Avotu Iela (or Where are all the hookers?)

When my good bluddy over at The Real Riga announced that the next district on his agenda was Avotu Iela, I thought “Yes. This one is right up my street” – mainly because it practically is my street. Also, because it was this district that caused all the trouble in year one of Expat Eye, it seemed like a fitting way to start the second year.

I met John (or Irish Jānis) on the corner of Avotu and Bruninieku last weekend – at least I assumed it was him but he was so wrapped up, only around half an eyelash was visible. We decided to start at the ‘dodgy end’ of Avotu (i.e. the church where all the hookers hang out) while it was still daylight so off we trundled. We immediately fell into step behind the drunkest man on the planet, who was being propelled in a (mostly) forward direction by the 2-litre bottle of beer he was clutching.

I'm sure Jesus would have approved. He was a big fan of Mary Magdalene...

I’m sure Jesus would have approved. He was a big fan of Mary Magdalene…

With nary a hooker in sight, we decided we may as well tick two districts off the list and crossed the street into Grīziņkalns. We were both rather surprised when we came to a semi-pretty park at the end of the road, complete with a Latvian mountain (hill in any other country).

2014-01-26 15.16.55

Despite the frigid temperature, we decided to explore further.

Me: Take a picture of me. 

John: With what?

Me: A tree. 

John: Why? 

Me: To show that I’m at one with nature. 

John: Are you?

Me: Sure. All the Latvians know that…

Me, at one with nature.

Me, at one with nature.

We even discovered an ice-skating rink in the park but as we couldn’t feel our bodies any more at this stage, we decided to give that a miss and adjourn to a café we’d spotted along the way.

2014-01-26 15.38.14As John was still feeling a little delicate from the night before, he opted for a coffee and a slice of cake. So as not to bring complete shame on the Irish, I asked for a pint of Brālis. John’s coffee and cake (complete with a teaspoon to eat it with) appeared pretty quickly, but after pacing up and down for a few minutes to try to warm myself up while waiting for my pint, I realised that the bar girl wasn’t actually doing anything. It took me two more attempts to convince her I wasn’t joking and that I really did want a pint.

Putting a brave face on the hangover. Poor lamb...

Putting a brave face on the hangover. Poor little lamb…

To my utter dismay, “The Latvian Spoon” came out. I sat down. This could take a while. She proceeded to pour around a tenth of a pint, then spoon off the head into another pint glass with “The Latvian Spoon”, leaving a twentieth of a pint behind. This painstakingly-slow process was repeated until eventually I had a pint of beer and she had a pint of head. Even though Brālis is a bit shit, when you’ve waited 15 minutes for it you enjoy it.

Feeling almost human, we hit the mean streets again. John expressed his regret that we hadn’t gone to a particularly dicey-looking establishment back the way we’d come. So, back we went. Once at the door, John changed his mind thinking that maybe it was a bit too dicey so, naturally, I insisted we go in. Hungover people just need a firm hand sometimes.

24-hour mayhem.

24-hour mayhem.

The three drunkest people in the world were sitting at a table by the door – it seems I’d misjudged our friend from earlier. Two Russian guys were trying to force-feed coffee into the back of the head of their female friend who appeared to be asleep on the table. One other guy was sitting at the bar, gently swaying on his bar stool. There was even a boxing machine that you could practice on before you decided to beat a real person to a pulp. Perfect.

As we ordered our beers, the landlady suddenly shot to the end of the bar and started screaming in angry Russian at the three at the table. (There is no need for bouncers in these sorts of establishments – the landladies are the most terrifying creatures you will ever encounter.) The three half-walked, half-fell to the door, holding onto each other for support. The fresh air was too much for one of the guys though and he instantly collapsed in a heap outside the door.

Meanwhile, we’d made ourselves comfortable-ish at a table. Now, the only time a Latvian will invite himself over to join a couple of strangers for a chat is if he is absolutely steaming. We quickly discovered that this was the case with the guy at the bar. Having shaken hands with John, I was about to proffer mine when I noticed the open wound on his palm. As to how he got it, it was something to do with a fat woman and some colours…

Making our excuses, we finished our beers and got up to leave, but not before John got another handshake, and I got a handshake and a nice big kiss planted on my cheek. Clearly John was feeling a little revived at this stage as he started dragging me down side streets in search of hookers. I was not particularly comfortable with this idea. The worst that would have happened to him was a proposition. I could have ended up with a stiletto through the eyeball. Luckily, the hookers still seemed to be in hiding.

We made our way to Trīs Vīri Laivā back on Avotu, which I think might just become my new local. With a better than average selection of beers and some regulars who, for the most part, are able to stay on their bar stools, it also seems to be quite Irish friendly.

2014-01-26 17.39.12

With John suffering a relapse and bleating about finishing that one and heading home, I had to practically drag him to the last bar, Chomsky, which is fast becoming my new home in Riga.

What 'almost frozen to death' looks like

What “almost frozen to death” looks like

Once inside, we bumped into a friend of John’s who, by some stroke of marvellous luck, had installed himself right by the fireplace. We made ourselves at home – good company, good beer and a roaring fire. The perfect end to the day.

