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Introducing Daugavpils

Daugavpils, Latvia's second-largest city, dates from 1275 and has a chequered past in which it has, at various times, been called Dünaburg by the Germans, Borisoglebsk by the Russians and Dvinsk by the Poles. Today it's a drab, post-WWII Soviet creation and so depressing to visit it's almost a national joke - a skyline of smoke stacks and the lumbering grey hulk of Daugavpils prison overlook the southern approach. But the city, perched on the northern bank of the Daugava River, 225km upstream from Rīga, does provide a gateway to the decidedly lovelier Latgale Upland. And intrepid travellers looking for a grittier, harder-edged slice of Latvian life just might find the place appealing.