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Aglona Basilica is Latvia's most important pilgrimage site and the leading Roman Catholic shrine in the nation. The church was built in 1699, but it's since been engulfed by an enormous courtyard that was created for Pope John Paul II's visit in 1993. The basilica is 8km (5mi) north of the village of Aglona on the main Daugavpils-Rezekne road crossing the western part of the Latgale Upland. A car or bicycle - even a canoe - are the ideal ways to get around this part of Latvia. Only a handful of buses service Aglona from Daugavpils.
The origins of the Crocodile Dundee story can be traced to this little village set among three lakes. The centrepiece of the village is a huge statue of a crocodile, given to Dundaga by the Latvian Consulate in Chicago in 1995. The statue honours Arvids von Blumenfelds, a local who fled to Australia during WWII and spent his days hunting crocodiles in the Outback. The film is said to be based on the exploits of this Dundaga hero.Dundaga's castle is also steeped in legend, since a fair maiden who made the tragic mistake of intruding upon a gnomes' wedding is said to have been walled up here alive. Locals say she still haunts the castle, only appearing during a full moon. Dundaga lies north-east of Riga, 20km (12mi) inland from the Gulf of Riga coast, and is best reached by car.
This small town isn't famous for its 13th-century Lutheran church or its woodcarving museum. No sir. Mazsalaca is all about lycanthropes and lovers. About 2km (1mi) downriver from the railway bridge and twice as far from the town centre, the Werewolf Pine is reckoned to turn you into a werewolf if you crawl through its roots while muttering certain incantations under a full moon. For carnal knowledge of a less toothy variety, questioning lovers can head to the nearby Stairway of Dreams to find out how well they suit each other. Star-crossed victims of either affliction might then drop in on the Devil's Cave, where a sip from the spring is said to have amazing healing properties.Mazsalaca is on the Salaca River in the northern Vidzeme, north-west of Riga. It's on a suburban rail line from Riga, though only a single slow train a day comes this far north.
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