It was the very end of August 2013 when I started this madness, with Āgenskalns the first district on my list. Half a year later, still at it, it was time for a little bit of a retread, since there were some bits of Āgenskalns I’d missed and it was on the way to two new districts. So on 8 March, off I headed again to Pardaugava.
The first new bit was the Kalnciema Iela Tirgus, a lively street market, selling a selection of handicrafts, local food products and some more upmarket food choices
in a side room, some cultural events where taking place, not sure what the Indian dancers were all about, but the locals loved it. Maybe they’re finally getting back to their Indian roots?
sadly I didn’t find the amazing crème brûlée that I’d been told was one of the culinary highlights of the market. Maybe next time.
Away from Kalnciema, one other thing that I’d missed in Āgenskalns first time round was this water tower, which dominates the skyline of one of the main streets.
So, this just confirmed what I said first time round: Āgenskalns is one of the better and livelier districts of Riga. Suži it ain’t.
Another revisit was the next district, Zasulauks. That one hadn’t excited me first time round, but there was an important bit I’d missed: Latvia University’s Botanic garden. After paying the 2 euro entry fee, it’s a nice enough place to relax in on a good day
and contains a butterfly house and a tropical plants house, which is probably the only place in Riga where you’ll see palm trees and other unusual plants
At this point, Eddy had arrived (who works Saturdays?) so, it was time for the main course: Dzirciems and Iļģuciems. Dzirciems is middle town in every way. It’s round about the geographic centre of Riga and has social and demographic statistics almost exactly at the Riga average. It’s 46% of Latvians and 40% of Russians is exactly the same as Riga as a whole.
Ritvars had recommended a few things here. So firstly we headed along Pulka Iela. The site of a former barracks, it consists of a series of memorials, abandoned buildings and factories.
and has a bit of an eerie feel to it, like a ghost town.
The second place of interest in Dzirciems is, without doubt, Dzegužkalns. The highest point in Riga, this is the closest the city will ever get to a mountain. It’s not so high, but still, from the top, you can see the spires of Riga Old Town in the distance.
After that, probably the main reason to go to Dzirciems would be the Ilguciems Kvass factory (why is it called Ilguciems Kvass when it’s made in Dzirciems?) Kvass is one of the joys of this part of the world. A wheaty drink that looks like beer, but is non-alcoholic, it’s great on a nicer day.
To our disappointment, the factory isn’t open for tourists, so the best thing about it is the attached shop, where a very bored looking girl sells you freshly made kvass.
After visiting Nordeka park, the other big park in Dzirciems, we’d nearly come to the end of our wanderings there. By now, we were thirsty so it was time to find a watering hole. On the corner of Dagmaras Iela, right on the district’s border, there is a decent enough cafe. Though, like a lot of places in Riga, it shyly refuses to reveal its name. I even met my dentist there, getting her teeth into some cake.
With the temperatures a comfortable +12, for the first time this year, we were able to sit outside. Summer is-a-coming!
Dzirciems’ northern neighbour is Iļģuciems, a pretty uninspiring place. It’s exactly how I imagined a lot of these Riga districts to be (before my visits showed me otherwise) full of identical grey, Soviet-era tower blocks.
After we’d walked round for 20 minutes and found, well, nothing of interest, we decided it was beer o’clock. Another bar with no name on the corner of Tvaikonu Iela and Daugavgrivas Iela was the final stop for the day. While there, we had two bums come in and ask us for money and some teens enter and ask us if we’d buy booze for them from the local shop. Iļģuciems just oozes class. At least the interior was interesting enough, lots of hunters’ memorabilia on the walls.
Besides that, the bar itself turned out to be a lively end to the night. A jolly barmaid smiled as she poured the drinks, her friend, who had clearly been enjoying a vodka degustation all day, reminded me that it was International Women’s day and strongarmed me into congratulating her. 4 or 5 beers later, we realised it was chucking out time. 33 districts done, 25 to go