Fish testicles are popular in The Wild West

Sometimes my excursions in Riga have taken me to half decent places, like Bukulti, which I wouldn’t have thought about going to otherwise. Just as often, they’ve taken me to some grotty suburb which I’d never heard of before and never want to hear of again. This was the situation on 22 March when we headed to the very west of Riga, to Mūkupurvs.

Going here was an accident, we’d initially planned to go to Darzciems and Šķirotava, but went to the bus stop heading in the opposition direction. As we hadn’t been there, we decided just to take the bus going the opposite way and see where we ended up. We stayed on until the last stop, Babīte, the next town outside Riga and had a wander round there. I pass Babīte every summer on the way to Riga’s beaches, but had never stopped there before. It doesn’t have Jurmala’s beaches, nor Riga’s entertainment, so after wandering around it, all in all, no reason to stop there is the verdict.

At least there was a half decent cafe, Kristapins, beside the station which we rested our feet at. The waiter was a suspiciously jolly middle-aged guy. In Latvia, no one over the age of 22 ever seems to work as a waiter, so we figured that he must be the owner.

We headed down a long empty road to get back into Riga


finally arriving at Beberbeķi, the most western neighbourhood of Riga. It sounds like some Latvian attempt at naming a district after Justin Beber and looks like a lot of these suburbs do, lots of private houses, bought by people for outrageous sums of money, who don’t realise that you can get the same in much sunnier places for half the price. It’s all beside a forest, so at least they have nature walks in the swampy forest nearby.


Beberbeķi comes in two parts, split by a main road. Beside the main road are two things that everyone visiting Beberbeķi should do: pose for touristy photos at the big Riga sign


and enjoy the menus in the two local bars. We were shocked to find two here, given that Beber has just over 400 people, the rich kids here obviously have money to burn, or uncle Justin is subsidising them.

Verdins was the cafe we chose and it was busy enough, though the service was fairly sloppy, she forgot all about us and never managed a smile the whole time. While we waited we amused ourselves by looking at the menu options, which offered weird and wonderful dishes. First up…


All that was missing was a posh waiter intoning: “Would Sir like some of the haddock’s testicles?” (sēklinieku?)

Not fancying that, we considered the meat dishes, coning across this gem


“Carbonate pork with a bone.”  Yum yum! I was in the mood for something that sounded like an experiment in my chemistry class today! How thoughtful of them to add the bone as well. I like the way they make it sound like a bonus in the English version: buy a carbonated pork, get a free bone! I’ll bring my dog next time.

The chicken dishes threw up similar surprises


“Chiken shashlychok”, never had that before and I doubt it’s that popular with English speakers, who wouldn’t have a clue what it is. Beber might be on the way to the airport, but I still doubt it’s the first place English speakers come to. Ultimately, if you’re going to translate a menu to English, do it properly otherwise you’re wasting your time. Some of those dishes sound worse in the translation than they actually are.

In the end our adventure failing us, we stuck to tea, coffee and a crème brûlée, which wasn’t worth the money. In fairness, Verdins does have a reasonable translation on its home page.

Suži has long been top of my hate list in Riga and for a while I thought I’d finish with the poor lady still there. Step forward to the rescue, Mūkupurvs (Monk Swamp) which reaches new lows. Suži at least had a shop, lake views and a reasonable forest to walk through. It’s the hick locals which spoilt it really. Mūkupurvs doesn’t have hick locals, in fact it hardly seems to have any locals. In their place there’s bored doggies with nothing better to do than bark at anyone going past. The area is basically a stinky, swampy forest. Latvians are kinda proud of their Talka, a hangover from Soviet times, when people volunteer to go and cleanup nature. It’s a great idea, but I think it would be a lot less necessary if people in crapholes like Mūkupurvs didn’t treat their area as one big rubbish dump

DSC01287  DSC01290

the rest of the place mostly consists of small allotments, run by people who’ve obviously never heard of the word “environmentalism.”

There’s even a hotel here (Riga airport is nearby)


where I guess we could have got refreshments, but seeing the state of the district, our appetite for refreshments was gone and we were happy to get out of there.

23 districts left and the burning question is…will there be anywhere worse than Monk Swamp?













4 thoughts on “Fish testicles are popular in The Wild West

  1. Sounds quite yucky, but at least I learned of a new Riga district… or, area, rather?

    At any rate, just wanted to point out that “talka”, as an event, while overused and sovieticized in Soviet times, is actually a very old phenomenon, and I would be extremely surprised, if it was something purely Latvian. If I enter the word “talka” as search term in , which has digitized periodicals of Latvia starting from 18th century, you get “talka” referred to in this context (a gathering of friends and relatives to do some larger task for one of the members of their community) as early as 1910. Talkas were quite common back then and even earlier, especially in rural districts, obviously.

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