A few days in Daugavpils (Part three)

Yet again, I woke up at the crack of dawn, thanks to the paper thin blinds and the creaking of old trams (and old bones) outside my window. After trying to convince myself that I was asleep for another couple of hours, I gave up at around 8.30 and went downstairs for breakfast.

Stunning view from my bedroom window

Stunning view from my bedroom window

There was no sign of Unhh, but the cook came running out of the kitchen to switch on the TV and the lights. We both panicked a bit when we realised that we couldn’t understand a word the other was saying, but I managed to get across black tea with milk by pointing at her (black) jumper and making (insane-looking) pouring motions with my hands.

A couple of minutes later, I had a plate of pancakes smothered in strawberry jam and cream – and my tea. Excellent. Pointing and mime save the day again.

I had it in mind to go to the Mark Rothko museum that day, but as luck would have it, I got on the tram going in the wrong direction, so I ended up taking a little spin through the forest instead, seeing graveyard, graveyard, graveyard, hospital, graveyard, graveyard… To be honest, it didn’t inspire much confidence in the hospital. When we got to the end of the line, the conductor looked at me like I was a bit mad, but I just paid again and stayed on until the end of the line in the other direction. At 43 cents a pop, why not?

For those of you who don’t know, Mark Rothko was born in Daugavpils, or Dvinsk as it was back then. His art came home last year when the Mark Rothko Art Centre opened. Unfortunately, they still haven’t completed the infrastructure to get people safely from the tram stop to the museum, so you have to trek along a sandy bank, and then across a busy roundabout. Hair-raising stuff.

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Rothko, Rothko, wherefore art thou, Rothko?

As you can probably tell, I made it. Located inside a 19th century fortress, The Rothko Centre is home to the Rothko collection, other exhibitions, artists’ residences, a video hall, a library – and a café. The museum itself is actually the old arsenal building, and is quite stunning.

I paid in (€4.98 to the Rothko sector), left in my coat, and proceeded through security. The interior is very modern, with lots of touch-screens displaying information about Rothko’s life, projections of his art, and BBC shows about his life and work.

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However, although impressive, it felt like too much style over too little substance. Of his 836 paintings, there are just 6 originals, donated by his family. At one point, I started following one of his famous quotes around a wall – “(We) are desperately searching for those pockets of silence where we can root and grow. We must all hope we find them.” Thinking it led somewhere interesting, I was a bit disappointed to see the same quote in Latvian, then in Russian and arrive back where I started. All in all, I spent around an hour there, but that was pushing it. 

I walked outside and over to the café in search of cake. Again, more style, but badly planned. Of the three rooms, one was taken over by a private party, one was reserved for later, and the third was full – of huge tables, but not many people. The terrace was also full. So I wandered over to the visitor information centre, just as a man was locking the door. The sign said that they were closed at 13.05, 14.05, 15.05, 16.05… so I was unable to figure out when they were actually open. After a stroll around the fortress, I headed back to the tram stop.

Once back in the metropolis, I headed for Randinš again. This time there were other customers, even though I was the youngest by around 40 years. Not a bad feeling. After a stodgy feed of chicken and potatoes, I tried to work some of it off by walking up to Church Hill, where four different churches of four different religions stand – Lutheran, Catholic, Russian Orthodox and the Community of Old Believers. The Lutheran one was easily the least impressive (in my opinion) but the other three were beautiful, if in very different ways. 

After that, it was back to the hotel. Remembering that I was running low on loo roll (nobody had cleaned or restocked my room since I’d been there), I hunted down Unhh.

Me: Would it be possible to get another roll of toilet paper, please?

Unhh: Unhh. OK.

Bless her.

After a nap, I put my glad rags on and headed out. After the debacles of the previous two nights, I wasn’t taking any chances.

Tonight, I would be dining at the Plaza Restaurant on the 10th floor of the Latgola Hotel – which turned out to be closed for a VIP party. Bastards. I installed myself in the lobby bar instead. And waited, and waited, and waited. The waitress seemed to think it was more important to pick up empties and faff around behind the till than serve new customers. It was as I fumed at the menu sitting on the table that I noticed the ants running around.

3 stars my arse

Picking up my coat, I hightailed it out of there. I went back to Lidadis… which was closed.

