RB#9&10: Civilisation: Riga and Jurmala

I’m going to slip into full British/Irish mode now and talk about the weather for a bit. The weather in Latvia often follows predictable patterns in Summer. To start, there’s a really nice period from the second or third week of May lasting until the first week of June. This has people raving about how they heard it on some blog/forum/programme that the coming summer will be the warmest ever. I never take such long term forecasts seriously, as June normally brings people down to earth with a bang. The first few weeks of June are usually rubbish, with rain and grey skies dominating until after the midsummer festival on 23-24 June. The weather usually goes through a good period until the third week of August, with sunshine and only a few days of rain. Late August until the first week of September gets yukky, before giving way to the “atvasara” the Indian summer, which can last a week or two before the full horrors of the true end of summer dawn.

This year, it was almost like June and August were reversed in the usual scheme of things. June was unusually good and August has been unusually horrible, with the first 3 weeks seeing constant rain, grey skies and temperatures in the 17-20 degrees range. As a result, my trips took a bit of a hiatus after the walk through Riga on Sunday 24 July, as thereafter, trudging through mushy beaches and forests didn’t appeal.

We’d picked up on the other side of the Daugava, at Daugavgriva.I’ve blogged before about this area, in the Russian, forgotten zone of Riga and how it has some kind of weird appeal to me. As well, as a fort, river views and Stalinist bars and commie tower blocks, Daugavgriva also boasts a beach, though its one that is far less popular than its rivals at Jurmala and Vecaki. The route to the beach goes through some typical Daugavgriva backstreets, with bins overflowing with vodka bottles.

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However, Daugie does retain its hidden charms and one of them is its beach, accessed through a nature park.

It’s quite weird to see this nature, with the backdrop of Soviet-era tower blocks

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nestling behind the trees. They’ve even constructed a well-paved walkway to access the beach, a significant improvement on some of the overgrown bumpy forest paths I;ve tracked along.

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Civilisation has its advantages!

Despite being a Riga native, Elina told me that this was the first time she’s ever been to Daugie beach and I suspect that that’s common with a lot of Rigans. The beach itself is a bit of a mixed affair. Daugavgriva’s location between two major rivers and consequent currents means that its strictly demarcated into swimming and “non-swimming” areas.

The latter are sparsely populated

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with only a few sunbathers against a backdrop of cargo ships entering and leaving the Daugava.

The swimming bits are packed, especially with locals who can access this easier than Vecaki and Jurmala.

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Locals in this part of the world usually means Russians, similar to Jurmala, but in contrast to Vecaki, which is a more Latvian affair.

Further along, the crowds thin out and give way to yet another nudist beach. Unlike the ones I’ve come across on my previous walks, this one is at least clearly delineated, with sign showing a bikini, so there wasn’t the usual slight shock of an old fat guy suddenly emerging from the bushes with his sausage dangling down.

I did sample its charms, but swimming with no swimming trunks on felt a bit odd, so I was happy enough to dry off and get clothed again.

It was so warm that I’d been padding along just in shorts

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At the end, the beaches give way to the Lielupe (Big river) which, again is uncrossable except by swimming. With so many yachts around,

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it’s undoubtedly dangerous and illegal to do that. We were now in the Bulli area which I’ve blogged about before and its riverview marked the end of this outing.

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For the tenth outing, we picked up where we’d left off across the river.

Jurmala is Riga’s sister town. The unimaginative name translates as “seaside” and the town itself is a playground for tourists, millionaires and playboys, mostly from Russia and neighbouring Russophone countries. To be honest I’ve never really got the place. If I had 2 million to spend on property in a seaside town, Jurmala would be one of the last places I’d choose. You can get the same property for nearly half the price in Spain , where you can use the beach for 6 months of the year. In Jurmala it’s 6-7 weeks. You’d also have access to better seafood and a wider range of nature than the forest, forest, forest which Latvia offers. Just why would you choose Jurmala? I even broached the subject to some former students and they shrugged and said that they could speak Russian there, but that seems a fairly poor reason to me, especially since they all aready spoke 3 or 4 languages. You can easily learn another language in those circumstances and it’s not like there are not Russians in southern European beach towns who you can practice with. Nostalgia is often another reason: they spent their childhood there, but I spent some childhood holidays in Blackpool and am thankful that I now have more choice. It just seems that some people buy property there as a status symbol rather than because it has its own merits. Oh well.

