Saturday 18 October saw me back on the road again in pastures new. Having covered familiar ground in Riga and Sigulda, it was time for somewhere I hadn’t been.
Grabbing Eddie at his office, we jumped on the bus to Ādaži, a popular commuter town north-east of Riga. Again, before going I started scratching my head to try and think of things I knew about the place. All that came to mind was that they do a mean potato crisp.
Still, it’s one thing more than I know about a lot of the municipalities I’ll be visiting. A bit more reading showed the Gauja as a recommended place and a number of cafes came up in a search. The municipality stretches further than Ādaži town itself and includes some really upmarket housing around Baltezers. Time and daylight reasons meant that we were only able to focus on Ādaži itself.
We jumped out in the main street, which told us we were 22km from Riga. It didn’t look that bad, the standard Maxima supermarket and a fair bit of greenery.
A bit further along there was a crummy looking street market, selling the sort of useless stuff that looks like it was salvaged from rubbish bins in the 1990s.
We headed in the direction of the Daugava, but along the way, came across a huge street map, with the town helpfully laid out which showed us a few parks nearby. We decided to see if there was anything of interest in them.
Nope. But they looked nice in Autumn.
A bit further along we passed a mini lake, around the vejupe, which seems to be the centrepiece of the town.
It had a wakeboarding thingy in the middle and what looked like an attempt at a beach. I guess if your car breaks down and you can’t get to Jurmala, it’s better than nothing. We heard a lot of Russian spoken, but checking later, it was a bit of a surprise to find that the municipality was 74% Latvian and 18% Russian.
We decided to try and follow the Gauja, hoping for idyllic, picturesque views of Latvia’s famed nature. It started off well enough, a little windy road going through green fields, but no one here seemed to have considered the possibility that people might want to actually take a riverside walk. There was a kind of muddy mound, which we climbed up, but after a minute of walking through a mudbath, we gave up and climbed back down again. This was as close as we got.
The road back to the town led us through a series of allotments, with the usual pack of dogs barking as though they’d never seen humans before
The housing is another weird mix of private houses and decaying Soviet-era block houses.
The temperature was about 5 degrees, so we decided we’d earned ourselves some hot drinks. One of the places we’d passed was The Mad Cafe. With a name like that, we just had to check it out. Inside, we asked in Latvian, only to get answers in English. They’re just trying to be helpful, but grrrrr…. We insisted on Latvian and happily, they obliged us and we settled down to some tasty cake and coffee.
The waiter who brought them started chatting with us, something which doesn’t always happen and we explained about the trip here. Eddie was quite disappointed to find that he wasn’t the only Welsh customer. We’d been interested in seeing the crisp factory, but it was apparently a fair bit out of town and with no transport we decided to give it a miss.
All in all, great service, helpful staff, decent cakes and coffee. Mad Cafe was a decent little find and if you’re ever up that way, you’d be mad not to check it out.
We’d still time, so we decided to follow Gauja Iela around to the other part of the town. Along the way, we passed the bridge over the Gauja
and the cultural centre, a funky looking building under reconstruction.
Sadly, it was a bit too grey to get any decent photos of the Gauja river.
The main part of the town seems to be totally devoid of anything other than houses. No shops or anything. Just open fields with expensive looking housing around them. Sure, these people have money, but don’t they want to use a cafe or a shop that’s just a little bit closer?
We ended up doing a loop around the vejupe, ending up near the cultural centre. We’d promised ourselves a beer before heading home and had passed vigvam on the way. Despite its lakeside location, the place looked a bit shady, but as shady bars are our forte we decided to give it a go anyway.
A mangy looking dog lounged beside the entrance fighting a losing battle against its fleas. I don’t like to see pets of any kind in a place that serves food and drink, so that was already a turn off. The lights were dim and it wasn’t clear if the place was open at all. A guy ambled up to the door and looked at us as if he’d never heard of the idea of people wanting to drink in a bar on a Saturday evening. We asked if they were open. He shrugged disinterestedly and said he’d check. We’d had enough, so decided to give it a miss and while he was slouching across to the bar, headed across the road.
4 krasti (four shores) was a pizza place/cafe situated in the cultural centre. From the outside it had looked a bit more upmarket and we’d decided to search for cheaper
but inside we found that the prices were pretty cheap and there was the added bonus that we got to have a giggle over their dodgy translations.
Again the service was pretty good and, while the food wasn’t top quality, it was perfectly fine for the price. The only negative was that they’d obviously left it to the younger staff to decide on what the music would be. So, rather than the welcoming loungey music you’d expect, our pizzas were eaten to the background of gangsta rap and somehow, the pizzas didn’t really gel with the rapper’s desire to “shoot niggas” and “slap bitchez.” That’s one problem I have found in some places in Riga, clubby music and rap music get played in really inappropriate places.
Still, we were well fed and watered by this point so it was time to head home. All in all, Ādaži was a pleasant enough day out with enough green spaces and cafes to keep people busy for a few hours. Definitely more than just a crisp. Coming up next…. Ogre.