Feeling more than a little homicidal at this point, I gave up on food and headed for Artilērijas Pagrabi, one of the most happening spots in town.

One of the most happening spots in town

One of the most happening spots in town

Despite the dodgy exterior, the interior was both funky and cosy, with friendly bar staff and cheap pints. I calmed down. After paying €1 for the concert that was taking place that night, I settled in to enjoy ‘polk’ (punk/folk) music by Laimas Muzykanti. And they were… fantastic. There had only been around six people there when I arrived, but the place soon filled up. Even Sleepy from the café showed up – and stayed awake. The atmosphere was great – people laughing, singing, clapping and even dancing.

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These guys certainly seemed to enjoy it...

These guys certainly seemed to enjoy it…

They saved the night for me – and probably the lives of a bunch of people.

The next morning, I got the bus back to Riga. On arriving at the bus station, I ran upstairs to the loo where a homeless woman had taken off her trousers and pants and was washing them in the sink. Ah, the smell of stale urine – welcome back to Riga.

As for Daugavpils? It’s clear that a lot of money has gone into the city, and is still going into the city. I just wonder if there will be anyone left to appreciate it in a few years time…

About BerLinda

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

85 Responses to A few days in Daugavpils (Part three)

  1. Nene says:

    A little something to remind you of your hols! It’s European election time (bet you didn’t know that??!!) so German TV did an “Europatour”, including…tah-dah…Daugavpils!!


    It basically says, they have a lovely city centre – thank you Europe – but the train man at the beginning needs Russian contracts, so please Europe, leave Russia in peace. They also follow the “language police” around… Yerwan has to check that everybody can speak Latvian, however, politician man at the end failed the test and says “we mustn’t forget our roots”. Hmmmm. Enjoy! 😉

  2. 1WriteWay says:

    What a town of contradictions … and if you ever visit there again, at least you’ll know to only expect a hearty breakfast for sustenance 😉

  3. Aussa Lorens says:

    Hahahaha okay, I love your take on the city and your travel, with all it’s ups and downs. This sounds pretty much exactly like my sorts of experiences overseas– and I love that they have a fancy building but no practical way to get there. Talk about “putting the cart before the horse.”

    Also, what is the “Community of Old Believers?”

    • Expat Eye says:

      A breakaway part of the Orthodox religion. They stick with the old faith and didn’t adopt new reforms that were brought in. (I’d never heard of them either before) 😉

      • Anna says:

        I am surprised about Latvia housing the Old Believers church. As far as I know, the reforms you mention tool place in the 17th century, way before Latvian territory was in Russia’s fold. Some OB communities were allowed to peacefully co-exist with the establishment church (in a sense of, in the same geographic area), but many moved to Russian north and Siberia & Far East and settled there. Very, very interesting stuff…when were the four churches constructed?

      • Expat Eye says:

        (Thank you Google) 😉
        Martin Luther Cathedral designed by V. Neimanis was built in 1893. Roman Catholic Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary was built in 1905, and later in 1909 it acquired an organ created by A. Homan from Poland. SS Boris and Gleb Russian Orthodox Cathedral was built in 1905 as a garrison church. Church of the Community of Old Believers was built in 1908–1928.

      • Anna says:

        So seems pretty close together time-wise. Neat project!

  4. barbedwords says:

    I don’t know whether to laugh or cry… 🙂

  5. Kristīne says:

    Linda, too bad the Rothko pocket of silence didn’t work out for you – when I followed the qoutes I actually ended up in a small separate room, were you could take a seat and meditate looking at a very melancholic painting 😉

  6. linnetmoss says:

    I’m still stuck on the pancakes with strawberries and cream. And black tea. Unfortunately it sounds like that was the highlight, though the churches were nice too 😉

  7. Cindi says:

    So glad to read your homicidal thoughts were able to be squashed by Laimas Muzykanti and your visit to Artilērijas Pagrabi. I’d hate to read of your arrest. And the blogosphere would miss you.

    And such a welcome back to Riga ….

    • Expat Eye says:

      Yeah, I wouldn’t like Latvian prison much I think 😉
      Seriously, sometimes I think Riga does this sort of stuff deliberately, just for me – I’m pretty sure 99% of the people who visit the bus station never see anything like that!