Jurmala starts at the often ignored Ragakapa (Horn Dune) which has a type of forest park not unlike those I’ve walked through on the wilder parts of the coast.

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The beaches around here are empty, as it’s hard to reach on public transport and all of the beaches suffer from the same problem as the other side of the coast: they’re too shallow and require a lot of walking to reach a  decent depth.

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Further along, though, at Bulduri, things pick up and the beaches here are crammed and at least 80% of the people are speaking Russian. The people count peaks around the main beach at Mayori

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which has the backdrop of the Baltic beach hotel, one of the more imaginative bits of architecture here, jutting out in a cruise ship shape. The main street at Mayori, Jomas Iela, is the main hangout, filled with cafes, bars and restaurants. There are worse ways to spend a weekend here, though I prefer the Dzintari park, the stop before Mayori station when coming from Riga. Here is a viewing tower which offers a view above the trees on to the beaches. When my brother visited in late June, I just had to drag him there

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Past Mayori people start to thin and for many people, this is the dark side of the moon as far as Jurmala is concerned. I think I’d been in Latvia over 8 years when I first ventured there and I found that I hadn’t really missed anything. As in Riga, most of Jurmala’s action is concentrated in a central area. Around Dubulti and further out, it’s mostly sleepy (and boring) residential districts punctuated with the odd small guesthouse.

We finished up at Asari station, safe in the knowledge that we were now over halfway to our goal.

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Kolka here I come!

 

 

 

 

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The best (and worst) of Riga

As I’m going to start visiting the towns in Riga region soon, it was time for a retrospective of Riga’s districts. A list from best to worst. Nice scenery, things to do, local attractions, good bars or places to eat were the informal criteria for this. This is not a list of where is best to live in Riga, some of my favourite districts are too far out, but these are the ones I preferred visiting. As I’m one of the only people to have visited all 58 Riga districts, I think I’m qualified to comment. It wasn’t the easiest of lists to make. Picking a favourite 12 and a least favourite 12 was easy enough, but for the ones in the middle, some were a bit samey. I’m sure if I did the list in a week’s time, the order would be different.

1) VECPILSETA. (Blog.) A boring choice for top place, I know. But Riga’s Old Town is jam packed with history, museums, restaurants, bars and nice views along the river.

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Shame about the tourists, but you can’t have everything.

2) VECAKI. (Blog.) Riga’s “other beach.” Less popular than the main beaches at Jurmala, but still a pleasant place in summer and in winter, peaceful, great sunsets

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and in Waves, a decent bar to have one for the road.

3) SALAS. (Blog.) Islands of tranquility in the heart of Riga. In summer, Lucavsala and its park are great places to sunbathe and have a cooling dip.

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The rest of the year it’s a relaxing place for a walk or to cycle.

4) AGENSKALNS. (Blog 1 and blog 2.) Lively district just across the river from Riga’s Old Town with a decent selection of cafes, bars, restaurants and attractions like Kalnciema street market and the Botanic garden.

5) CENTRS. Like the Old Town, but with marginally less tourists. The Quiet centre, Bergas Bazars and the new town around Gertrudes Iela church have enough to keep anyone happy.

6) BUKULTI. (Blog.) A hidden gem on the edge of Riga, with nice walks beside the Kisezers and Baltezers local lakes, as well as the Jugla canal and to finish, beer and shashliks at PiePe.

7) VECMILGRAVIS (Blog 1 linked in Vecaki above and Blog 2 here.) I was surprised at how much I liked this one, but its riverside, local cafes and Ziemelblazma complex all make for a decent day outside Riga centre.

8) MEZAPARKS. (Blog.) Probably the most popular area outside Riga centre and rightly so.

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The zoo, old world architecture, relaxing forest walks and some of Riga’s best shashliks…. who could argue with that?

9) BULLI. (Blog.) One of Riga’s smallest and more out of the way districts felt like something out of Robinson Crusoe with its narrow beach

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and woodland, but a great place for a walk.

