Rēzekne (Russian: Резекне or Режица Rezhitsa. Often spelled Rezekne in English and Резекне in Russian) is a city of roughly 35000 inhabitants located in Latgalia in eastern Latvia. Its history dates back to the 9th century as a fortification and has been a town built around its castle hill under Polish, Lithuanian, and Russian rule. Today Rēzekne is a sleepy provincial town which hosts a few sights and can serve as a bas when venturing out to camp in the surrounding country side.
In 1285 the Livonian Order rebuilt a castle on the Rēzekne castle hill to serve as a border post to the East. In the end of the 18th century, Rēzekne became a part of the Russian empire after the partition of Poland. Though enjoying city rights, the 19th century was spent in the shadow of other regional centra (Pskov, Polotsk and Vitebsk). The arrival of the rail-ways in the early 20th century connected Rēzekne to all its capitals during the 20th century: Petersburg, Riga and Moscow.
In 1917 the city hosted the Latgalian Latvian Congress where Latgalia broke off from the Vitebsk region to join Latvia, which became independent in 1918 during the turmoil following the Russian Revolution. From July 1941 to July 1944, Rēzekne was occupied by Germany, and, as throughout Eastern Europe, the Jewish community of Rēzekne was all but wiped out during the war. Two thirds of the buildings of the city were also destroyed by the Soviet re-invasion in 1944, and by the end of the war, Rēzekne's population was barely 5000. In the following decades, many Russians moved in following the Soviet industrialization of Rēzekne (there was a prominent dairy products processing plant) which tilted the demographics in favour of the Russians who make up around half of Rēzekne's population today. After Latvia's regained independence, and particularly over the passed decade, the city has been re-modernized and face-lifted. Many of the projects, like the culture and art-centres and a first-class tourist info-office, have direct benefit to visitors. Many roads are impeccably paved and newer buildings are almost all more tastefully done than the odd-looking steel-flower solar-panel-holders erected around town with the help of the EU.
Rēzekne is roughly four hours east of Riga – a little more by bus, and a little less by train. Two trains per day depart from Riga (9:46 and 16:45), and several more buses beginning at 7:00. Five or more buses run daily between Rēzekne and Daugavpils (two hours, 4 euros).
In Rēzekne the bus station is two blocks south-west of the castle-hill. The train-staition for connections to Riga or Russia is in the northern end of the city, 20 minutes or so walking from the castle-hill.
See and Do
Rēzekne is not huge but has many faces, quite visible to those who take some time wondering about both sides of the river in its historic centre. Imperial Russian, Soviet era, modern post-independence buildings and Latgalian wooden country-houses are represented on almost every street.
Hiking and camping. The relatively newly established Raznas Natioal Park begins a couple of kilometres south of Rēzekne. It's accessible on bike or by foot, but is not entirely a wildlife area. Small villages and sporadic farms are connected by unpaved roads. Other areas too around Rēzekne are popular with local bike-excursions. There are unfortunately no bike rentals in Rēzekne as of the summer 2015. Camp discretely and responsibly. Ask the information centre for recommended itineraries and camping possibilities.
There is an excellent, new and well-stocked information centre by the castle-hill. Helpful staff diffuse brochures and maps and check things up for you in English, Russian and Latvian.
A few easy eateries can be found around the bus station. Near the info-center by the castle hill there is a cantine and cafeteria with wifi.