And so it was time for the last district in Pardaugava, the west bank of Riga, Zolitūde. Many of the Riga districts I’ve visited during these outings have been obscure or unknown. Zolitude doesn’t fit into that category. Its train station is halfway between Riga centre and Riga’s beach town Jurmala, a constant reminder to commuters that, hey, it could be worse. The district also hit the headlines in November last year when a supermarket roof collapsed, killing 54 people. Investigations into that are ongoing as I write.
A police car and a screamin’ siren
Pneumatic drill and ripped-up concrete
A baby wailing, a stray dog howling
A smash of glass and the rumble of boots
An electric train and a ripped-up phone booth
Two lovers missing the tranquility of solitude
which more or less summed up how I expected Zolitūde to be, since the district takes its name from the English/French word solitude. It’s one of the few remaining Russian majority districts in the city.
The intro to the district is its train station
which comes with an especially dubious looking bar attached.
I’m still unsure if the furniture/junk shop look is intentional or not.
Behind that, there are rows of archetypal Soviet-era block houses
I’d love to say it gets better than that, but I’d be lying.
I met my friend Polina on this day, unfortunately though, baby-sitting arrangements meant that she wasn’t able to give me the guided tour, so we settled on a pre-district drink in Spice shopping centre before she advised me that there were only two decent places to have a drink in the neighbourhood, and that I should, at all costs, avoid the bar beside the train station, as it’s full of crazy alcos. I said bye and headed off to do the district, appropriately enough, in solitude. (Only the second time I’ve had to do that.)
She dropped me off beside one of the more recommended places in Zolitūde: Baltā māja. Among the tower blocks, the place really stands out as a welcoming building.
They’ve a pine tree and a bubbling fountain in the yard. I can’t help but feel that it’s wasted though, as the backdrop really doesn’t inspire.
Ironic to see a pine tree here though, when the Pine Cone Mountain district doesn’t have them.
I ordered stroganoff, but sadly, the food wasn’t up to scratch.
Bland and tasteless, with stringy bits of meat, whatever Baltā māja are doing right, it ain’t the food.
I finished up here and headed for a wander through the estate. There was very little variety in the housing types, which are almost all 1980s Soviet tower blocks,
some with shops attached at the bottom.
After wandering for a while, I spotted another bar: Rusas 13. As Rusas is the Spanish word for Russians, I thought for a minute that the owner was going for an ironic touch of international class, then I realised that we were on Rusas Street and that he’d therefore just given his bar the same name as the address. I guess that’s one place that won’t be featuring in the most imaginative bar name contest any time soon.
With no windows, and a door opening on to a staircase leading downwards into hell, this bar had already scored at least 9 on the dodginess scale. Taking a deep breath, I headed down. There was one other customer underground with me. At least the beer was cheap: €1.3o a pint.
In terms of interior, there are gaudy yellow colours, the bar has a wide floor space, possibly so that fighting drunks won’t annoy other drunks at other tables. Mirrors helpfully allow customers to check how intoxicated they are and a tv blasts away, for who, after all comes to a bar to chat?
In an incredibly misguided attempt to go for a bit of southern European glamour, the owner has decided to decorate the place with open wine boxes. It’s very hard to imagine the clientele in this dingy dungeon sipping cabernet sauvignon, which didn’t seem to be on sale anyway, so it’s hard to see the point.
The other customer left and with the owner casting suspicious glances in my direction after my photography, I decided it was time to get back to the real world.
I ended up near Prusas Iela, where, in the bottom corner of one of the better looking tower blocks, I spotted Cafe Anastasiya.
When I got there, though, I found that Anastasiya had lost its “s” and also, apparently, its will to live, as it was closed at 6pm on a Thursday, despite threatening to be open until midnight.
Rounding the corner I came to the scene of the Maxima supermarket collapse. To my surprise, 9 months after the collapse, the structure is still there.
Why? Didn’t they collect the evidence they needed months ago? (***Update 16 August: according to this report, at least part of the building will be demolished by the end of August.)
Beside the former Maxima is a smaller shopping centre, which contains a cafe which my friend recommended as the other good place to go in Zolitūde. In truth, it looks nice, but a cafe beside a collapsed building makes me a bit uneasy and, having survived Rusas 13, I wasn’t going to risk my life a second time.
I headed to the bus stop, which is beside some nicer and newer looking apartment buildings.
So, it was goodbye to Zoli, leaving only six districts.
I now have the finish date in sight: Saturday 16 August in Riga’s Old Town will bring this to an end.
Coming up: a report on my trip to Sarkandaugava/Kundzinsala/Milgravis with Linda yesterday.