10) BRASA. (Blog.) Despite the fact that we nearly ended up as residents in its eponymous prison, this was an enjoyable day out. In International SV, they have what is justifiably Riga’s number one restaurant on trip advisor, as well as a number of hipper cafes around Miera Iela.

11) TEIKA. (Blog.) A combo of newer and older bits of Riga, with a forest and decent local cafes the main attractions.

12) BOLDERAJA. (Blog.) Unfairly criticised by locals, most of whom haven’t been there. Boldie is more like an independent town but has a surprisingly decent selection of local bars and bakeries.

13) JUGLA. (Blog.) Oddly likeable district on the edge of eastern Riga with good lakeviews.

14) PURVCIEMS. (Blog.) Almost an independent city, it may be a concrete jungle in places, but has a lot of local amenities and enough to keep anyone busy on a day out.

15) DAUGAVGRIVA. (Blog 1 and blog 2.) I surprised myself by putting this one so high, but it has a shore front, river views,

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history in the Daugavgriva barracks and fort and some of the weirdest, but most character filled local bars I’ve come across.

16) BIERINI. (Blog.) Bierinkrogs was one of the best bars I discovered on my travels. The district is quiet enough and has a sculpture park

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and some nice bits beside the local river, the Marupite.

17) MASKAVAS FORSTATE. (Blog.) Ask a group of locals where *not* to go in Riga and this will probably be mentioned. While some of the bits further in are a bit shady at night, it’s hard to think of any district that has more history. The central market, the riverside, the big Lido at Krasta and great local bars like Banuzis are all plus points.

18) AVOTU IELA. (Blog.) Another one you probably wouldn’t want to be walking round on a dark night with a lot of valuables. But in Chomsky and Tris Viri Laiva, it has a couple of great local bars.

19) KIPSALA. (Blog.) Its “beach” is not exactly Benidorm, but there are great views of the Old Town and if you win the lottery, you can always enjoy them from Fabrikas restaurant, where the excellent food will quickly solve the problem of your wallet being too heavy.

20) MEZCIEMS. Weirdly, the blog on Mezciems was one of the most popular. The district is average, but does have a decent shashlik place, cheap beer in the local market bar and, when they finally get around to reopening it, Riga’s motor museum. There’s also some grimmer history in the form of a holocaust memorial in Bikernieki forest, but the site itself is disrespectfully treated.

21) DARZINI. (Blog.) The furthest district from Riga centre was better than expected, with good views of the river at the top of a ditch/channel and a couple of good local bars.

22) MANGALSALA. (Blog.) The pier is worth a walk along for views of Riga Bay and local shipwrecks,

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but it lacks decent cafes.

23) KLEISTI. (Blog.) Doesn’t pretend to be more than it is. A large woodland bit, good for Sunday walks, but lacking in amenities.

24) PETERSALA-ANDREJSALA. (Blog.) This is definitely one district that has declined a bit in the last decade, with the former hipster district around Andrejosta being priced out of business. Still has some nice parks, but the cafes are average at best.

25) GRIZINKALNS. The eponymous hill is good, but the local bars are well dodgy.

26) DZIRCIEMS. (Blog.) Has Riga’s highest hill, some ex-military housing along Pulka Iela and good local kvass, but the latter is the only drink with having round here as the bars are dull.

27) CIEKURKALNS. The lakeside part pushed this higher than it otherwise would have been, though the streets around Ciekurkalns 1. Linija do have an olde worlde feel.

28) IMANTA. A weird mix of open fields and Soviet housing estates. A 50s themed rock n roll bar puts this in the middle.

29) JAUNCIEMS. (Blog.) I’d expected this one to be lower, but when revisiting in summer, I found the lake there to be a decent place to swim in. The lake is the saving grace, because this out of the way district is one to skip outside the summer months.

30) ILGUCIEMS. (Blog.) Nordeka park and a character filled local bar saved this dreary estate from a lower placing.

31) TRISCIEMS. (Blog.) One of Riga’s most obscure districts, private housing around an open field hidden in the middle of a forest. There are also lake views from the edge of the district, but the local bar looks like the type of place serial killers would drink in, before dumping bodies in the lake.

