided to try somewhere else for lunch. I walked around the corner to Sāta Café. 

The owner was sound asleep behind the counter. Thinking that the door closing behind me might rouse him, I stood for a moment or two waiting. It didn’t. I started to tip-toe back out again when I heard spluttering and furniture creaking behind me. He looked at me as if I was some sort of apparition but when he realised I was flesh and blood, he offered me a choice of four sad-looking little pastries. I politely declined, wished him all the best, and left.

I walked all the way back up Rigas iela towards another bar I’d seen, Randiņš, which means ‘date’ in Latvian. 

2014-05-02 17.50.14There were, however, no dates happening. There was nothing happening, as this place was also empty. The Russian lady behind the counter looked so excited at the prospect of having a customer though that I felt I should order something. So, I ordered another glass of wine, took it outside, and people-watched the same four people.

In the end, in another depressing move, I went to Čili Pica (the equivalent of Pizza Hut), which of course, was swarming. Batting away excitable 4-year-olds, I finished up and went back to the hotel for a nap. Unable to face going out again that night to a potentially deserted city, I stayed in and had a bag of crisps and some more wine for dinner. Jealous?

Stay tuned for Part Three – cos everyone loves a trilogy (and I’m too depressed to continue writing). Crunch, crunch…




About BerLinda

Adjusting to life in Germany, after living in Latvia for four years. Should be easy, right?
This entry was posted in Expat, Fashion, Food, Humor, Humour, Latvia, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

113 Responses to A few days in Daugavpils (Part two)

  1. 1WriteWay says:

    Fruit tarts are my favorite. Very disappointing about the lack of activity … the economy, perhaps? No one can afford to go out to drink and eat?

  2. Well, at least the people are rather friendly there – I loved how you described their excitement about having a customer!! 😉 But the fashion at the store – I am at a total lost for words! And what’s up with that red faced mannequin?!?!

  3. That fruit tart looks divine. What an interesting place, apart from the ever present Pizza Hut. 🙂

    • Expat Eye says:

      It’s not actually Pizza Hut – just a reference! In Latvia, there’s no Pizza Hut, Burger King, Starbucks, Subway… just McDonalds!
      And the fruit tart was damn good 🙂 Thanks for following by the way! I’m working on Part three at the moment but I’ll be over to check out your blog after that! Linda.

  4. Well, I don’t think this place will be high on my ‘Must Do’ places to visit in the world. 🙂

  5. unwillingexpat says:

    Looks like you are having wonderful fun, love the fashion shots!
    I’ve just notices this post thought you’d like it about Latvia and it looks really beautiful:http://www.bucketlistpublications.com/2014/03/16/5-best-tourist-sights-in-old-town-riga-latvia/

  6. Anna says:

    See, this is TOTALLY lively, and not scary at all. Maybe I will go to Latvia after all…
    (Thanks for no dog poop)

    • Expat Eye says:

      Lively? Really? Jesus, Moscow must be dull 😉
      And you’re welcome – I did look for it but actually didn’t see any!

      • Anna says:

        It’s not that Moscow is dull, but compared to the depressing scenery in your last few Latvia posts, this is a major upgrade. Better architecture, greenery – it’s quaint, really!

      • Expat Eye says:

        Latvia – the only country in the world where cities can be described as ‘quaint’ 🙂 Part three is up by the way! No poo either – I promise 😉

      • Anna says:

        Thanks for the disclaimer 🙂
        I just got to my fave to do some blogging and blog-reading, FINALLY.

      • Expat Eye says:

        Nice 🙂 Yeah, I’ve got some catching up to do too – beer and Eurovision got in the way yesterday!

  7. barbedwords says:

    Wow, I feel down after reading this…but at least you got cake. And wine. And crisps. Actually, that sounds like a normal evening in for me…now I really am depressed 🙂

  8. Allison says:

    I hate when people catch me taking photos of food, photos that are so obviously going to be posted on Instagram later… If nothing else, at least you found some good customer service in Daugavpils 😉

  9. MrJohnson says:

    It would be so wonderful if everyone was as excited to see customers as those workers. For them, seeing you was kind of like a drug. They got a high from it.

