Sunday, August 14, 2011

Daugavpils Fort Excursion

pretty little girl playing amidst the general squalor of the area

the doorway you see is the entrance to the tiny little market where we bought the children bread--very clean, incidentally.  Note the little boy playing on the dirt road.

Today we set off to visit the Daugavpils fort.  I am not sure what we were expecting, but this was a BIZARRE excursion!  Let's begin with a brief history lesson:

The city was militarily important as a major road and railway junction. Before World War II Daugavspils was the center of a thriving Jewish community in the Latgale region and one of the most important centers of Jewish culture in eastern Europe.[1] Over the course of the German occupation of Latvia the vast majority of the Jews of Latgale were killed as a result of the Nazis.

So we bribed Natasha today to translate Latvian and Russian--told her we would give her a Lat if she would be our translator and she can buy candy with it at the end of the day.  DIma has been doing all the translating and his English is getting quite good.  Natasha is a little hesitant to try her English and gets frustrated.  Candy is a good motivator.  

So little Natasha negotiates a cab for us, with me at her side prompting her and we get the FUNNIEST, jovial Russian guy!  He's a trip:  Shaved, military style hair, BIG bear like personality with a hands like paws and a deep belly laugh.  He pronounced Natasha "A very looking good girl"  and decided when she was 18 he would offer her a date.  I told him no way, she needed to be 19!  haha  He shared his opinions of Americans...."very big money!  very big GREEEEEN!"  and complimented the children both on their Russian and LAtvian.  I am not sure that the kids told him that they were natives, but he was impressed.

So this character drops us at the fort.  I was expecting a tourist attraction where you wait in a line and give them money and gain entrance.  Not so.  The Daugavpils fort is a group of fortress ruins entwined with what I think must be the local ghetto.  Dima was not a happy camper, nor was Natasha.  It was really bizarre because people LIVED in this area of ruins.  

Look at the pictures and you can see children playing in this mess, apartments, ruins, cars, etc all in the same frames.  Then, a very loud relic of an airplane was flying overhead, making you feel as if a GErman bomber was going to frop one on you at any time.....completely strange trip.  Thank goodness we had the cab's number because it didn't look like people left the area too often.  As we were waiting for the cab, we noticed the tiniest little market in the corner of what we had previously thought was an abandoned building.  Nope, it's a market, complete with an enclave in the back with fresh bread, which I made the children purchase out of pity to the owner.  She ushered us into the store with a smile on her face and I so hated to disappoint her.  And besides, it looked pretty darn good.  She mostly sold alcohol, go figure!  Major sellers seem to be bread, alcohol, and ice cream in a room the size of a master bathroom!  

When it started to rain, Dima demanded we call that cab man back and get the heck out of there.  The boy wants to go see a movie.  Like most teenagers, he had little tolerance for history and less for my constant picture snapping.  But I threatened to "go American on him" and start singing and dancing and such, so he smiled sweetly for the photos.  Natalija was a trooper and decided she did NOT like that place so much.  

Not sure what we will do later!  It's now sunny again......they are sick of walking around the city and seeing sights.  Michael and I are enjoying the meetings with the local cab drivers and such. They are bored with it.  Typical kids. They are playing I-pad now and I suppose eventually we will have to venture out again and find another activity to amuse us all before we all go stark raving mad in this room!

Here are pics of the fort is nearly impossible to distinguish between the fort ruins and the living quarters....I will see if I can note it next to the photos.  

this apartment is across the muddy street form the ruins

this is not abandoned as we thought, it is apartments!!

Ruins on one side, apartments on the's tough to tell which is which, isn't it??

local boys, hanging out

 pride, even in the most desolate housing areas, another tidy balcony with pretty flowers

 Just plain sad.

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