Bolder Dash

I got my first home computer, an MSX, for Christmas 1983. Boasting a whopping 64 KB of hard drive memory, it was double the memory capacity of similar computers that my friends had. In those innocent pre-internet days such a hard drive memory was effectively limited to playing early video games. One of my favourites was Boulder Dash. Unlike a lot of today’s games, which require a month spent reading a bible sized instruction manual before playing, Boulder Dash was pretty simple. There were four controls on a 2 dimensional screen, up, down, left and right. The basic idea was to roam around a maze, finding jewels, while avoiding getting hit on the head by rocks. Maybe it was the name that put it in my head as I made preparations for the next outing to Bolderāja, but I also saw similarities: walking round an unknown area, trying to find hidden gems in the shape of decent bars, while avoiding being hit on the head by rocks. Bolderāja has a dodgy reputation (areas of Riga with lots of Russians tend to have such reputations among local Latvians.) It’s also, by my estimate, the most Russian area of Riga.

My usual partner in crime Eddie was missing in action in Kaunas. Volunteering to fill the void was Linda of the Expat Eye on Latvia blog: another Irelander blogging about Riga! As Expat eye has justifiably been chosen as the best expat blog on Riga, this meant I would be meeting blogging royalty. This raised questions of etiquette: should I bow when meeting her? Ask for an autograph? In the end I happened to be fashionably late at the bus stop, despite dashing there and acrobatically vaulting over a railing.

The road there passed the Spilve aerodrome, a vast empty nothingness that reminded me of trips through the steppe in Kazakhstan.

Arriving in Bolderāja, I really had to wonder what all the fuss was about. There were no guys with kalishnikovs standing at the roadside. No knife wielding thugs hanging around on street corners menacingly eyeing new arrivals. Boldie was stunningly ordinary.

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If anything the standard of housing was a bit better than the god awful Soviet monstrosities you often find in the suburbs of Riga and other ex-USSR cities

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Also, there was absolutely no problem finding a bar. After the experiences in places like Jaunciems, Vecdaugava etc, this time we were immediately confronted with not just one, but three bars! Woo hoo! We settled on Bar Diva. The name sounded a bit dodgy, but I reckoned if kidnap was on the agenda, Linda would probably make a better go go dancer than me. It was a fairly nice bar and even had a still functioning terrace. The youngish lass serving us even smiled and helpfully volunteered to “make” our photo (careful girl, that’s not in the job description!)

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With that successfully completed, we decided to have a wander round, trying to get photos of the river. Finding the local yacht club, we sauntered in, pretending that we owned the place. It worked. Not a single overweight gold chained minder barred our way. We got a few worthy snapshots

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Deciding that we might as well spoil ourselves, we headed to another Boldie bar, Rax, which also had an open and half decent terrace

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It was time to hit the high road to Daugavgriva, this took us over the bridge where the Bulli river and Locu canal met

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The island in the middle of these rivers is the charmingly named Mīlestības Sala. Love Island! Apparently this takes its name from older times, when soldiers based at the fortresses nearby would take their love interests there for nightly romps in the bushes. As a result, a lot of kids were conceived there and so the whole population of Boldie can probably find a “Sergei luvs Olga” carved by their grandparents in a tree there.

Daugavgrivas is a bit less lively than Boldie, but after a bit of a short wander, we found two cafes. The first, named paradize, seemed to have some kind of private event on. A bit later we found another one, which ticked all the boxes: garish interior design, tacky Russian sketch show blaring out, middle aged woman who last smiled in 1973, two draught beers on tap and a selection of pastries, probably still bearing a “This Made in USSR!” sticker on the wrapper.

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The single unisex toilet was locked at all times (maybe toilet roll theft in these parts is on the increase?) After using that I found that Linda had got herself into bother with the middle aged couple at the nearby table for laughing and speaking instead of whispering. As she’s a visit all 58 districts virgin, this oversight was forgivable and Irish tourists in Daugavgriva are probably a protected species anyway, so we let the old cranky guy get on with his beer.

All that done, it was time for a final celebratory drink in Vecriga. Engaging in the Irish sing song tradition on the way back, we even gave a mini English lesson to a shy little Russian kid.

All in all, a jolly day out after the previous week’s disappointments. There’s more to Daugavgriva, including a fort and a beach, which beer priorities prevented us from seeing. As Ritabulli district is only reachable from Daugavgriva, I think a return visit at a later date to have the old guy crying into his beer may be in order.

Twelve districts done, forty six left.

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28 thoughts on “Bolder Dash

  1. Oh yeah defo. So much fun ahead … Purvciems, the club scene of Beberbeķi and the mean streets of Čiekurkalns all await Her Majesty. Will give you a shout over the next month.

    • The worst of it is, because all my friends had computers with 28kb or 32kb hard drives, I thought I was the man. Embarassing to think how proud I was. I was still playing my MSX until I moved abroad in 2003, twenty years after getting it. For all I know the little baby still works, the internet is the heart and soul of all evil.

  2. Oh, sure, if it’s the dodgiest area, it just has GOT to be the Russians’ fault, huh? >.<
    Seriously, do all Latvian bar interiors look like bomb shelters from 50 years ago?

    • Yeah I find that “interesting” as well. I’m still trying to get crime stats for the neighbourhoods but they were all created within the last 5 years so local prejudice is all I got to go on. There are some great bars in the centre, but I think the neighbourhood ones were probably built 50 years ago and some don’t loook like they’ve been refurbished since!

  3. It always amuses me what the locals consider to be dodgy. I supposedly live in the “dodgy” area of Karlsruhe… according to the Germans. It’s 100 times safer than some streets in my home town! I suspect the “dodgy” label comes from the fact that a lot of foreigners live there. I fit right in 😉

    • Yeah usually any area with lots of foreigners gets tagged that way. Sometimes it’s true, new immigrants can’t get good jobs in the place turn to crime etc, but usually the label has long ago become outdated. I’d really love to get actual crime stats for Riga neighbourhoods, will have a hunt around again later.

      • Guys, my standard is far far FAR from a universal standard of dodgy. Like, I am very prissy when it comes to cities. I still dont like walking around NYC SoHo bc it’s not all polished up, even though it’s one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the city and I could never afford to live there. I like it perfectly pretty and almost sterile. Like in postcards 🙂 But get me to a farm, and I’ll be the first one to get my hands dirty with gardening and livestock.

      • Yeah Anna, dodgy means different things to different people. If you look at crime stats for major cities, the poshest areas often have the highest levels of crime, since burglars and criminals tend to target upmarket neighbourhoods. If we’re talking about where are you likely to be bashed up by some drunk, that’s different as well. I’ve lived for a few years now in the Moscow suburb of Riga, supposedly the most dangerous but I’ve never had issues here.

    • One of my only regrets about moving abroad is that my MSX got left behind and disappeared. Believe it or not, I was still playing Boulderdash on the MSX in summer 2003, a good 20 years after getting it…. those little babies last forever!

      • Sorry to hear it got left behind. 😦 Maybe you get a new one some day? Cool that you played Boulderdash up until 2003. Such games never go out of style – high playability and repeatability. I’ve tried Boulderdash on other platforms, but there is something special about the MSX version. 🙂

      • I never threw it away, it’s possibly still in the attic of my brother’s house. I’ve no idea if it still works though and the tape player for the games has probably gone and I doubt a replacement would be easy to get.

  4. No, Ilguciems has yet to be done. For now I’m trying to focus on the outlying districts before the winter darkness. Relatively more central ones like Ilguciems will probably be visited in the winter. How did you find living there? Any local bars or cafes you can remember?

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