No champagne in Shampeteris

The fourth of May is when Latvia regained its independence, it was also when I made what will be my third last visit to Pardaugava as part of my districts wanderings. In a previous post, I mentioned how I’d ended up in Riga. Well, the truth is that, aside from a bearded Arab guy, a bearded Latvian guy had something to do with it. I met Didzis at the bar of Tim McShane’s Irish pub back in 2005 and, through him, started dating his cousin for the next 8 years. So when he phoned me up, suggesting that he and his wife Ieva join me on a districts outing, I was only too happy, as it seemed fitting to have him along.

Firstly he suggested that we do *all* the remaining districts, as they had a car. However, I explained to him that they weren’t meant to all be done at the one time. He’s a whiskey drinker like me, so I explained that half the fun was spinning it out.

Too good to rush

Too good to rush

We decided to do a couple of districts in Pardaugava, on the other side of the river. First up was one that is, by my reckoning, one of Riga’s most dangerous districts: Tornakalns. Located just across the bridges from the islands, it’s a bit of a weird one. A load of office buildings and industrial estates beside the river, with the Riga Plaza shopping centre beside the main road. If first impressions last, Tornakalns isn’t doing itself any favours.

Tourism in Tornakalns.

Tourism in Tornakalns.

The riverside parts are okay, but are spoiled by having a main road beside them. The rest of the district has a residential bit, that is nothing to write home about. Probably the main attractions here would be the memorials around Tornakalns station to people deported by the Soviets.

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It mostly consists of a replica of the railcars used in 1941.

Outside the station, there are more monuments, consisting of large stones engraved with the names of the places where people were exiled to.

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For me, the graffiti around the station was a bit more lively

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With the weather iffy and the scenery to match, we were sorely in need of a drink. We finally found a place near Tornakalns station. Maybe, they’re trying to fit in with the depressing mood of the station memorials, it’s the ony reason I can think of for having a bar this bad

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Having nothing else to do, we decided it was Beer O’Clock. When we were halfway across the road, we could already smell the subtle odours of urine. The place stank. Even though the day was only around +13, we decided that sitting outside would be a better move. Dashing in, we tried not to choke on the ammonium fumes and grabbed a couple of beers.

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The inside of Kupcs didn’t look much better than the outside.

The inside of Hell.

This is where sinners go when they die.

We sat outside, wondering why gas masks weren’t provided by the bar owners.

my partners in beer and tea

my partners in beer and tea

Drinking up fairly quickly, we headed on to the second district of the day, Šampēteris. We drove around identikit streets, then drove around some more, then drove… well you get the idea. Overall, it reminded me a bit of its neighbour Pleskodale, just without the woods, cafe and bowling hall, or for that matter, any interesting feature.

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It’s green enough and is probably a nice place to live, but lacked anything of interest. After a bit, we started searching for a cafe, but couldn’t find one. In the end we found one on the outskirts.

Bars Karlis is a fairly average neighbourhood bar. Following the practice of lots of other ones, it puts “BARS” in huge letters then hides its name in small print.

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The bar is practically in Zolitude, but lies on the boundary of Šampēteris, so that still counts. The scenery outside fulfils every stereotype of suburban neighbourhoods in post-Soviet countries.

the tranquility of Zolitude

the tranquility of Zolitude

Inside, it’s a pleasant enough affair, a few bar snacks and local beers, but unless you’re out this way, it’s hard to recommend it.

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Finishing up, we headed to Bierinkrogs, now one of my favourite blog haunts for more food and entertainment. 48 done, 10 to go.

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17 thoughts on “No champagne in Shampeteris

  1. Yeah, Torņakalns is really missing a good place to go for a sip. Besides your choice of ghetto bar there’s only one more- on the corner of Altonavas and Tēriņu. Which is a bit better.

    But… Whole Riga plaza mall is in Torņakalns as well. And there’s plenty to choose from.

    • Ghetto bar, I like that one 🙂 Yes there are plenty of places in Riga Plaza, but I’m trying to avoid shopping centres as they’re all a bit sterile and characterless. I’ve another blog to write up about my outing in May to Spilve/Voleri, then there will be 8 left to do in the next two months, Vecpilseta, Centrs, Purvciems, Zolitude, Ciekurkalns, Sarkandaugava, Kundzinsala and Mangali. The first few of those will be no problem finding places in, but are there any hotspots you know in the later ones?

    • I’ve visited two since then, so only eight left. I feel like a novelist must feel when they get to the end of a book they’ve been working on: I’ll be glad to finish but kinda sad at the same time.

  2. Hi,
    I’d say Vēja street expresses the spirit of Torņakalns the best (and if You manage to enter the yard of Cepļa 4/6, You’ll be awarded with a superb view to Riga from the top of Daugava valley slope), Āpšu being the next. Also, there are enough places to eat and have a brimmer along Vienības gatve. And the bar on the corner of Altonavas and Tēriņu belongs to Bieriņi.

  3. Mangaļsala is short of places to spend money. Last summer, there was a tiny gym bar at Traleŗu iela 10A (dunno whether they are open this year and whether they serve beer). Also, a small (but a decent for such a small neighbourhood) “Vesko” grocery at Albatrosu iela 11. And, I’m afraid, that’s it. As for sightseeing, the must haves are the Daugava mouth breakwater and fortifications along Mangaļsalas iela. Beside that, one may rent a yacht trip in a local yacht club (marinaauda.com; the rumor has they’ve got a pub too). The main residential cluster centered on Albatrosu iela comes from the fishermen’s kolkhoz; the smaller on Mangaļsalas iela on the way to the breakwater is the Soviet army hamlet (with the respective architecture and inmates).

    • Thanks as always for the advice. I’m embarrassed though. It’s actually Milgravis, on the north-west of Kisezers, which I have to visit. However, I’ll no doubt revisit Mangalsala so I’ll definitely follow up on your suggestions then.

  4. Err, my bad. Didn’t look thoroughly on your last photo.
    Kundziņsala is a small neighbourhood slowly suffocated by encroaching port of Riga. Wherever You go, You’ll be stopped either by wall or fence, or sign of the port. It has no shops anymore, just a trolleybus No3 stop and former professional school building. As a lowlying territory, Kundziņsala gets flooded sometimes. Good luck to find anything noteworthy. A beach perhaps.

  5. Jaunmīlgrāvis has lots of industrial territories, mainly petroleum storages and pumpings. The oldest part along Ezera iela is diluted by ugly Soviet time buildings. The opposite side of the railway is also a creature of Soviet times, the Eastern end (Aplokciems) is of contemporary housing. The most famous eatery is on the corner of Mores iela and Ostas prospekts. It serves shashliks since Soviet times and hasn’t changed much since. As for sightseeing, nothing much: desolate tram No5 terminus and line consisting of single track; heating plant at Viestura prospekts 20B; BMX racetrack; supermarkets; and of course perhaps the most famous golf course in Latvia.

    • Thanks. I’m sure there must be views of the lake somewhere or some kind of lake/river shot to offset the likely grim photos of Soviet era buildings. I was in the Shaslik place (Mangalos) as part of my visit to Mezaparks. Unfortunately, it’s the wrong side of the Viestura Prospekts boundary, but I might go there anyway.

  6. There are a couple of shady bars on Ezera iela (You know, where locals are sitting on doorsteps). If I remember correctly there must be some cafes along Viestura prospekts on Mežaparks side. Also, Ostas iela 4 are headquarters for Cido Group that makes Cido juices and extracts Mangaļi mineral water from artesian well here.

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