I know, the dodgy pun in the title is a new low, right? So, Teika, a residential district much beloved of Latvians, was my latest port of call on 6 April. I’d done one of my first ever in company classes there, one of two I’ve done there, so I knew the district already and wondered what all the fuss was about. What’s so great about Teika? Well, asking people, various reasons popped up: it’s safe and reasonably priced and has a lot of amenities. Two of the most common reasons though, were that it’s “close to the centre” and (whisper it softly) “there are not so many Russians there.”
Some of that to me is dubious. For example, the closeness to the centre. Uh? I walked from Zemitane Laukums to the centre a couple of times when the weather was good. It took me just over an hour. If Teika is great for being central, then my dearly beloved Maskatchka, a 15 minute walk from the Old Town, must be the most wonderful place imaginable. I doubt you’ll find many Teikaophiles who’ll agree though. On safeness grounds, well, out of the biggest 39 districts in Riga, Teika is almost exactly in the middle for assaults. Sarkandaugava, Ķengarags and even Pļavnieki ranked as being safer. It’s true that Teika is more Latvian than the norm: 62% Latvian, 29% Russian compared to a city wide average of 46%/41%, but there are still some Russians (and who, other than ultra nationalists, cares anyway?)
With the weather decent, Zanda came along to protect me from all those Russians. We headed down Biķernieku iela and cut up Laimdota Iela. Teika has a real mix of architecture types
and offers a bit more colour than some of the Riga suburbs, with their dismal Soviet-era tower blocks. One bit of it even looked like we were in a village.
There were plenty of cafes and shops along the way, so the amenities are there. We headed into Biķernieki forest, which is actually in Mezciems. A couple of my forest experiences recently have been a big disappointment, since Latvians seem to treat Forest and Rubbish Tip as synonymous. Biķernieki is better and even homeless people seem to prefer the place to sleeping under the Stockmann tunnels,
so it must be a great place and yes the views were good.
Though it’s a nice place to walk round, Biķernieki has a darker history, as one of the main killing sites during the Holocaust in Latvia, with 30,000-45,000 people murdered here. In the end we decided not to dampen our spirits by going out of our way to find the Memorial, so we headed up the forest’s main hill, Bākas kalns, instead.
The forest was mostly empty when we were there, so we were surprised to see what looked like someone just standing in the distance, motionless. In the end, we were able to zoom in enough to see it
yes, it’s a tree. But, at this point, we were thirsty, so we headed to Brivibas Gatve to see what was on offer. A few things came up. There’s the big Alfa shopping centre and Shangri La , one of the first Chinese restaurants ever to open in Riga, back in the 1990s. In the end we settled for Elande, which comes in two parts, a bakery on one side and a restaurant/cafe on the other. The outside terrace looked nice, but we’d had enough fresh air for one day. While the coffee was good in Elande, the service was really slow and sloppy, she walked passed us a couple of times without even looking in our direction and in the end, after paying. we had to bring the cash up ourselves. Elande, as a result isn’t a place I’d rush back to.
One last thing to say, Teika, for all its good reputation, still does have a few dodgy people
The guy in the second photo was, Zanda assured me, just a patient in the nearby hospital, getting some fresh air. I still gave him a wide berth though.
All in all, I think Teika is an interesting enough district, even if it doesn’t quite deserve the rave reviews it gets from local Latvians. There are worse places you could live, but for me, I won’t be swapping Maskatchka for Teika any time soon.
20 districts left.