      • Baiba says:

        I thought the same thing, actually:) Karma. Or – tu uzprasies:) Maybe you are asking for it

      • Expat Eye says:

        I don’t know what I’ve ever done that would make me deserve that 😉

      • Baiba says:

        Well, you are looking for things to write about in your blog, aren’t you? And write in your style, that meanwhile has become your trademark. And it’s so much easier to write that way about things, that are not so nice. So life brings them to you. Or – you choose to see your surroundings that way. It’s like, when you have a problem getting pregnant, all you can see on the streets are women with large bellies.

      • Expat Eye says:

        Ha, I guess 🙂 I do see the positive too – I just prefer writing about the weird stuff. It’s usually far more entertaining!

  8. janis says:

    Good read as always. Thanks!

  9. They have some genuinely pretty buildings and good live music. Seems like it should be the next hipster city?

  10. Sharn says:

    Oh my gawd. In the sink!! Ohhhh my gawwwwwwwwwwwwd.

    I’d have run straight back out again lol


    • Expat Eye says:

      Faced with a 30-minute walk, after an almost 4-hour bus journey, I had no choice 😉 I swear I could still smell it in my hair and clothes hours afterwards though… 😦

  11. Thanks for your blog on trip to Daugavpils. Haven’t been there for a while (except short business trips), but it looks like nothing much has changed since then. But still, Latvia has better places to visit (Liepāja, Ventspils, Sigulda, Cēsis and other small towns of Kurzeme and Vidzeme). You should definitely look forward to your trip to Ventspils, but don’t expect to much – in terms of service in hotels and restaurants it will be pretty the same all over LV. 🙂

    • Expat Eye says:

      Ha, yeah, I’ve come to realise that! Although I did find the people friendlier in Daugavpils overall – fewer death stares 😉 I’ve been to Liepaja, Sigulda, Kuldiga, Cesis, etc – and some towns along the way! Saving Ventspils for late June/early July when I hope the weather will be better!

  12. The more I read and see pics about your life in latvia, the more I feel like SNL’s “Two wild and crazy guys” (Steve Martin and fan ackroyd are running the country. Or at the very least, they are the commossars of culture!

    • Expat Eye says:

      Ha ha! Well, there’ll only be a couple more trips at this stage. Ventspils during the summer, which everyone describes as ‘clean’… I can hardly wait 😉

  13. June says:

    Well at least the pub on the last night was a bit of craic! Looks like the €1 cover charge there was better value than the museum. At least you made it out alive! As for Jo’burg – scariest place on earth. One night was enough for a lifetime.

  14. CrazyCatLady says:

    RE: Lutheran church. Don’t know if there’s a decent info on the web about it, but basically Lutherans are probably the next coolest people after Buddhists.
    The whole point behind it was rebellion against greedy, dictating, abusing, etc., Catholic Church. People paid taxes to them, and while the church was covered in gold, people were poverty stricken, suppressed etc.
    Martin Luther (the German guy, not “I have a dream” one) created more people friendly church. It even enabled children from poor families to learn (obviously there was no free schooling back then) how to read as the Bible was made available to all (in essence, their only book, library style). Due to it’s rebellious nature, Lutheran church was also very simplistic – hence nobody and nothing is draped in gold- the polar opposite to the Catholic Church.
    In conclusion – that’s why Lutheran churches aren’t “Wow”, however their substance is why I think they’re pretty cool. Emo of it’s time.

    PS I’m super tired, pardon the incoherent spiel

    • Expat Eye says:

      Ha ha, not to worry! Yes, it’s a nice concept – just not so visually stunning. The inside of the Orthodox church almost made my eyes bleed it was so ornate!

  15. bmagpub says:

    I think I need better glasses. As I read about your trip to the cafe at the museum, I read “pirate” instead of “private”, and my mind conjured up interesting visions! :-). The arsenal building and the churches are fantastic – but the Lutheran is less so, as befits the faith). Also laughed at the way the 2nd last paragraph was displayed – I had that mental pause after “washing” as my eyes went to the next line. Again, my mind boggled! 🙂

    • Expat Eye says:

      Oh god, you’ve managed to make a pretty grim post take an even grimmer turn! Kudos to you 🙂
      And I definitely would have crashed a pirate party!