32) BERGI. I’d expected this one to be higher. Sure, it’s probably a decent place to live and has Riga’s Open Air museum, but it’s a hugely boring place with little other than the museum to catch people’s attention.

33) KENGARAGS. A concrete jungle on Riga’s south side, the Russian Lido is really the only thing to come here for.

34) DREILINI. I regretted putting this one so low, as its local bar is one of the best I visited, but the district, sitting on the edge of Riga is otherwise empty.

35) PLESKODALE. Has Sampeteris woods to walk around and Spice, one of Riga’s largest shopping centres. As shopping ain’t my thing, this is one I’m usually quite happy to pass on the way to the airport and not stop in.

36) BEBERBEKI. Strip of woodland on Riga’s western edge. Verdini, an alright roadside cafe rescues this one from the bottom 10.

37) SARKANDAUGAVA. (Blog.) After a long hunt we managed to find a couple of decent bars here, but the district has a shady, run down feel about it.

38) VECDAUGAVA. (Blog.) Fairly empty strip of woodland between the much better Vecaki and Vecmilgravis. Good for a quiet walk and little else.

39) ZASULAUKS. The Georgian restaurant/bar here is okay, but like the district itself, nothing more.

40) ZOLITUDE. (Blog.) Could definitely do with more bars, cafes and restaurants given that it’s one of the larger districts in Riga.

41) MILGRAVIS. (Blog.) In one way it’s unique: Ezera Iela is probably the shadiest street I’ve walked along in Riga. The Aplokciems part with its closeness to Mezaparks rescues it a little, but only a little.

42) TORNAKALNS. The local church and station are the main attractions. Enough said.

43) PLAVNIEKI. A real let down from one of Riga’s largest districts, which really needs to work on its customer service.

44) SPILVE. (Blog.) I’ve been twice to try and visit the museum in Riga’s former airport and both times it’s been closed. The empty airfields nearby really don’t compensate.

45) DARZCIEMS. (Blog.) Whoever named the “garden village” district was having a bad joke. People actually live here? God help them.

46) ZIEPNIEKKALNS. (Blog.) If paying more than you’d pay in the Old Town for iffy local beer is your thing, “Soap Maker’s Mountain” is just for you.

47) SAMPETERIS. Even Sampeteris wood manages not to be in Sampeteris district. That tells you all you need to know about the attractiveness of this for visitors.

48) BREKSI. We were happy to get out of this one alive. The former local cafe is now a Hell’s Angels bar and the locals look suicidal. I can’t say I blame them.

49) ATGAZENE. Iffy pizzas and empty cafes await anyone unfortunate enough to venture here.

50) RUMBULA. The holocaust memorial is a depressing legacy of Riga’s past. Once you’ve seen it, it’s time to move quickly on.

51) VOLERI. (Blog.) Has a song dedicated to its awfulness. The song got it right.

52) SKANSTE. (Blog.) Is forecast to be the next up and coming district in Riga. For the residents’ sake, let’s hope so, because for now, unless you’re visiting Arena Riga, it’s definitely one to skip.

53) SKIROTAVA. (Blog.) Factories and grubby woodland do not a nice place make.

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There’s the beginnings of a village ambience at one point here, though, which just saves it from the bottom 5.

54) KATLAKALNS. (Blog.) The district’s only landmark, the south bridge, was finished nearly a decade ago and it’s understandable. This is definitely an area you’d want to make a quick exit from.

55) BISUMUIZA. (Blog.) We tried to find something positive here and tried some more. But in the end, gave up.

56) SUZI. (Blog.) With its lakeside location, this one is a massive underachiever. But the local flats look like they should have been torn down in the 70s and its hick locals take unfriendliness to new levels. I’d thought for a long time that this had to be the worst district in Riga, but no….

57) KUNDZINSALA. (Blog.) The silver medal winner for the worst district. This one has to be Riga’s most pointless district. Its only positive is that it’s relatively clean, which means that bottom place goes to…

58) MUKUPURVS. (Blog.) A district which translates as “Monk’s Bog” is always going to have an image problem. It lives up to its name with all the excitement of a monastery and locals who clearly don’t know the concept of disposing of waste.