    It kind of sucks when you have cake too early cause you can’t really have it again for the rest of the day. Just the other day I was telling a friend how there’s no substitute for crisps. A nap, wine and crisps sound like a decent event to me.

  10. wasd says:

    I should do more traveling like you do – just hit the city and see if city hits back 😀

    I am too practical and try to squeeze out any unwanted suprise.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Ha! A few (foreign) friends tried to convince me not to go, but it’s Latvia for god’s sake. How scary could it be?! I live in one of the ‘scariest’ areas of Riga which is absolutely fine 😉 People always have preconceived notions of places – I’d rather go there and decide for myself!
      Luckily, this time at least, the city didn’t hit back 😉

      • wasd says:

        Now I want to visit Daugavpils and see for myself, have never been in that side of Latvia. And yes, I will probably take some food with me.

      • Expat Eye says:

        I recommend it 🙂 But yes, you should visit – the countryside around there is pretty as well. And some good day trips if you have your own transport!

  11. Baiba says:

    Wow. THAT was depressing. No wonder people from the area have this kind of bitter sense of humor.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Ha, weirdly I found them much cheerier than people in Riga! 🙂 But obviously, I wasn’t conversing on the level that you would be – just noticed more smiles in the streets and friendlier service staff 🙂

      • Baiba says:

        I have actually spent many months during summer as a child in the area (20 km from D-pils), as my relatives live there. And I have to say, that I really like people from there, probably the only ones in our country, who can make a decent joke:) And if it is an intelligent one, not just like this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbHg4wKDCFI , then it’s the creme de la creme of Latgale spirit:)

      • Expat Eye says:

        I’ve heard that the Latgalians are the friendliest people in Latvia alright! I could have done with your antiseptic spray in the Latgola hotel actually 😉

      • Baiba says:

        They really are. If you have a chance to visit some latgalians in their natural environment – the countryside – you definately should not miss their home brewed beer and šmakovka. But antiseptic spray is allways a good idea:)

      • Expat Eye says:

        And probably bringing your own toilet paper – just in case 🙂 I think I might have the chance – will let you know if it happens!

  12. janis says:

    Good read. Looking forward to Part three 🙂

  13. I bet it really comes alive after dark.

    Ooh, but maybe that’s a clue they’re all vampires, so, good move.

  14. bevchen says:

    There’s a disappointing lack of leopard print in those clothing stores 😉

    At least the cake looks good (and I’m pretty sure that’s how 5a day works ;-))

  15. expatlingo says:

    Most of the town was happy to see you show up for a wander around! Might I ask how you chose this spot?

  16. freebutfun says:

    Sounds like the perfect place for a retreat…

  17. Paul says:

    It seem such a waste that there are no people. Sounds like it might be OK if there were tourists and disposible income so the shops could sell stuff and have better inventory. I wonder how they even make a livng when 2 euros sounds like a day’s take to support a building and two employees. That’s not sustainable.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Yeah, a few more people came in after me but they were probably lucky if they made €20 all day. Maybe the restaurants and cafes are busier when people are working but the amount of abandoned housing there is quite worrying.

  18. Cindi says:

    Crisps and wine for dinner? You could be my best friend.

  19. Owen Barker says:

    Damn tease….now I have to wait for part three…URG 😉


  20. June says:

    I think the chicken sandwich in part 1 trumps the packet of crisps! Were they cheese and onion? Could you not have found two cuts of bread and a slab of butter to make a sandwich with them? Crisps and wine in your hotel room – très chic! Looking forward to part 3!

    • Expat Eye says:

      I’m nothing if not chic 😉 I just couldn’t face going out again! And I wasn’t sure if I could actually get back into the hotel as they locked the door at 11! They were cheese and onion – Estrella – do you have them in LT?

  21. ok, so Daugavpils is survivable and even somewhat exciting and all, but your experience once more proves my theory that when going to smaller towns/country side villages it is always best to bring a few friends along just in case you’d want to talk to some one or imitate action at some deserted bar 🙂

    • Expat Eye says:

      But this is a CITY – the second biggest in the country! And I know it was a quiet weekend but still!

