Districts and drop toilets

As me walking around Riga is apparently ‘news’ in this country now, a couple of weeks ago, I decided to do it again. Crazy, I know…

When my good bluddy, John, over at The Real Riga  said that he had another ‘district challenge’ lined up for me, I just couldn’t say no. (I’m not allowed to call it a ‘drinking challenge’ any more. I guess ‘district challenge’ makes us sound more cultural and less like two Irish people on a bender.) Now I know that John delights in saving the ‘most special’ districts just for me and that day was no exception. On the agenda were Brekši, Dreiliņi and Pļavnieki – the glamour. 

I arrived at the bus stop on Lāčplēša iela a little early and debated running to a bar to go to the loo before John arrived. But while I was dithering, he showed up. So I gritted my teeth, grimly pronounced ‘Let’s do these shitholes’ and we got on the bus. John had assured me that there was a café beside the bus stop in Brekši so the toilet situation wasn’t urgent. 

Unfortunately, when we alighted in Brekši, we were greeted by this sight:

Vroom vroom

Vroom vroom

Yes, it appeared that the only café in the vicinity had been turned into a Hell’s Angels’ hangout. Not to worry – I was still convinced that I could ‘charm’ my way in somehow.

Me: Maybe I’ll flash my boobs at them.

John: (Skeptical noise)

Me: Yeah, at times I wish I had bigger boobs…

We took at little stroll around the immediate area and discovered run-down apartment blocks, decaying houses and people, and what could have been a serial killer’s disposal site.


Dun dun dun! 

With little else to do, we approached the Hell’s Angels. John, being a man, was a big coward and pushed me forward to do the talking. I walked up the steps and went for the door handle. Oops. Angry Russian words started coming in my direction. I thought it best to just be honest, and said ‘Is it possible to get a beer?’ in my politest tone. It was made infinitely clear that it wasn’t, so we skedaddled back to the bus-stop.

Back on the bus, I remembered that I’d seen a bar with a nice terrace a few stops back so we decided to stay on for a bit longer than planned. In fact, we missed Dreiliņi altogether and there was still no sign of the bar. So we hopped off in the middle of nowhere with plans to walk back. It was around this time that we spotted the entrance to the Holocaust Memorial site. Disappointingly, it was surrounded by rubbish. 

Really? Here?

Really? Here?

We made our way down the walkway to the memorial site, where in an act of truly breathtaking disrespect, someone had placed a huge, red skip right in the middle of the path.

2014-04-19 15.50.10

You stay classy, Latvia.

They could have placed it in the forest, out of view, or at least out of the way, but no. There it was, blocking the path. The memorial itself was a moving experience but honestly, we both felt a bit sickened at how it was being treated so we moved on.

Memorial to the 35,000 Jews murdered during the Holocaust in Latvia

Memorial to the 35,000 Jews murdered during the Holocaust in Latvia

We headed back towards Mežciems, and finally found a bar in the small market there. It wasn’t the most salubrious of establishments, but I prayed they’d at least have a toilet.

It would do

It would do

The bar lady directed me outside and around the corner. Almost crying with relief, I wrenched open the middle door…

Dear God, NO!

Dear God, NO!

Thankfully, I still had the presence of mind to check the other door, where there was a normal toilet. Quite possibly, the best toilet in all the world, but I may have been a little emotional at that point.

Back at the bar, I joined John for a beer. At around 4.15, the bar lady came over and told us she’d be closing at 5. However, what she meant was that she’d be home by 5. She stood over us, in her coat, at 4.30. We finished up, turned down the offer of a ‘beer party’ from a drunk Russian at another table, and set off through Dreiliņi for Pļavnieki.

Finding absolutely nothing of interest in Dreiliņi, we eventually hit pay dirt in the form of Mapuche bar. With our €2 Paulaner beers in hand, we were about to sit down when the kindly bar girl told us that they had a beer garden out back. What was this madness? A Latvian actually volunteering information?

