We decided that me must spend the long Midsummers weekend purposefully and go somewhere on a little road trip. But where? Where are the nice places to see nature in Latvia where we haven’t been yet? I spend quite some time reading information on the map dodies.lv and decided – Latgale is the destination! So we left Rīga quite late in the afternoon with a hotel booking for Rēzekne and plans to see the nature.
The first idea was to see the Teiču Reserve, as we do enjoy a good visit to the bog. But, as it turns out, since Teiču is a reserve, no unsupervised visits are allowed here.
So we only stopped at the 27 m high Kristakrūgs viewpoint to see the bog from the southern border, observe some swallows nests in the tower and went on. There is a small country-style toilet at the tower.
Not far from the Kristakrūgs viewpoint Lubāna wetlands area begins. They say it’s a nice area to go biking, and I must agree, as in some places the sandy roads were so bad I was convinced we will have to call for some tractor to pull us out. Holes, filled with water, seemingly endless sandy washouts, this is definitely not a place to go after rain if you don’t have a 4×4. We also had to drive through some areas with run-away cows who didn’t like our car too much and wanted to attack it, and some dogs who kept running behind and barking, so we were concerned of not driving over the animal or it biting our tires.
Finally we get to a gravel road that leads to Bird Watching Tower 2, as marked in dodies.lv. And here we see hundreds of thousands of hog-weeds, wherever you look. This is an extremely invasive, poisonous species that was brought to Latvia in 1942 as food for cattle, but started uncontrollably spreading and now landowners are supposed to clean their lands from this, otherwise they are fined. I wonder what happens to preservation areas like this one. Here only about one meter of land next to the road is cleaned, the rest is hog-weed as far as you see. Well, at least bees do like it a lot, don’t think I have lately seen so many bees anywhere else. Some hog-weed honey, anyone? Could become a true Latvian traditional delicacy. Later I read on the internet that in fact, it already is – Meduspils hog-weed honey has been awarded the title of the tastiest honey in Latvia three years in a row.
On the way to the tower we see some herons, a few swans in the lake and other birds fly by. For bird watching one should come earlier in the morning with a good set of binoculars. The road to the other bird tower isn’t as bad as the first one and there are more people here – some grill, others fish and boat. When we reach the paved road, we see even more people, but, probably, not so many come here during the weekdays.
We pass by a place called Water Tourism Development Center Bāka, according to booking.com one should be able to rent a room here, but on the day of our visit it’s all full. This would be a lovely place to see sunset or sunrise, with lakes and ponds on the both sides of the road! The only problem around here seems to be food, we didn’t find a single place to have dinner at.
Finally we get a chance to see one more bog path, it’s called Teirumnīku or Tīrumnieku path, which is a circular path that goes through forest and bog. The path is only 800 m long and it leads around the little bog/lake area here. We see some locals swimming in the lake, men are fishing. The water is warm but pitch black. Seems a good place to refresh after a hot day, but I am one of the cautious people and not being able to see the bottom makes me worried, so I don’t go in.
We drive to Rēzekne and then, just after two hours of sleep, back to Tīrumnieki. In this short time still something has changed – there is a car in the parking lot and someone is sleeping in a hanging sleeping bag between two trees, another pod on the bench around the fireplace.
We walk the path and listen to cuckoos, waiting for the sun to go up. Beautiful!
We had though of going back to the hotel to get some sleep, but in the end decide to eat breakfast and continue driving to Mount Grebļa. If villages around Rēzekne seem full of life, with nice fields, animals all around, the closer we get to the border, the worse it looks. Bus stops disappear in overgrown weeds, fields haven’t been taken care of for long time, small, run down houses and almost no people. We don’t see a single store on the way where we could buy at least some ice-cream.
I had read about Mount Grebļa on one of the news portals, a narrow path between two lakes on the border between Latvia and Belarus. At first we make a wrong turn at the information sign near an abandoned house, and drive as far to a place that really looks like the border. There has been no road cleaning since the last storm, and having understood this isn’t the place we were looking for, we drive back. Just a few meters later there is a sign that Mount Grebļa is on the right. The road is quite overgrown, but we manage to go through.
There is a small field that looks like an abandoned parking lot, with an information sign for locals. We continue driving and come to the new parking lot, nicely mowed grass, benches and a place to make some fire. Where is the pathway? We see a road but just a few meters later it finishes at the Šešku Lake, that used to have a farm next to it. The farm permanently polluted the water and it’s not recommended to swim here. We see bright blue and green dragonflies, many butterflies and gadflies.
Mount Grebļa is famous with many butterflies living here, many of the species are endangered. The path appears to be up behind the information sign, and shortly we reach a place with two benches with a viewpoint to both lakes. Pintu Lake is much cleaner, we see some locals at the lake, kids are swimming there, adults are listening to loud Russian pop-music from the car and grilling some meat. This place was formed 14 million years ago and is the only object of this kind in Latvia. To a regular person this looks more like a usual forest where suddenly your mobile phone connects to Belorussian towers. Later we read on the Zilupe district website that to visit this place you are supposed to get a permit to visit the border area and have a passport with you. No signs there informing visitors of this though on location.
After seeing Mount Grebļa we think where to go further, via Aglona back home or still make some more stops? We decide to see the deepest lake in Latvia, Drīdzis, which goes 65.1 m deep. This place is better for those on the bicycle, as private land is all around the lake and many of the roads visible on Google Maps don’t exist, so we struggle to find a place where we can come right next to the lake. We ask locals if there is a place we could have some lunch at? They say closest place is in Krāslava. So we head there.
The first place we stop in Krāslava is cafe Mārīte, to have some lunch. Then we go to Priedaine viewpoint.
It’s a wooden tower that is 32 m tall. Right after us arrives another group of visitors who read out loud that tower shouldn’t be rocked and people shouldn’t all stand on one side. So they do just that, all stand on one side and one guy starts rocking it hard. So funny, so funny! Not so funny for those who are taking pictures one story higher…
I am not afraid of heights but this somehow doesn’t make me feel very comfortable, standing above the heads of pine trees.
The view is amazing – an island in the River Daugava, and the river going further in the forests. As beautiful sight is also over the bridge, seagulls nesting and nice little houses on both sides of the river. Krāslava leaves an impression of very clean and nice city.
So this is how we spent a weekend in Latgale. There are still other places to stop on the way, such as Andrupiene bog path, which is inside a museum, so should be visited ruing working hours, Lielā Liepukalna path and also probably a few more places at Lake Rāzna. I enjoyed Teirumnīku bog path the most, with the beautiful forest with blueberries and sounds of cuckoos.
As always, all pictures are by my dear husband Jekabs Andrushaitis! Check out his Facebook page!