Maskavas forštate (or Maskatchka) is many things. It’s a name Latvian mothers use to scare young kids. “If you don’t stop playing the computer games I bought you to keep you under my control and go to bed, mamma will send you to Maskatchka to be eaten by the bums there!”
Be very afraid. House on central Maskavas Iela, near Maza Kalna Iela.
It has also been my hood since I moved here from my former residence near Antonijas Iela in late 2008. The name roughly translates as little Moscow, but locals usually refer to it as a no go area, similar to West Beirut and tell me not to go there. It’s not totally untrue, Maskavas does rank highly in terms of recorded crime. It doesn’t really mean a lot to me. I grew up in Belfast during The Troubles, when up to a hundred people a year were getting killed in my city, which is half the size of Riga. Having come through that, Maskavas seems tame in comparison.
Despite its dodgy reputation, Maskavas is one of the most historic parts of the city. There are lots of older churches, the remains of the main Jewish synagogue and the site of the former Riga Ghetto (though you’ll find no trace of that, we couldn’t even find a memorial near there.)
So, on 22 February it was time to see what all the fuss was about. Starting off near my house, there’s the Latgale market (Latgalite to locals.) A flea market where you can buy everything so people say, though I’ve never seen the kalishnikovs and rocket launchers that can allegedly be purchased there.
the most glamorous market ever
Close to that is the remains of the former main Jewish synagogue. On 4 July 1941, during the burning of the Riga synagogues, 300 Jews were herded into it and burned to death by members of Pērkonkrusts, a pro-Nazi extreme right Latvian organisation. It was one of several atrocities committed in the area.
memorial to those murdered
remains of Great Choral Synagogue
Heading from there, there’s a nice cobbled street leading to the church on Jēzusbaznīcas iela and Elijas Iela. Going along Elijas Iela, there’s the Latvian Academy of Sciences, a wedding cake building very similar to the one in Warsaw
(Riga versus Warsaw.)
One of many reasons people would come here is the Central Market, full of, well, what you’d expect to find in a central market.
Maskavas Iela itself has a dodgy reputation, though the bottom end of it, nearest the centre, has been well redeveloped in the last few years. The shabby buildings have been replaced by a more modern riverside part
Further down, Maskavas Iela gets a bit shabby, especially once you pass Lacplesa Iela. It’s hardly the type of place you’d expect famous actors to appear. Weirdly though, Daniel Craig (of James Bond fame) made a film here in 2004. Archangel was based on a Robert Harris book and featured an implausible plot about the discovery of the son of Stalin and dodgy accents in both Russian and English.
For all that, it’s weird to see Craig running along Maskavas Iela, past Riga trams. (Riga can also be seen at 4:36 in the same video.)
Fans of Russian Orthodox churches will be in their element here. There are loads of them in the district.
The first one is on Gogola Iela, near what I consider to be the district’s best bar, Banuzis, at Gogola 15.
Another attraction in Maskavas is the “Big Lido” at Krasta Iela. A self service buffet place selling more Latvian food, which has a really good beer cellar and other additions like a skating rink.
Of course the district is probably better known for its shady people and places. Maza Kalna Iela, the site of a former street market, is one of them and not a place I’d like to be hanging round on a dark night.
Unplanned, we ended up crossing the border into Ķengarags. Named after a local farmer, Ķenga, and the horn (rags) shape that the Daugava makes here, it’s Riga’s second biggest district. Built during the Soviet period, it’s a bit of a concrete jungle,
though there are a couple of better places. “Krievu Sēta“, the Russian Lido here, is less well-known than the big lido nearby, but does have a selection of more Russian dishes and a colourful Russian theme going on.
Probably the second place worth going to here would be the riverside part of Ķengarags, with views up and down the Daugava.
You can even play outdoor chess and outdoor table tennis here, wowee!
Ultimately though, despite its size, Ķengarags is more of a place for living than visiting. Ahem.
With all that done, it was time to hit the road to Moscow and home.
31 districts done, 27 left.