To me, Latgale is the wildest part of Latvia, and it is my favourite because of its rolling countryside, lakes and forests.
Latgale is one of the poorest region in the EU. I didn't meet there many young people, just few in big villages where there is a school. On my way, I only met old and retired people.
Being retired here doesn't mean that you don't work any more and enjoy the benefit of your pension. Pensions in Latvia are very low, from 80€ to 300€, which means that most pensioners have to grow there own products and breed animals.
As said before, most of people here speaks Russian and Latgalian (Latgalish in Russian). The region has a large population of Russians, and a minority of Polish and Belarusian.
I have never heard about this dialect until I met Albina, a wonderful 86 years old woman. A real babushka!
She lives in an ancient farm corpus with her son, Gunars, a very tall and slim man.
Gunars was very gentle. Albina was only speaking Latgalish, so Gunars was translating it into Russian for me. I definitely lost much in translation.
When I first made my way on the path that was leading me from the road the the farm, Albina came to me with a wonderful smile illuminating her face.
I soon realized that she wasn't speaking a known language to me. Fortunately, Gunars came out and after I explained me the reason of being at their door step, he said that he could help me.
I didn't have time to put my bag on the floor that Albina prepared me something to eat and drink.
She cooked me the fishes Gunars had catch earlier in the nearby lake, boiled me a soup, bread and butter and cream.
Albina also had this home-made strawberry jam. I had two plates of it, mixed with fresh cream. She was happy to see how I appreciate all this.
Latvia has this amazing tasty bread. It is called `rupjmaize`.
With that bread, they also make a soup, which is a desert made with cinnamon and raisins and berries, served with cream. It's delicious.
There is also this amazing beverage, "Kvass" made with fermented bread. It is very low in alcohol less than 0.4°, not noticeable, and totally suitable for children. I really love this beverage.
You can find it in any supermarket, industrially made, but the best remains the home-made one.
Albina is a very beautiful woman. I said to her son to tell her that for me she was beautiful. Her reaction was very surprising. She felt confused and embarrassed as would be a young innocent girl.
She took me by the hand to the corner of her room and pointed me two photographs hanging there.
There were old lavished black and white photos of her as a young woman, and the traditional wedding day photo.
I was stricken by her natural beauty. Not only by her perfect symmetrical features, buy her porcelain doll white face, but by her natural grace and elegance and the sparks she still have now in her eyes.
True beauty always last even after time has done is destructive work.
In the morning, Gunnars walked with me the 10 km to the nearest village, Feimaņi. I had to buy some cigarettes.
We went to one of the 3 shops there. I bought some oranges and chocolate for Albina. We shook hands and I made my way to Lipuški.
In Preili, I had been interviewed by LNT television, the first Latvian private channel. Karlis, the reporter who did the interview told me that in early morning that day, they were in a farm near Lipuški, where a familly is raising the only Latgalian horse breed.
I decided to make that farm my next stop.