All head, no beer. We'd come full circle.

All head, no beer. We’d come full circle.

Needless to say, the next morning I completely sympathised with John’s tragic state the day before.

Related posts: A drinking challenge? Count me in!

Here’s to the freakin’ weekend. I’ll drink to that.

About BerLinda

Adjusting to life in Germany, after living in Latvia for four years. Should be easy, right?
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86 Responses to Avotu Iela (or Where are all the hookers?)

  1. Pingback: Districts and drop toilets | Expat Eye on Latvia

  2. While in Grīziņkalns/Avotu one might find worth checking the recently opened bakery „Bulkotava” on Lienes street (between Asara and Mūrnieku) – can even order super tasty traditional pie “Kliņģeris” there – or what’s on in „Koka Rīga” (corner of Lienes and Krāsotāju) – venue of concerts, exhibitions, ocasional flee markets. St.Paul’s has free guitar lessons on Mondays.

    Should mention that in this area classic Latvian children’s movie „Vārnu ielas republika” was filmed in 1970. Since during 70s and 80s it was one of very few (3.. 4?) movies for kids in Latvian many adults know it by heart and still hold certain sentimental feelings for the neghbourhood.

    Btw, if someone is still paying Ls 250+ for a one room apartment in this part of the town she/he is clearly being robed. No one’s here paying more than Ls 100-150 plus utilities.

    Useful links:
    1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bE4ktEem7Dc
    2. http://www.kokariga.lv/
    3. https://www.facebook.com/Avotuielasapkaime
    4. http://www.ss.lv/lv/real-estate/flats/riga/centre/hand_over/filter/fDgSeF4belM=.html

    • Expat Eye says:

      Hi Martin, thanks for the info! We did see the sign for the Koka Riga place but as we didn’t know what it was and were so cold, we decided to leave it for another day!!
      As for the rent, you’re not the first person to say that to me. Most of my friends are paying around the same, at varying distances from the city centre. One friend on Bruninieku is paying around 100 lats but his apartment is such a hellhole that he has a hard time going home to it in the evenings…

  3. Pingback: Badlands? (Avotu and Grīziņkalns) | The Real Riga

  4. eNVee says:

    Now you are in a serious trouble, lady! Latvians would forgive you all the previous posts, sarcasm and etc., but you have crossed the line. By too much, I fear… What did you mean with this: “Even though Brālis is a bit shit” ??? I hope there is a mistake! You could give such name to anything around there, but not to the best beer in the world. Noooooooooo! I still hope that you simply forgot how to write “Aldaris”, or at least that this half liter (we don’t have pints :P) was way too old. But anyway – you just spat in the heart of the whole beer-loving community… a bit shit… OMG (rolling eyes, facepalm, angry face)!

    Linda, there is just one way out of this miserable situation for you. Make a new t-shirt with I&heart symbol&Brālis logo on it, then you will get yourself 3 liters of fresh’n’tasty Brālis, drink it and come back to write a hartly confession, where numerous times you will repeat that this was a horrible mistake and even Guiness is a pale memory of the beer/ale compared to Brālis! THEN and only then we will think if we have to proclaim you a persona non grata. You will not get away with a simple “I am sorry!”

    • Expat Eye says:

      Ha ha ha! Oops! I’m more of a Tervetes girl myself! And I can’t stand Guinness 😉 The Irish will be after me now too… I should just keep my big mouth shut! And sit on my hands so I can’t type either 😉 I did have an Aldaris on Thursday though and that was worse – if it’s any consolation!! (Better get on that t-shirt – wanna share the 3 litres??) 😉

      • eNVee says:

        Tērvetes you say? Ok, thats “halfway” to Brālis… Yes, looks like you made this same trouble on both sides with Guinness. 😀
        But seriously – Aldaris used to be a very good beer, not anymore. We are getting closer to understanding you now.
        Share 3 liters? Why not? Shall I mark the place? 🙂

      • Expat Eye says:

        Ha, I’ll have to get the t-shirt first 😉 I don’t think I’d buy 3 litres of the stuff!! Can we agree that Zelta is crap??

    • eNVee says:

      Yes, absolutely!

  5. Anna says:

    So, how much does a pint cost in Riga? A pub crawl like this in Moscow would have set me back €30-40, easy. I must say though, I am disappointed that no hookers were found. Now THAT would be some interesting company!

  6. rigaenglish says:

    A fun day out, who wudda thunk that Avotu has one of the best (or should that be adventurous) pub crawls outside Riga centrs? I’ve just done my write up of the one before this one, so I should be on the case tomorrow. Hope you suffered the day after as I did, Linda 😉

  7. Thank you for another laugh fest.

    Here where I live in the US, the hookers (like sparkly vampires) are generally not seen outside during the daylight hours unless they are hoping to score their next fix. Though, there are times that Hubby and I play “Spot the Prostitute” in one neighborhood that we occasionally drive (very fast) through. He always wins, in case you were wondering. I’m looking for woman that look like Julia Roberts from “Pretty Woman”. What the hell am I thinking?!

