“Let’s do these _______” (Brekši, Dreiliņi, Pļavnieki)

After the fun of our previous trip around Avotu Iela, Linda of ExpateyeonLatvia was hungry for more. Knowing that she secretly loves the shadiest places, I decided to save some good ones for her. So yesterday, I met her at the bus stop at Lacplesa Iela, disconcerted to see that she’d arrived there before me and therefore I wouldn’t be able to complain about her being late. “Let’s do these sh*tholes”, said Linda, prophetically. I decided to start in Brekši. It was another one I’d never heard of before starting these wanderings and the main question on my mind as we got closer to the place was “why would anyone live here?” It’s pretty far out of Riga centre and the single bus route only runs about every 45 minutes. It’s one of only eight districts in Riga with a majority of Russian inhabitants, probably due to the Paper factory?

Google streetview had shown a cafe near the Papīrfabrika Jugla bus stop. Google had let us down back in December, when we visited Ziepniekkalns, and never failed to disappoint us a second time.

Google streetview

Google streetview

Heaven or hell?

Heaven or hell?

Yep, the area’s only cafe had been replaced by a Hell’s Angels hangout. We decided to have a wander first, but found nothing except decaying tower blocks

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and roads to nowhere in the middle of the forest.

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It was probably a good thing that I’d told Linda she would have to pay a  €0.10 forfeit every time she said “most depressing”, otherwise she’d have very quickly developed a sore throat.

With Linda needing a call of nature, we decided to brave the inside of the Hell’s angels place. “куда ты идешь?” asked the biker guy outside. “Beer and toilet!” Linda replied, desperately. But the guy told us it was private. Probably for the best, as getting our heads kicked in, in a biker bar in the middle of nowhere, wasn’t quite on the blog agenda. So to fulfill the drink in every district criteria, it had to be one from the supermarket, beside the bus stop.

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We decided we’d had enough of Breks at this point, so hopped on the bus, intending to head to the next district. On the way out of Breks, there were views of the Jugla Lake from the bus (maybe it does have something interesting after all) but with buses in this part of the world so infrequent, we decided to stay on. Linda insisted that we get off at the stop in the middle of nowhere, probably because there was a nice tree she’d seen on the way in.

We found ourselves in the middle of Biķernieki forest, so I decided to go and see the Holocaust memorial which I’d skipped on the previous outing. The memorial at the entrance has thoughtlessly been treated as a garbage disposal place

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but there was worse to come. Approaching the main site, we found, to our disgust, that someone had put a huge rubbish skip beside it.

This is how Latvia pays its respects to the 35000 Jewish people killed here.

This is how Latvia pays its respects to the 35000 people killed here.

Absolutely disgraceful. Keeping the place clean, yes, but it would have been a simple matter to put the skip somewhere nearby, unobtrusive.

The site itself is quite sombre and larger than the equivalent Rumbula one.

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Suitably depressed, both by this and by the treatment of what should be a respectful site, we headed back towards Mezciems to the Mežciema riepu centrs. It wasn’t the first time I’d been to this district, but Linda urgently needed relief and found in a god awful squat toilet near the market.

We grabbed a beer in the market itself. It wasn’t the greatest place we’d ever been to, but the Brālis beer on tap was fine and at €0.85 a half litre, who can complain?

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As we were leaving, the young guy staring at us in the picture invited us for a beer party at his house. He looked and smelt like he’d been drinking since 9am and it was still only 1630, so we politely declined his kind offer, at which he disappointedly rolled and staggered towards a taxi, looking like he was about to throw up at any minute.

It was time for district two of the day. Dreiliņi. I’d passed through this when doing classes near Ulbroka before, so didn’t expect much. It’s mostly a new district, on the very edge of Riga. We walked into the first series of shiny new tower blocks to see what was there. Not much, actually. No cafes, shops, supermarkets or anything else, but of course, Latvia being Latvia, the ladies would not be happy without a beauty salon

who needs food, when you can get a manicure?

who needs food, when you can get a manicure?

the rest of the area contained some new flats, which haven’t even been sold yet.

wanna buy a flat in the middle of nowhere?

wanna buy a flat in the middle of nowhere?

After strolling past empty fields, yet to be lived in buildings and barking dogs, we stumbled upon one of the best bars we’ve been to, Mapuche, beside a roundabout at the end of the city.

Paulaner beer on tap for 2 euro was the first nice touch,

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but the best thing was that the waitress actually went out of her way to be helpful, firstly advising us that they had a terrace available, then bringing us out free snacks with the second beer. The food there looked good as well.

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It’s a huge shame Mapuche is so far out of the way. The terrace is great, the beer tasty and cheap, the workers friendly and helpful. Is this Latvia? We had two there and were tempted to stay for one more, except the clock was ticking and district three was calling.

Pļavnieki, the fourth biggest district in Riga, was last on the agenda. The name, which roughly translates as Meadowlands, sounds like someone was having a bad joke. It’s a concrete jungle with a poor reputation, even if the crime figures for the area are lower than Teika, which Latvians consider “a safe district.” The vista coming in to Pļavnieki was the usual uninspiring tower blocks.

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We quickly spotted a cafe

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but the reality, like google streetview, was something else.

classy

classy, I almost prefer the biker place

Not to be outdone, we kept going, finding a place here was unexpectedly difficult. On Augusta Deglava Iela we finally spotted a place which offered pretty much everything.

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TV, bar, cafe, wi-fi, swimming pool, sauna…all they need is a cinema and skating rink to cover all bases. Intrigued, we headed in to find a pretty standard bar, though they also invited us to use their terrace, were friendly and went out of their way to be helpful, moving benches over to another table. It was eighteen degrees, maybe the weather was responsible for un-Baltic displays of helpfulness?

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We decided to head down A.Saharova Iela and halfway down, like two kids playing Snap! we both shouted “bar!” at the same time.

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It did have air hockey, but after beating Linda 9-0, I decided to take pity on her and settle down to some beer. The new, more helpful style of waitress that we’d had earlier in the day hadn’t reached this far, though. Spotting a terrace, we found the door locked and they refused to open it. To make their meaning doubly clear, they locked the adjoining door, keeping us in the darkish lounge area, on tatty chairs probably provided during the Glasnost era and never replaced since.

We did try to find a final place in Plav, but found only gaming places galore (Feniks, Joker etc.) and cheap burger joints like Hesburger. In the end we gave up and headed back to the civilisation of Avotu Iela.

41 districts done, 17 left.

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5 thoughts on ““Let’s do these _______” (Brekši, Dreiliņi, Pļavnieki)

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