Baltic in Kaiserwald

In Belfast slang, any weather under 5 degrees is usually described as “Baltic”, meaning very cold, even though you could count the number of Belfast days of snow and subzero temperatures on the toes of one (frozen) foot. True Baltic winter (temperatures around minus 10) is always eagerly awaited by the locals for reasons that escape me. (Isn’t there a giant freezer somewhere that they can walk around in for an hour or two to get the same effect?)

Winter this year though decided to put its feet up for longer than usual before making an appearance. There was a bit of a “tease” around early December, when it snowed for a few days, before disappearing to wherever it goes (Thailand? Africa?) when it’s not causing icicles to form on my nose. That period coincided with my 19th district of Riga on 8 December.

In a bit of a departure from the usual Saturday shenanigans, I dragged my weary carcass out of bed before 10am on a Sunday morning, trying to convince myself that trudging through the snow in another apkaime of Riga would be better than another hour of checking the back of my eyelids for holes.  One of my students had invited me to go there with the rest of our group and her friend.

Some of the Riga apkaimes I’ve visited during this trip have been weird and wacky. Even I wouldn’t be cruel enough to send the guys who burgled me last year to Suži for example, as it really is *that* bad. Mežaparks (Forest Park) definitely doesn’t fit into that category. It even gets a cameo appearance in the inyourpocket guide, the only district outside the centre to be honoured in such a way (don’t they appreciate the splendour of Bolderaja?)

The district has a fair history. Originally Kaiserwald, or Kaiser’s park, in the late 19th century the yuppies of Riga decided they’d had enough of slumming it with English teachers, civil servants and network technicians and decided to build a garden city outside the centre. Containing some of the first tram lines built in the city, it’s now one of the plusher areas and clearly the locals have more than a few Lats, sorry Euros, to rub together.

With snowfall a few days earlier, it was a cold but picturesque day

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perfect for strolling around seeing how Riga’s millionaires live

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though weirdly, there was the occasional grimy looking tower block on the edge of the district. Among the private mansions, it stood out like a monk in a strip club

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a little cold and hungry at this point, it was time for refreshments and where better than a shashlik place

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where they even sold lamb shashliks?! In Almaty I used to eat those twice a week, but in Riga, lamb isn’t all that common, so it’s usually pork or chicken shashlik. Boo!

A quick drink later and it was time to move on

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we weren’t the only ones who decided to errrr…. take advantage of the weather, Riga’s citizens were out in force to freeze their toes off…

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Mežaparks has a lot more to it than a few shashlik places and mansions. Riga zoo is located here, there are some good lakeside cafes in summer and the Latvian song and dance festival , one of the most important cultural events in the Latvian calendar, takes place there every five years, though the festival grounds were deserted when we were there

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Out of our group of nine students, only one showed up. It was their loss, as Mežaparks was easily one of the best of the apkaimes so far, with Dace and Ieva proving excellent tour guides for the day. 20 apkaimes done, 38 to go.

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