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The resultant rubbish tip is just awful.

Though, in a way, all that was really only the first municipality of the 29 I plan to visit in Riga planning region. Watch this space!

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A trip to the Russian zone

With the number of Riga districts I’ve still to do down to single figures, I’ve been trying to make the rest last, like a kid with a chocolate bar who knows he won’t get any more till Christmas. I’ve only done two since the first week of May. One week after that, with Eddie, we decided to hit the “Russian zone.” Russians have been an endangered species in Riga in recent decades. In 1989, when Latvia became independent, the city was 47.3% Russian (with 10% of mostly Russian-speaking Ukrainians and Belarusians to add to that) and 36.3% Latvian. Latvians overtook Russians in 2006 and today it’s almost the opposite of the 1989 situation, 46% Latvian, 38% Russian.

There are only 8 districts now with Russian majorities and the top 4 are all clustered together across the river in the north-west part of the city: Spilve, Voleri, Bolderaja and Daugavgriva. The last two I’d already done with Linda back in October, but nostalgia for the past is a truly post-Soviet thing and in that spirit, I decided to revisit them.

After heavy rain the previous few days, it cleared up on the day and it was one of those times when Saturday is the new Monday in Latvia. In Spain, when public holidays fall on a Tuesday or Thursday, people will often get the Monday or Friday off as well (called a puente, meaning bridge) to give them a four day weekend. Latvian companies are stingier than that. People do get the four day weekend, but they have to compensate for it by working a Saturday on a previous weekend. For me, a Saturday will always be a Saturday, involving beer and ill-advised jaunts to unknown bits of Riga.

Our first destination was Spilve. With the population a miserly 83 people, this is Riga’s smallest district, just beating the Salas’ 84 people (have more babies Spilvans, you know your country needs it.) A long series of empty fields, there’s only one real reason to come here: the former Riga Central airport. The few residents around aren’t going to be bothered by Ryanair’s annoying “safely landed” jingles any time soon though (lucky them) as it closed for commercial flights in the late 80s.

There’s a nice tree lined avenue leading to the main building.

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The building itself is a decaying example of Stalinist architecture

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and is one of the few places in Riga where you’ll still see the symbols of the Communist past.

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There is a museum at the airport, but it was shut on this day. We hadn’t expected to find a cafe, but surprisingly there was one opposite the airport.

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When we got there it was empty, though. The sign said “Working days 0900-1600” ummm…. isn’t this a working day? Cheats!

We headed north and the place was deserted, with the airfield to our left the only sign of life.

the emptiness of Spilve

the emptiness of Spilve

Eventually, we got to our next district, Voleri. If Spilve is small, at least it’s known because of the airport. Voleri is as obscure as it gets. Amazingly though, it has a song dedicated to it. My friend sent me Manta’s “Viva voleros” to get me warmed up for the trip. Errr, thanks.

Sounding like a demo for a Depeche Mode b-side, with lyrics like “when the snow melts, those long lying there will be found”, it’s safe to say that the Voleri Tourist Board won’t be adopting that as their anthem any time soon.

Given that the song makes it sound like Beirut circa 1982 or Riga’s version of the South Bronx, the reality of Voleri is disappointingly average. It’s easy to see why no one knows it, as it’s a a ghost town. It resembles a fishing village in the middle of nowhere more than anything else. A couple of guys who look like they’ve been guinea pigs for the most questionable new brand of vodka going aimlessly fished beside the river.

the panaromic view from Voleri

the panaromic view from Voleri

I guess it has a “beach”, but Biarritz it ain’t.

Voleri pludmale

Voleri pludmale

the view up river

the view up river

We didn’t linger long here and there wasn’t even a cafe to entertain us with an insight into Voleri’s characters.

With the weather turning nasty, it was finally back to one of my favourites: Bolderaja (aka Boldie) where we found a decent bakery/cafe. Ciemakukulis, part of a bigger local chain, was just the thing for travellers weary of Voleri. Decent coffee and cakes, an attractive young waitress who actually smiles and doesn’t switch to English when you try and speak the local lingo with her, we waited out the rain there.

