For hundreds of years German barons ruled the city of Walk. Later it came under the control of the Russian empire. When World War I ended in November 1918, fighting continued in Estonia and Latvia for another two years between communists, czarist forces, Germans and indigenous military units struggling for independence.
Since Estonian volunteers aided Latvians at the battle of Cesis, a decisive victory against the German army, the British colonel who drew the post-war borders divided Walk down the river Varzupite, a small creak that meanders through the center of the city, but awarded a larger portion - nearly two-thirds - to Estonia.
The names of the two halves were subsequently Estonianized (Valga) and Latvianized (Valka).
During the interwar period, most inhabitants amazingly spoke both Estonian and Latvian. However after World War II, Russian became the primary language of communication.
In the heady days after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the borders were again raised, causing much confusion and hardship and dividing families caught on different sides of the border. Remarkably, however, since most of the town's infrastructure - particularly water and electricity - had been developed during the first period of sovereignty, the two sides were largely able to function independent of one another.
Still, there was a disruption in employment opportunities - workers were suddenly unable to get to the factory on the other side of town - and the railroad connecting the two towns shut down completely.
Valka now boasts 7,000 inhabitants, while Valga has some 14,000.
SEPARATE BUT UNEQUAL
The years of independence have created something of an economic rift between Valga and Valka. With so many other development priorities, leaders in Riga and Tallinn often skip over the city on the border.
"We share almost nothing right now outside of sports or cultural projects," Valga Mayor Margus Lepik said.
"We don't cooperate, we compete," said Ozolina. As an example, she cited each city's efforts to build separate sports facilities, whereas in a community of 21,000, it would make sense to have one.
Still, the mayors meet regularly and reportedly get along well. Together they have a number of projects they would like to see get off the ground.
"We have a lot of planned projects for the future, like a common bus line," said Lepik.
Krauklis dreams to one day resurrect Valga/Valka's former status as a major railway hub for international trade. Now that they are on the edge of the EU, he believes it is possible.
Another challenge will be promoting tourism. Currently, there is almost nowhere for tourists to spend the night: Valka has only one guesthouse with 10 rooms, while Valga offers an unappetizing Soviet-era hotel. But given the town's unique dichotomy - one of six such places in the world, according to Krausklis - and the pristine countryside, tourists could flock to the area.
Otherwise, cooperation between the two towns is progressing, particularly in the areas of culture, sports and education. For instance, in 1999 Valka opened the Latvian-Estonian Institute, a language and seminar center that is affiliated with University of Latvia, and three years later Valga opened the Estonian-Latvian Institute, which has an analogous status. This year they hope to open a vocational school and attract young adults on both sides of the border.
In the future, Valga/Valka will benefit from increasing European integration. Admission to the Schengen agreement will bring the border down de jure, and adoption of the euro will allow residents to spend freely "on the other side."