Daugavpils, Latvia's second-largest city, has been around a long time: Stone Age habitations have been found within the limits of this city 115 mi/185 km southeast of Riga. Yet almost 80% of the city was destroyed during World War II, so most of the architecture is modern. The population is multinational (less than 10% is ethnic Latvian; the majority is Russian) and relatively poor. The city's most visually dominating sight is the Daugavpils fortress, built in the 16th century by Ivan the Terrible.
Daugavpils also has a number of interesting churches, the most impressive of which is the Italian-designed Church of St. Peter. Alexander Nevsky church, built in 1897 without nails, is an example of wooden architecture of the period. The white Basilica of Aglona (26 mi/42 km northeast of Daugavpils), with its famous Icon of the Virgin Mary, sees tens of thousands of Catholic pilgrims in traditional Latvian costumes every year. Festivities peak on Assumption Day (15 August). http://www.visitaglona.lv.
The nearby glacial valley of the Daugava River is very popular with kayakers and canoe paddlers. The best view of the rolling, gentle countryside—with more than 30 lakes—can be enjoyed from Sauleskalns Hill (692 ft/211 m). The "Sun Hill" was holy to the pre-Christian population of Latvia. http://www.daugavpils.lv.
Daugavpils is the native town for artist Mark Rothko.
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