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The next stop was one of the places I’d visited with Linda before: the ever classy Bar Diva. The place really is as crap as the name, but I simply had to introduce Eddie to the true naffness of pub life in Boldie. There was a wedding or birthday do going on when we got there. (God help the bride if that’s her husband’s idea of a good place for a reception.) We waited as the two guys in the queue ahead of us ordered a bottle of vodka to wash down their chicken, then watched bemused as the barmaid emptied it all into a decanter. I guess slugging a complete bottle of vodka from a decanter counts as style up here?

Decanters, the classy way to get trashed on cheap vodka.

Decanters, the classy way to get trashed on cheap vodka.

Having lived the high life of Boldie, it was time to revisit Daugavgriva and see what I’d missed first time round. That time had ended with Linda getting shouted at for interrupting a guy’s viewing of his favourite soap opera in “the summer cafe.” Among other things, I was interested to see if it was a Linda thing (sorry Linda) or if shouting at foreigners was a Daugavrgriva thing.

To start with, we had a crack at getting into Cafe Paradize (local regulations only allow to cafes to open if they give themselves wildly inappropriate names that mask the hellishness therein.) However, as on the Linda trip, a wedding reception was going on there so entry was verboten to us.

It was time for something new. So we took a detour through the former military barracks just past Paradize, deserted since the Soviet withdrawal in the early 90s.

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It was totally abandoned and the grafitti covered buildings felt a little eerie, but it was good to see some kind of history of Daugavgriva. At the end of all this, we’d planned to visit Daugavgriva fort, but as with so much else on this day, luck wasn’t with us and it was closed.

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I guess that gives me an excuse for a Daugavgriva part III.

We decided to visit the “Summer cafe” next to see if we’d get shouted at again.

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It was empty. The tv was at full blast (to drown out any passing foreigners?) The sole staff member was in the kitchen. We tried shouting to get her attention, but without success, so we gave up and decided to see if there were any further delightful bars up here.

Further along the road, on the same side just off the main road, we made a real find. Another dodgy-looking boozer to add to the collection.

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Like a lot of bars, it is shy about its name. In the tradition of these neighbourhoods, it probably boasts some Orwellian name like “Cafe Blissful Heaven” or something like that, so let’s go with “BH”. Inside BH is like a living relic of the past. We seemed to be the only customers under 60. Moreover, despite its crap exterior, inside, BH is really something to be seen. The bar was decked out like a museum, with a tonne of Soviet-era memorabilia.

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There were pictures of Lenin and Stalin. The only problem was an old fart who was blocking our view of them. He looked like he could well have served in Stalin’s army. I asked Eddie to sneakily get a pic of the Stalin one without the old fart noticing, but he managed an epic fail on that one. Not only did he manage a rather cool ghostly effect,

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the old fart noticed and, with surprising energy, bounded over straight away to shout at us. I did my best to explain to him in Russian that it was Stalin and not him that we were interested in taking a pic of. (Now there’s a conversation you could only have in Daugavgriva.) But he growled that no one took pics of him without his permission.

me and uncle Joe

me and uncle Joe

Joe's mate Lenin, but the pic was poor quality

Joe’s mate Lenin, but the pic was poor quality

To go with all this historic feel, the bar had historic prices. We paid 75 Euro cents for our pints. Definitely a bargain and we’d managed to get shouted at again, so it was a Daugavgriva thing.

Heading home, I felt a touch of sadness that there were only 8 districts to go.

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Where do the Russians live in Riga?

Back in early October, I mentioned that I was trying to find data for which districts had more Russians and which ones had more Latvians. A student advised me that the Central Statistics Agency was preparing the information at that time, so I emailed them. Unfortunately, they weren’t available at that time, however a commenter later told me that they were up.

In the absence of those, I’d done a post estimating it, based on election results for Saskaņas_centrs, the party favoured by ethnic Russians. Now, I have the figures, it really wasn’t that far off. The areas I identified then as being more Russian are indeed so.

In general terms, the main Russian areas are the northern west bank of the river Daugava, the strip from Iļģuciems to Daugavgrīva, as well as some of the relatively newer estates like Purvciems, Zolitude and Pļavnieki. Brekši is presumably due to the Jugla Paper Factory, which possibly attracted workers from outside Latvia during the Soviet era? More Latvian areas are places like Bieriņi and the areas around central Riga, like Avotu, Grizinkalns and Brasa.