We were so stunned that we stayed for two.

2014-04-19 17.16.51

Sunshine and beer – happy days!

Continuing our journey, we took a shortcut across a grassy area to what looked like a café. This would turn out to be a mistake.

And the café was closed. Since around 1940.

Finally, we came across the most unlikely of places – a TV Bar/Café/Wifi/Swimming Pool/Sauna. Of course we just had to try it!

Bar/Café/Wifi/Sauna/Swimming Pool

Bar/Café/Wifi/Sauna/Swimming Pool/John

It turned out to be a bit of a family affair, but the Russian bar girl was more than happy to shift her friends and relatives off the benches outside so that we could sit down at the table. More surprising service.

Our next stop, Dream Bar, brought us crashing back down to reality however. Maybe rude bar staff are considered a ‘dream’ in these parts, but we were unconvinced.

Dream Bar - more like a nightmare

Dream Bar – more like a nightmare

So, after being trounced by John at air hockey, we hopped on the 22 bus back to the relative civilisation of Avotu iela.

So, good beer and service, bad beer and service, drunk Russians, blocks of flats, dog poo, and forests. Pretty much sums up an average day out in Riga’s districts. Personally, I can’t wait for the next one…


About BerLinda

Adjusting to life in Germany, after living in Latvia for four years. Should be easy, right?
This entry was posted in Beer, Expat, Humor, Humour, Riga, Rudeness, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

96 Responses to Districts and drop toilets

  1. 1WriteWay says:

    I’d need to drink too if my “district’ outings were like that. Broke my heart about the Memorial. Is it just the Latvian way (i.e., to have trash in all the wrong places) or something more ugly? I hope the former.

  2. Heather says:

    More China flashbacks! At least I’m well prepared for squat toilets.

  3. Anna says:

    Yay for friendly service!
    I wonder if I ever ventured out outside of Moscow /StP, is this is what my experience would be like. Not that I am eager to find out, at least till I get a huge, burly boyfriend.

  4. Mārtiņš says:

    A friend of mine hated France just because of the toilets (quite many of them, especially in campings were the same as in you picture – standing). People are so spoiled to comfort these days… You love it when you try it. In Lielupe (a district of Jūrmala) at railway station you can find a similar one. My strong opinion is that at least some of these should remain as they are for the purpose of culture & history.
    So what do you want – loo rolls at the entrance, stuffy air, small rooms refreshed with citrus chemicals from Drogas and dying from cancer breathing that stuff in? Or fresh air, informal atmosphere drop toilet where you can even engrave your writing, graffiti or a dating advertisement?
    By the way one trendy nightclub had one of its lavatories made in that style on purpose:)

    • Expat Eye says:

      Which nightclub??
      I’d prefer my loo roll in the bathroom with me, a clean smell and hand towels or a decent dryer 😉 I guess I am spoiled!

      • Mārtiņš says:

        Club essential. Quite popular among foreigners as well. 5 dance floors – R’n’B, Electro, house music, 80s, 90s, popular music, soulful house with live sax playing and karaoke.
        It was recently messed up with re-branding. Eldivino (an international chain, and a club which bankrupted in Ibiza) and it bankrupted here as well. Every Saturday night I spent there 3 years ago.

        By the way I bet you haven’t visited country style dry toilets. They are especially nice in winters.

      • Expat Eye says:

        I have! I had to use one at Ligo a few years ago – it was cold enough that it could have been winter. Not pleasant 😉

      • Mārtiņš says:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pX89GWIkyL0 The largest in Baltics it was, Skolas str. 2, ex-cinema theatre

      • Expat Eye says:

        I used to work next door. I don’t really go to nightclubs though. I prefer late bars.

