The puns never stop. They just get progressively worse.
The south part of Pardaugava, the other side of the river from the Old Town and centre, has produced some patchy experiences for me. Ziepniekkalns and surrounds was labelled the most depressing place ever by my trip buddy, Mukupurvs is the worst district I’ve been to, while Pleskodale has a big shopping centre and not much else. The areas down here also rank relatively highly in terms of violent crime as well. So, on 26 April, I wasn’t exactly overcome with excitement and anticipation at the thought of the next two: Atgāzene and Bierini.
As I was getting ready to go, hundreds of motorbikes sped past my house, grabbing my camera, I caught this video. One of them even waved to me as if he knew me. It turned out to be my ex-student, but with his motorbike helmet on, so my powers of identification weren’t the greatest and I waved back politely, but obliviously.
Grabbing the bus with Eddie, Atgāzene was our first port of call. A rectangle sandwiched between Ziepniekkalns and Bierini, it’s hard to see the point in the place
unless it’s a demilitarized zone between its two larger neighbours. We wandered round, then wandered some more and the only thing we found was a shopping centre and the Turiba business school and attached train station.
In a western European city, there’d be a lively infrastructure around this, cafes and the like, to cater for the student community. Here, nada. We backtracked to the shopping centre and had a drink in the Lulu pizza place, since it was the only place available.
The curse of southern Pardaugava strikes again. Was this really the worst zone of Riga? We crossed the train lines into Bierini to find out.
At first, Bierini didn’t impress us either. It had a Pleskodale feel about it, full of identical looking streets with private houses
and absolutely nothing to do. Bierini’s main claim to fame is that it’s the least Russian district of the lot, so Latvian nationalists will be in their element here. Everyone else might struggle to find anything to do. But it’s worth a walk round, as there are things.
First up, we came across a small river flowing through the woods, the Marupite.
Then, crossing a rickety little bridge,
we found a kind of sculpture park
which we happily walked around. There was still no sign of any cafe though and it was nearly 20 degrees and sunny.
We’d almost given up, but I’d toured the area on google streetview and had found one cafe on Karlis Ulmanis Gatve. We headed there and, sure enough, for the third time, google streetview had lied. The cafe was gone, replaced by a slot machine place (there are scores of those across Riga.) We decided to head round the main road, in the vain hopes we’d find somewhere and luckily, we did. Not only did we find somewhere, we had stumbled across what is possibly the best neighbourhood bar I’ve been to on my travels. Step forward…
Bierinkrogs basically has everything you’d want from a local bar. An outdoor terrace, friendly waiting staff, clean toilets, decent/cheap food and cheap beer.
We settled down to enjoy.
€2.10 for the beer and €5.50 for the hearty portion. Result! I’ve even been back to Bierinkrogs twice since then, as it’s on the main road and easy to reach from Agenskalns. Wrapping up events, we headed back to the centre, pausing to get a sunset on the Daugava photo on the way.
So, all in all, Atgāzene failed to deliver, while Bierini surpassed my early, low expectations. 46 districts done, 12 to go.