(RU=Russian, LV=Latvian, BLR=Belarussian, UKR=Ukrainian)

Overall, Riga is 46.3% Latvian, 40.2% Russian, 3.9% Belarussian and 3.1% Ukrainian.

DISTRICT RU LV BLR UKR
Daugavgrīva 56.9 22.6 6.5 6.3
Voleri 53.2 37.5 3.4 3.4
Bolderāja 53.0 30.0 6.0 5.1
Spilve 51.8 37.3 4.8 0.0
Pļavnieki 51.4 31.0 5.6 4.7
Zolitūde 50.6 32.5 4.9 5.2
Brekši 50.4 34.2 4.8 5.2
Rumbula 50.3 33.7 4.2 5.9
Ķengarags 48.8 36.3 4.8 3.6
Vecmīlgrāvis 48.7 33.2 6.8 5.4
Maskavas forštate 48.2 37.7 3.8 3.2
Mīlgrāvis 47.5 38.2 4.6 3.5
Sarkandaugava 46.7 38.3 5.1 4.1
Imanta 46.3 39.5 4.0 4.1
Iļģuciems 46.0 40.0 4.8 3.5
Dārzciems 44.4 39.4 4.5 4.3
Purvciems 43.9 41.3 4.1 4.1
Šampēteris 41.1 46.6 4.4 3.3
Dzirciems 40.7 46.5 3.4 3.8
Ziepniekkalns 40.4 45.5 4.3 3.6
Šķirotava 40.3 45.4 3.6 3.8
Pētersala-Andrejsala 39.3 46.9 3.7 3.8
Zasulauks 39.2 49.7 3.6 3.0
Jugla 38.7 49.3 3.6 3.1
Mežciems 38.1 49.8 3.6 3.0
Dreiliņi 35.8 53.8 2.6 1.7
Skanste 33.3 52.4 3.1 3.8
Āgenskalns 31.8 58.2 2.7 2.4
Dārziņi 31.8 55.9 3.0 2.7
Vecdaugava 31.7 57.3 3.6 3.2
Bišumuiža 30.8 58.2 4.0 2.5
Čiekurkalns 29.9 59.9 3.0 2.4
Jaunciems 28.8 58.7 2.5 3.4
Teika 28.6 61.9 2.7 2.0
Torņakalns 27.0 63.5 2.5 2.1
Mežaparks 26.5 63.2 1.7 2.8
Trīsciems 26.4 63.1 4.0 1.9
Pleskodāle 25.3 64.2 1.9 2.1
Brasa 25.1 65.6 2.0 2.1
Suži 24.8 63.3 2.9 3.8
Avoti 24.7 66.1 1.6 1.8
Grīziņkalns 24.6 67.2 2.0 1.7
Atgāzene 23.7 63.3 1.5 1.8
Katlakalns 23.4 72.3 0.7 0.7
Vecpilsēta 23.2 62.1 1.3 1.7
Centrs 23.0 65.8 1.3 1.9
Mangaļsala 20.0 72.9 1.9 2.1
Kleisti 19.8 71.4 1.4 0.5
Ķīpsala 19.4 69.2 2.7 1.4
Bukulti 19.2 68.8 1.7 4.2
Salas 19.0 70.2 3.6 1.2
Berģi 15.8 78.7 1.6 1.0
Vecāķi 15.7 76.6 0.7 1.6
Beberbeķi 15.6 74.4 3.2 2.7
Kundziņsala 13.8 77.4 1.3 2.5
Mūkupurvs 13.3 77.8 4.4 1.5
Buļļi 13.0 81.8 2.0 1.6
Bieriņi 12.4 81.2 1.3 0.7

—-

 