    I find it interesting that the Latvian hookers in that area hang out at such a beautiful looking church. Are they trying to find Jesus?!

    • Expat Eye says:

      I think they’d be looking for a while 😉 “Spot the Prostitute” sounds like an amazing game! I doubt too many of them look like Julia Roberts 😉

  8. The dicey-looking establishment sounds fun. I’ll try to work one into my evening plans.

  9. barbedwords says:

    Surely beer is an acceptable drink, no matter what the weather?

    • Expat Eye says:

      I think so 😉 As is tea. I had cups of tea every day while travelling around the Greek Islands in August 😉 Tonight will be wine though!

      • barbedwords says:

        Beer is usually more reliable when travelling than tea. Can’t stand getting a cup of hot-ish water with the tea bag on the side. By the time you’ve got the bag out of the wrapper and into the water, there’s no way it’s going to brew properly. Luckily, my favourite bar here actually has teapots and I’ve taught them to put the teabag in before adding the water 🙂

      • Expat Eye says:

        I asked for a black tea with milk here once, then went to put my stuff at a table. When I came back, I realised she’d filled the teapot with hot milk and put the teabag into it… 🙂

      • barbedwords says:

        Ha ha, did you drink it??

      • Expat Eye says:

        Yeah, stupid politeness 😉

  10. I’m still stuck at the “Brrr!!!” It looks bloody cold! 🙂

  11. I think I’ve missed something. What’s with spooning the head?

  12. She had to be prompted to pour you a beer and you weren’t even rolling drunk yet. You obviously looked like a lightweight? (But then why spoon off the head? Changed her mind about you by that stage?)

  13. vtv says:

    Greetings to John. Learning english with him was fun!

  14. pollyheath says:

    So… no hookers? Sad. You’ll have to head back when there’s a bit more hooker-friendly weather.

    And I was going to make a comment about a hooker’s clothing versus that of the general population, but I think I’ll just keep that one to myself 🙂

  15. TRex says:

    Beer? You drink beer in such miserable weather? Ah well, to each his/her own. So where were all the hookers? My curiousity is purely scientific.

    • Expat Eye says:

      When I saw ‘The Spoon’ coming out, the first words I said were ‘Should have ordered wine…’ 🙂 I think maybe it’s too cold for hookers? If I were a hooker in Latvia, I’d only work July-August – I’d be a very skinny hooker 😉

  16. nancytex2013 says:

    The Latvian spoon = makes my life.
    I can envision you tapping your fingers on the bar, willing her to hurry.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Thought the damn thing would never come. John had already finished his coffee by the time it did! I could see her in the mirror behind the bar, spoon, spoon, spoon… the head glass gradually filling, mine getting ever smaller… 🙂

      • nancytex2013 says:

        Seems she’d benefit from some training on how to tilt the glass while she’s pouring…

      • Expat Eye says:

        I don’t think it would make a difference really. The pressure in the taps is so shockingly bad in some places, there’s nothing else for it but The Spoon!
        However, the way they pour Guinness here in some bars is unforgivable. You do NOT put the glass on the counter and just leave it there! It’s a 2-part pour and a thing of beauty – even though it’s one of the few things I don’t actually drink 😉

      • nancytex2013 says:

        Ahh, yes! I was trained in the art of the Guiness pour back in the day. Guinness (Canada) was my customer, and they actually had a full bar set up in their offices — where they trained people. I remember the two part pour. Took forever, but it was a thing of beauty!

      • Expat Eye says:

        It really is 😉 I’ve seen grown men (almost) cry the way they do it here sometimes 😉

      • rigaenglish says:

        Oh God, Guinness in Riga… anywhere that’s not an Irish bar in the centre always screws it up. I gave up drinking it in Andalus Suns, as they could never do it, even when told how and I had to supervise the barman at Egle last summer as he also couldn’t do it. They charge a lot more for it too, so you think they’d give them the 5 minutes of training needed?

      • Expat Eye says:

        You’d think 😉 Guinness going into my meal tonight!

  17. mollytopia says:

    Brilliant post! Favorite parts:
    ‘dodgy end’
    so off we trundled
    Even though Brālis is a bit shit, when you’ve waited 15 minutes for it you enjoy it
    Hungover people just need a firm hand sometimes.
    landladies are the most terrifying creatures you will ever encounter
    when I noticed the open wound on his palm
    I could have ended up with a stiletto through the eyeball
    Oh gahhd. I should have just copied and pasted the whole thing. There are 19 more things I love.

    • Expat Eye says:

      When you see that coming out, you should just give up. 😉 I don’t know what she would have done if 10 people had come in!! She’d probably still be pouring (and spooning)… 🙂

  18. kukolina says:

    I did it! I read it all! I am not very good with long posts so you can take this as a pretty big compliment! 🙂
    The cold sounds awful! I would drink hot tea and coffee night and day. And probably eat a dozen of cakes just for better luck. 😛
    xoxo, Eszter

  19. Am still getting over Linda-next-to-a-tree. I can barely make out the cake…. you need a zoom lens 😉

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