Valka is a small Latvian town bordering the Estonian Valga. It is
unlikely that anyone would think to go here on purpose, but if you
find yourself in the Estonian part (for example, on the way from
Estonia to Riga), then it is interesting to look at the Latvian
part. The towns of Strenci and Seda, located on the road to Riga,
are no less curious, where you will find idyllic landscapes of the
Gauja River, a huge complex of a pre-revolutionary hospital and peat
Valka was founded in 1920 when the city of Valk was divided between Latvia and Estonia. Read about this and previous events in the Valga article. Moreover, in Valga you need to look for everything that you lack in Valka - for example, decent cafes and hotels. Since the division of the city was unequal from the very beginning, the Latvian part remains smaller than the Estonian part both in size and in terms of infrastructure development. The only exception is the Soviet missile base, which was located precisely on the Latvian side. In Soviet times, Valka practically merged with Valga: for example, the city hospital was located in Estonia, which created many problems in 1991 when rebuilding the border. Since 2008, the border has again been absent (or rather, it is purely formal), so the Valga-Valka sisters again embarked on a course of integration under the slogan “One city - two states”. However, residents of both cities and states admit that the economic situation in Valga is more favorable. Many Valka residents work in Estonia, and the only hospital in two cities is still located on the Estonian side. Nevertheless, for an outside observer, the differences are almost imperceptible: Valka looks quite well-groomed and outwardly is in no way inferior to its Estonian neighbor.
The population of Valka is made up of Latvians and Russians. The division between Estonians and Latvians took place back in 1920, when many moved from one city to another, so now the ethnic border more or less corresponds to the state one. Latvian and Russian languages are equally present in the city, although all official inscriptions, of course, are in Latvian.
The railway station is located in the Estonian Valga, from where
trains leave for Riga and Tallinn. On the Latvian side, the closest
station is Lugaži, two kilometers south of the city.
Bus station, Rīgas iela 7. ☎ +371 (647) 2-35-38. 4:40 am - 7:30 pm. It is located near the Estonian border and is a tiny pavilion with a cash desk, a waiting room and a toilet. Buses to Riga 5 times a day, on the way 3.5 hours (for some reason there are only two return buses: in the morning and in the evening; where the rest come from - it is not known: they may be rented in Estonia and returned by some other route). These and some local buses can go to Valmiera 7 times a day (1–1.5 hours), there are also buses in Smiltene (5 times a day, 1 hour). Near the bus station there is a Narvesen kiosk, open from early morning, where you can buy water, newspapers and Latvian SIM cards.
You can get to Valka by car in the same way as to Valga. On the Latvian side there are roads to Valmiera (50 km) and Riga (160 km), as well as to Smiltene (44 km).
St. Catherine's Church (Luterāņu
baznīca), Rīgas iela 17. It was first mentioned in 1477, although
the current building can hardly be dated to the 15th century. The
wooden bell tower certainly belongs to some later period, and it
adorns the simple village church very much. Take a look inside: if
the church is open, for a small fee, you will be allowed to enter
the bell tower, which offers a good view of the city.
War Memorial, Rīgas iela, Gaujas iela (from the center towards the museum). The mass grave of Soviet soldiers is adjacent to the city cemetery. The memorial was built according to the project of Latvian sculptors in the mid-1980s and in many respects resembles the complex in Salaspils, which is near Riga. Here it is also a monument to the oppressed, not to the victorious soldiers. It is kept in good condition, although the eternal flame has been extinguished.
Church of the Iberian Mother of God, Ausekļa iela 14. Built in 2003-05. on the site of an ordinary hut, which local residents converted into a church after in 1991 the border separated the only Orthodox church in Estonian Valga from parishioners living in Latvia. The church is made in the traditions of Russian architecture, which is quite unusual for Latvia.
The development of Valka refers mainly to the interwar period. Except for the old church, there are only two pre-revolutionary monuments in the city: a red-brick police building (Tālavas iela 4, 1902) with obvious features of Art Nouveau and an administrative building in the spirit of romanticism (Semināra iela 29, 1909). The central streets, especially Rīgas iela, are built up with pretty two-story mansions from the times of the Republic of Latvia, and the house of culture decorated with columns (Em. Dārziņa iela 8, 1924) openly anticipates the porticoes of post-war Soviet architecture, which, by the way, is also present in the city - pay attention to the abandoned the building of the garrison (1953), standing almost opposite the house of culture.
Regional Museum (Valkas novadpētniecības muzejs), Rīgas iela 64. ☎ +371 (647) 2-21-98. 1 Oct - 15 May: Mon – Fri 10:00 - 17:00, Sat 10:00 - 16:00; 15 May - 30 Sept: Tue – Fri 11:00 - 18:00, Sat – Sun 10:00 - 16:00. € 1.42 (2014). It is located in the former building of the Vidzeme Teachers' Seminary - one of the largest educational institutions in Livonia, founded in 1839 in Valmiera and transferred to Valka in 1849. The building was built immediately after that (1850-53), although you cannot tell by eye: it is completely inexpressive. The museum has recreated a study room and presents an exposition about the life of the pre-revolutionary city. Be sure to pay attention to the expressive sculptures of the first director of the seminary, Janis Ciemze, and another local educator installed in front of the museum.