      • well, I don’t get this part too. Lithuanian second largest city IS quite busy and full of action. But maybe in this case it’s not about size, but about the mentality or something. There are cities in LT too which are cities only by name and number of population. otherwise they’re scarily empty and lifeless…

      • Expat Eye says:

        What’s the second biggest city? I’ve only been to Vilnius and Palanga. Palanga was really lively but it was summer and full of tourists, including me! 😉

      • Second largest is Kaunas, and it is a city alright with plenty of action, people, paces to go and see, etc. I’ve actually been to Kaunas last Friday and had a wonderful time drinking some wine there and here with a few friends. I’m definitely planning to do some more of Kaunas’ pubs and bars exploration sometime during summer 😀
        Regarding Palanga. While I don’t really like it, I’ll give you that it is swarming with people during the season. But come winter, the place turns into something depressingly deserted and with only a place or two open for business during the low season

      • Expat Eye says:

        Yeah, sounds like Jurmala here. I haven’t been to Kaunas yet, but maybe during the summer – make the most of my last few months in the Baltics!

  22. Out of curiousity is there a part of the Soviet Union that is actually tourist friendly? I know there are some really beautiful places… but are any of them really geared for foreign visitors?

    And just for the record fruit on cake is still fruit.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Um, I’m not sure there is! Of course you can get good and bad service everywhere but it seems to be more negatively biased in these parts. Then, I haven’t been everywhere!

      • Emmi says:

        depends on what kind of expectations you have. no need to be snobbish 😉 not every city in western europe, not even every big city is all that great. in former eastern bloc I would say saint petersburg and moscow (Russia ) are pretty good as long as you stay in good hotels and popular touristy destinations (and you can always run into some dodgy people everyhwhere in this world), Tallin and Tartu in Estonia have that scandinavian feel (at leats to me), then in Poland I would point out Krakow and wroclav that are stunning cities (look very germanic too), almost any big city in Eastern Germany (Leipzig, dresden) or czech republic is definitely worth a visit. Then in Ukraine Kiev and Odessa used to be quite good when I was there (now its all one big mess due to war) but Lviv is still a pretty good and safe travel destination. In Georgia, a middle Asian Republic between Russia and Iran, you have some decent service in tbilisi, kutaisi and batumi (ok maybe its not Paris but its still worth visiting) and some jaw dropping beautiful nature in the region of svanetia. I ve travelled in all these places and I am a huge fan of all eastern european countries, so that combined with my friendly nature and perfect knowledge of Russian, gave me a good impression. Everywhere I met quite lots of really nice people and had a great time. The most “westernized” places would probably be Prague and wroclav. I m not sure if it can be compared to Paris but the service was always definetely decent and you can find sleepy barmen in Britis/irish pubs too so…

      • Expat Eye says:

        I did really like Tartu, Krakow and Wroclaw I must admit! And St. P after a dodgy start.

  23. Aw, what an unsatisfactory food experience (besides the cake!). I hope you made up for it in Part III

  24. Ilze says:

    I hope You have included Mark Rothko art center and old bastion (to me these are only places I see as “must see” in Daugavpils)

  25. lizard100 says:

    This is starting to remind me of that film Logans run when the escape into the wilderness and there’s no one about except an ol fella with lots of cats. He was asleep wasn’t he? I’m guessing I part three you get teleported into a strange underground brothel filled with intellectuals !

  26. Lāsma says:

    I think I love you…

  27. Gunta says:

    Everyone’s excited to see you! It might just be that russians are friendlier people *ducking under the table*

    • Expat Eye says:

      I think it might just be 😉 (Closes blinds and also ducks under table)

      • Gunta says:

        Oh, get rid of that LP book – places change and D-pils has changed a lot over the last decade. Lonely Planet books are depressive anyway – you should read their descriptions of West Africa, haha. Anyway, I just had this idea to ask you out for a beer but then remembered – I am on the other side of the ocean. Funny, how Internet makes everything seem closer! 🙂

      • Expat Eye says:

        Ha ha, I wish we could go out for a beer! I really enjoyed last time! 🙂 And yeah, my LP was written while plans were underway to build the Rothko centre…!

  28. nancytex2013 says:

    Worst. Vacation. Ever.

  29. Emmi says:

    oooh linda love your descriptions they are so funny and thank you for the cake photo. that looks much better than the gallery of poop. besides, you always seem to find the weirdest fashions! I think you should switch from the leopard print think to the weird flower pattern dresses

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