  16. nancytex2013 says:

    I need anti-depressants after reading this.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Ha ha! This was the happy ending!?

      • Expat Eye says:

        Oh come on – my LV vs your LV – what a competition! 😉

      • nancytex2013 says:

        Listen, I’ll be the first to admit my LV has some seedy and unsavoury areas…but…come on… the places you go are frightening. 🙂

      • Expat Eye says:

        Ah, it was a bit rough around the edges, but nothing frightening about it. I travelled around South Africa by myself – Johannesburg was frightening, Daugavpils, not so much 🙂

      • nancytex2013 says:

        By frightening I meant boring and lacking food. My LV scores big points in both entertainment value and food. 🙂

        A colleague of mine took a role in Jo-burg for 6 months. She had a security detail the entire time. Scary stuff.

      • Expat Eye says:

        Yeah, I didn’t really realise how scary it was until I got there 🙂 But I think that probably saved me – walking around like you own a place, rather than looking like a scared little mouse can make the difference sometimes. Though probably not in Jo’burg. That was just dumb luck!
        I saw The Hoff in your LV – I heart The Hoff 🙂

      • nancytex2013 says:

        What’s not to heart? The Hoff is a legend.

      • Expat Eye says:

        Even in heels and a silver sparkly dress – I saw him in The Producers. He was fantastic!

      • nancytex2013 says:

        Sweet baby jesus.

      • Expat Eye says:

        Have I lost my mind? You can tell me… 😉

      • nancytex2013 says:

        If you ever make it back to my LV, I will take you to the best.show.ever. Absinthe. It is fantastic! Raunchy, dirty, totally politically inappropriate! I’ve seen it twice and would see it again in a heart beat!

      • Expat Eye says:

        OK, it’s a date – if I ever make it. But when I land in Berlin (maybe), I’ll find something down and dirty for you to do too 🙂 Should you ever visit – and I’m pretty sure there are lots of down and dirty things in Berlin!

      • nancytex2013 says:

        And it’s on my list of places I’ve not travelled to yet, that I’d like to. 🙂

      • Expat Eye says:

        Excellent (rubs hands together in evil glee) 😉

      • Emmi says:

        sorry but I saw nothing out of the ordinary in your post. absolutely normal and nice city with seemingly nice and polite people, maybe not so wealthy and organised. I had much more weird experiences when travelling in rural Germany and Austria. you should have had a blog when you were in south africa!

      • Expat Eye says:

        That was only for 2 weeks. I should have kept one when I was in Poland – but it would have made everyone suicidal.
        I wouldn’t even consider Daugavpils a city. It’s basically a town, and yes, with nicer people than in Riga. But I need somewhere with a bit more life!

  17. lafemmet says:

    WOW, That was the most exciting vacation ever! Drinking, clubbing, touring about. I am not sure what my favorite part was… I truly hope you get some rest after all that action. On a serious note, I am pleased the folks were so friendly! 🙂 And I hope you have some really exciting travel plans for summer!

    • Expat Eye says:

      Not really! Working in LV for the summer but will take a few more local trips before I leave – my eyes are firmly on the German prize at this stage so saving my money – and energy – for that from now on!
      And I actually do need another vacation after that – I’m still sleep deprived 🙂

  18. lizard100 says:

    Woah! Part 3 was worth waiting for. I had no idea that Mark Rothko was from Latvia! That’s awesome I’ve only seen his work in Ikea!
    But yet again cinnamon would’ve been handy for those ants. Apparently the Latvian word for it is kanēlis. In Dutch it’s kaneel! Maybe you could write a blog about a Latvian survival kit: buying cinnamon!
    Glad you made it back safely. Obscure Latvia is on my 100 places before you die now.

  19. Thank you for the great Daugavpils trilogy. It didn’t sound even half as bad as I supossed 😀 maybe I should go there too, when I will be in Latvia…

  20. Aw, that museum experience sounded just farcical… and you’ve certainly not had much luck hunting down good grub in that town, have you? I’m crossing that one off my bucket list…

    • Expat Eye says:

      Was it ever on there?? Ugh, the restaurant ‘scene’ there is dismal. A few places were probably closed as it was a long weekend, but still. I was really looking forward to that last night! I did have half a Twix when I got back to the hotel but it’s not exactly what I had in mind!

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