Melety Kallistratov was the most prominent Russian politician in Latvia between the wars -- the building now houses the Center for Russian Culture. He was murdered by the Soviets in the courtyard of the "White Swan" in June 1941.
The district between 18. novembra iela and the river is called Gajoks (the name may be derived from a Slavic word for woods). It was joined to Daugavpils in 1866, and in 1889 a pumping station was completed that provided water for the steam that powered the growing number of factories and 106 residential buildings. The area is a mixture of old, poor structures (the district is a prime victim in the case of a strong spring flood), old industry, almost rural patches, and the houses of wealthy industrialists and merchants. It has an atmosphere all its own.
If you take tram #3 in the direction of Stropi, about 15 mins. after departure from the city center you will pass a big ugly Soviet store thronged with flower-sellers, the tracks will dip, and on your left you will see a lake lined with Soviet-era apartment blocks. Just after the lake will be another bevy of babushki selling blossoms and wreaths.
This is a fascinating place to wander. Most of the cemeteries are divided by religion -- Orthodox, Old Believers, Lutherans, Catholics, and Jews. The area is hilly and would make a great location for a horror flick! You will also find the graves of members of the Latvian Legion (the white crosses near the lake), and even the headstones of Turks from the First World War.
On certain days of the year (like Orthodox Easter), Russians feast at the family plots, leaving eggs and glasses of vodka for the departed... and even, sometimes, cigarettes. The vodka is downed by waiting tramps, and the crows get the eggs...
Over the centuries, the Central Market gradually moved west -- from what was the main square (now Pumpura parks, across from the University) to where Unity Hall now stands, and finally to its present location behind the Ditton "Impērija," a large indoor mall (mostly of privately owned stalls selling questionable clothing). Unfortunately, the construction of hypermarkets like Maxima and Rimi in the center of town has ruined much of the atmosphere in the market (and left much of the central city empty). Still, the newly constructed fruits and vegetables pavilion is pleasant (an indoor pavilion is currently under construction). Visit Doktor Gorilka for pickles and ginseng vodka under a painting showing village life (being born, drinking, and dying...).
If you walk into Jaunbūve from the churches, along Varšavas iela (Warsaw Street), you will pass the Polish school (in full flower), Latvia's first Belarusian school (no longer functioning; there is a Belarusian school operating in Rīga) , and the Polish cultural center.
Latvia had a remarkably progressive system of multicultural education from its independence, which has been partly renewed today -- there are public schools offering instruction in Latvian, Russian, Polish, Belarusian, Hebrew, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, and Romany.
About 13% of the population of Daugavpils is Polish. If you continue along Varšavas, you can return to the center by crossing the footbridge (bear left before the street curves).
The crucifix you will see if you choose this route is a recent monument by Romualds Gibovskis. It marks the former graves of the Poles killed when liberating the city in 1920 -- the cemetery itself, and the adjacent Jewish graves, were turned into a quarry and then a garbage dump by the Soviets.
This district, stretching from the cluster of churches to "the Chemistry" (the so-called Chemists' Microregion, built to house workers for the synthetics plant in the 1960s and 1970s, used to be known as "the Daugavpils Desert," consisting of dunes), is an interesting neighborhood because you will still see many old wooden houses in the Russian style. Unfortunately, the same attention to the preservation of urban wooden architecture one can only praise in Rīga (spearheaded by the architect Zaiga Gaile) is not popular in Daugavpils... so hurry!
The renowned saints Boris and Glyeb (or Gleb) are connected to our city's history only obliquely; the Russians conquered Dünaburg on the saints' feast day (in 1656) and renamed it Borisoglebsk. A wooden church in their name was then constructed, but not at the site of the present cathedral.
The cathedral you see today was built in 1905 -- a year that saw bloody and incendiary revolution (hundreds of German manors were torched throughout what is now Latvia) followed by brutal czarist oppression.
Be sure to enter to see the icons. Dress appropriately -- even the Catholic church frowns upon jeans or sneakers, and women entering the Old Believers' church are expected to cover their heads.