Bolder Dash

I got my first home computer, an MSX, for Christmas 1983. Boasting a whopping 64 KB of hard drive memory, it was double the memory capacity of similar computers that my friends had. In those innocent pre-internet days such a hard drive memory was effectively limited to playing early video games. One of my favourites was Boulder Dash. Unlike a lot of today’s games, which require a month spent reading a bible sized instruction manual before playing, Boulder Dash was pretty simple. There were four controls on a 2 dimensional screen, up, down, left and right. The basic idea was to roam around a maze, finding jewels, while avoiding getting hit on the head by rocks. Maybe it was the name that put it in my head as I made preparations for the next outing to Bolderāja, but I also saw similarities: walking round an unknown area, trying to find hidden gems in the shape of decent bars, while avoiding being hit on the head by rocks. Bolderāja has a dodgy reputation (areas of Riga with lots of Russians tend to have such reputations among local Latvians.) It’s also, by my estimate, the most Russian area of Riga.

My usual partner in crime Eddie was missing in action in Kaunas. Volunteering to fill the void was Linda of the Expat Eye on Latvia blog: another Irelander blogging about Riga! As Expat eye has justifiably been chosen as the best expat blog on Riga, this meant I would be meeting blogging royalty. This raised questions of etiquette: should I bow when meeting her? Ask for an autograph? In the end I happened to be fashionably late at the bus stop, despite dashing there and acrobatically vaulting over a railing.

The road there passed the Spilve aerodrome, a vast empty nothingness that reminded me of trips through the steppe in Kazakhstan.

Arriving in Bolderāja, I really had to wonder what all the fuss was about. There were no guys with kalishnikovs standing at the roadside. No knife wielding thugs hanging around on street corners menacingly eyeing new arrivals. Boldie was stunningly ordinary.

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If anything the standard of housing was a bit better than the god awful Soviet monstrosities you often find in the suburbs of Riga and other ex-USSR cities

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Also, there was absolutely no problem finding a bar. After the experiences in places like Jaunciems, Vecdaugava etc, this time we were immediately confronted with not just one, but three bars! Woo hoo! We settled on Bar Diva. The name sounded a bit dodgy, but I reckoned if kidnap was on the agenda, Linda would probably make a better go go dancer than me. It was a fairly nice bar and even had a still functioning terrace. The youngish lass serving us even smiled and helpfully volunteered to “make” our photo (careful girl, that’s not in the job description!)

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With that successfully completed, we decided to have a wander round, trying to get photos of the river. Finding the local yacht club, we sauntered in, pretending that we owned the place. It worked. Not a single overweight gold chained minder barred our way. We got a few worthy snapshots

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Deciding that we might as well spoil ourselves, we headed to another Boldie bar, Rax, which also had an open and half decent terrace

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It was time to hit the high road to Daugavgriva, this took us over the bridge where the Bulli river and Locu canal met

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The island in the middle of these rivers is the charmingly named Mīlestības Sala. Love Island! Apparently this takes its name from older times, when soldiers based at the fortresses nearby would take their love interests there for nightly romps in the bushes. As a result, a lot of kids were conceived there and so the whole population of Boldie can probably find a “Sergei luvs Olga” carved by their grandparents in a tree there.

Daugavgrivas is a bit less lively than Boldie, but after a bit of a short wander, we found two cafes. The first, named paradize, seemed to have some kind of private event on. A bit later we found another one, which ticked all the boxes: garish interior design, tacky Russian sketch show blaring out, middle aged woman who last smiled in 1973, two draught beers on tap and a selection of pastries, probably still bearing a “This Made in USSR!” sticker on the wrapper.

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The single unisex toilet was locked at all times (maybe toilet roll theft in these parts is on the increase?) After using that I found that Linda had got herself into bother with the middle aged couple at the nearby table for laughing and speaking instead of whispering. As she’s a visit all 58 districts virgin, this oversight was forgivable and Irish tourists in Daugavgriva are probably a protected species anyway, so we let the old cranky guy get on with his beer.

All that done, it was time for a final celebratory drink in Vecriga. Engaging in the Irish sing song tradition on the way back, we even gave a mini English lesson to a shy little Russian kid.

All in all, a jolly day out after the previous week’s disappointments. There’s more to Daugavgriva, including a fort and a beach, which beer priorities prevented us from seeing. As Ritabulli district is only reachable from Daugavgriva, I think a return visit at a later date to have the old guy crying into his beer may be in order.

Twelve districts done, forty six left.