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East Latvia (Latgale)
Latgale is the only region in Latvia that has its own language that is still widely used, as well as a dominating religion - Catholicism. The language and religion determine to a great extent the different mentality and strong traditions of Latgalians.
Latgale is often called the "Land of Blue Lakes". In the area between Aglona, Krāslava and Ezernieki, the largest number of lakes in Latvia are congregated. Several of the lakes are interconnected, and boaters have grown to like the route from Lake Drīdža to Lake Jazinkas during which you will cross a total of five lakes.
The Daugava old valley "Daugavas loki" nature park extends from Krāslava to Daugavpils, and tourist and nature trails have been created along the steep, picturesque banks that lead visitors around and over old Latvian castle mounds.
In the depths, under the many hills of Latgale, there are rich clay resources which can be used as material for artists and craftsmen. In Rēzekne, there are more than forty pottery and two applied arts studios (‘Rēzeknes apriņķa podnieki’ and ‘Podnieku skola’). Latgale is traditionally characterised by its local pottery - jugs, pots and candle holders - and by rich colour glazing.
Weavers have preserved the old traditions in their local Latgalian blankets, patterned bedspreads, patch rugs and belts. Knitters hand down their woollen glove and sock knitting skills from one generation to the next. Latgalian ornaments, borders and patterns, especially the cross pattern, are used.
Latgalian craftsmen are the makers of beautiful and very practical wickerwork - cradles, baskets, small boxes and chests. The large Latgale market which is organised during the solstice in Ludza is the right place in which to make yourself acquainted with the secrets of Latgalian craftsmen - here you can try your own ability to be able to create craftwork, as well as being able to see and buy the creations of real crafts masters.
In Latgale, the dialect of the eastern part of Latvia is still commonly used, which is based on the old Latgalian language and which has its own alphabet.
The characteristics of the local culture are also evident in the architectural monuments - cathedrals, churches, public buildings, city building groups, as well as farmsteads and cultural landscapes. Manor houses and parks that were built and laid out in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, wall paintings in Krāslava, Preiļi and Kameņeca, manor houses with servants’ buildings, horse stables and barns - all of these can still be found here.
Rēzekne proudly houses one of the busiest concert halls in the Baltics - the Latgale "Gors" Embassy and the ‘Zeimuļs’ Creative Services Centre, which is considered to be a brave combination of old and modern architecture.
The dominating church in Latgale is the Roman Catholic Church. The Aglona Basilica is one of the largest centres of Catholicism in Latvia, and every year in August it attracts many thousands of pilgrims. Old Believers’ prayer houses and parishes continue to operate in this region.
Thanks to the strong religious traditions here, many of the churches, as well as many of the art objects - mainly icons and crucifixes - are well preserved and maintained. Latgale’s churches are not only an important part of spiritual life here, they also determine the rather unique image of Latgale that attracts tourists.
The regional foods of Latgale are Kļocka, or cottage-cheese patties, and Guļbišņīki, or potato balls, plus Buļbu Bļīni, or potato pancakes, Asuškas, or longish, small white buns with milk and sweet cream sauce, and Slokatnis, or rye flour pie.
Latgale is an especially recommended destination for gourmets, thanks both to its local delicacies and its specialising farms. The various farms offer visitors the chance to taste cheeses, helixes, honey and herbal teas, as well as the chance to take part in the process of baking rye bread and enjoying homemade berry wine.
Latgalians are characterised by their warm hospitality. A trip to Latgale will allow one to enjoy a relaxing holiday and will make every visitor feel very welcome.