Crossing the railroad tracks on 18. novembra iela (this street, originally Chaussée Street but renamed for the date of the declaration of Latvian independence in 1918, it was called Red Army Street during the occupation and decorated with neon hammers and sickles), you'll reach Daugavpils' architectural high point -- the cluster of Lutheran, Orthodox, Catholic and Old Believers' houses of worship.
Daugavpils recently celebrated the centenary of the American abstract expressionist Mark Rothko (1903-2003), and though the paintings you can see at the Daugavpils Museum of Regional Studies and Arts (an interesting place in of itself) are museum quality reproductions on canvas, they provide a concentrated, intense experience of the artist's work.
Born Marcus Rothkowicz in what was then Dvinsk, he committed suicide in his New York studio in 1970. The building where the Rothkowicz family lived (which isn't where Breslin's biography says it is but near Slavas Square), no longer exists -- it's a LUKoil gas station.
You'll find a new sculpture dedicated to Rothko where 18. novembra iela meets the river, by local sculptor Romualds Gibovskis.
Farida Zaletilo, the organizer of the Rothko events, is currently working to develop a major new arts center in the Fortress.
The Daugavpils Fortress (cietoksnis in Latvian, krepost' in Russian) is the largest surviving example of military architecture in eastern Europe, and the only such structure to stand almost unchanged.
Begun before the Napoleonic wars, its beginnings were laid waste by General Ricardo. What's left of what you see today was built afterwards, in the early 19th C. It's _huge_, with something of a separate city within, and it was state-of-the-art when constructed, with a complex system of moats, ramparts and bastions, the current Griva prison across the river being part of the fortifications.
I don't want to overrate it, though -- the place is pretty dreary, especially because the inner fortress is becoming a kind of ghetto (after the departure of the Soviet army, there was many a vacancy in the city, and those persons incapable of paying rent were offered apartments there by the city council; as a local member of Latvia's parliament put it, "this is not a ghetto -- many schoolteachers live there" [an accidental comment on teachers' salaries!]).
There are some wonderful parts to the complex (which actually includes the levee along which you enter Daugavpils if driving from Riga). At the entrance to the Fortress -- before you go through its portals -- head through the grass along the makeshift paths and explore the bastions. With the cattail-choked moats and weedy ramparts, the place can remind of a romantic folly. A good place for a lovers' picnic! What's cool is that it's falling apart and not really developed for tourists (so beware of falling bricks!). Unfortunately, this decaying beauty will be short-lived (the place reminds me of the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, which was _meant_ to decay but preserved by public demand). There is, however, hope -- the current Prime Minister supports plans to restore and develop the Fortress for multiple use.
Update -- the new Rothko Arts Center is currently being developed in the Fortress.
The center of the city was planned by some of the architects who designed parts of St. Petersburg, Russia.
Pilsudski held a conference in this lovely building, at the corner of Krišjāņa Valdemāra and Ģimnāzijas ielas.
The part of Daugavpils on the opposite bank of the river -- Grīva, which means the mouth of a river -- was a separate town before the Soviet occupation. In fact, the opposite bank is in the province of Semigallia (Zemgale), which was part of the Duchy of Courland.
It's a pleasant area to wander -- there's a nice little church there, and the riverbank is public grazing land.
In Daugavpils there are actually just three things worth to see.
1. The castel, which was already closed this day, when we arrived.
2. A couple of churches in the east centre (east of the railroad). The Lutheran Church, the Saints Boris Church, the Virgin Mary Church and the Old Believers Church. They are all close together, so you don't have to walk so far.
3. The railway station. A good point to escape from Daugavpils.
The oldest public park in the city (1882), on 3 ha, contains a tomb for Soviet soldiers who fell when Daugavpils was captured from the Nazis in 1944.
Designed by Vilhelms Neimanis (the chief architect from 1878 to 1895, he also designed the nearby Martin Luther Church).