  5. barbedwords says:

    Wow. This post has done exactly zero to encourage me to visit Latvia! Actually, let’s be honest, less than zero…
    I stumbled across one of those toilets at Lake Garda last week; it was the first one I’ve ever seen in Italy. I also decided I would rather cross my legs for a bit longer, especially as I was wearing jeans which makes those loos almost impossible to use 😉

    • Expat Eye says:

      Very true! I was too!
      And really? Even the cafe/bar/sauna/swimming pool/wifi didn’t make you want to visit?! To be fair, no tourists would ever head out that direction – I’d say that was why that Russian guy was dying to get us to his beer party!

  6. Latvian Guest. says:

    Hmmm… you sound even more grumpy than Latvians themselves!

    • Expat Eye says:

      I guess living here for 4 years can break the best of us 😉

      • just a year (and another year later) this is what almost happened to my husband 😉 thanks for his (and mine) humor and some great Latvians we know and the fact that we just left (I admit 2nd time)- we are not broken but most of the times hearing (and reading) about Latvia we are sad that (my) country that has such a great potential (beautiful nature, cities, coast etc) is practically ruined on a daily basis by its own people 😦

      • Expat Eye says:

        It is sad. I think it’s the ‘it’s normal’ attitude that gets to me most. I don’t know if people actually think it is normal, if it’s just laziness, or if they’ve given up trying to make anything better. I can understand how that would happen after 3 days in Daugavpils 😉

  7. Emmi says:

    OK I have a complaint to make. Too many postst on toilets and poop and not enough about food. I demand galleries of latvian cakes, all kinds of treats you can buy here, recipes of Latvian food, local restaurants and other stuff. I mean I want to see actual shop windows with cakes and inside of restaurants and farming markets and all!

    • Expat Eye says:

      OK, point taken 😉 The next post or two will have more of the good stuff! And only one toilet – but that one was necessary! Recipes for Latvian food – hmm, you could check out this blog!
      http://lindasvirtuve.lv/ – it’s a different Linda 😉

      • Emmi says:

        some other things my German friend who lives in Latvia raves about (maybe you could check it and make a post about it):
        – cherries and mushroom picking and then making mushroom soup
        – latvian (well, mostly georgian) shish kebobs
        – latvian ( I suspect its more of a Russian or Finnish) sauna with whipping yourself with twigs afterwards (I tried it in Ukriane, never knew you had it in latvia. LOVED IT! )
        – latvian smoked fish and typical latvian beer what types they have
        – latvian sausage if they have their own special one
        – really try the birch sap! its funny I actually was told by someone that Russian peasants drink birch sap and they even had a hit popular song about it (weird)
        – difference between latvian and irish (british?) ice cream

        All right, I admit, Im a foodie. but maybe you can use some of those things to inspire your next post if you want to.

      • Expat Eye says:

        The next 2-3 posts are taken care of as I’m in Daugavpils at the moment! I hate fish so that’s a no go 😉 The beer is OK, the birch sap is surprisingly nice, the sauna and the berry picking I might get around to – but making mushroom soup? No thanks 😉

      • Linda says:

        Thanks for recommending my site 😉 I have to say I am a diligent reader of your blog, never skipping a single post! Sometimes I don’t necessarily agree with all your views but your sense of humour always cracks me up 🙂

      • Expat Eye says:

        Thanks! I don’t ask for 100% agreement just nice to know people are reading and laughing the odd time! 🙂

    • Expat Eye says:

      You’re right though. I think I’m becoming a bit obsessed 😉

  8. June says:

    Yeh, Palanga is full of those loos. I prefer the bushes – they’re cleaner! But surely there’s no such thing as bad beer?!

    • Expat Eye says:

      You’d be surprised!
      Oh, I was in Palanga but I didn’t come across any there – apart from at the bus station. Last thing you want before a long bus journey – no choice!

  9. nancytex2013 says:

    OMG…that toilet. I have no words.

  10. Funny how our standards change when desperate.

    “District” challenge definitely sounds more cultural. Although I can imagine it said in the type of voice/body language where it sounds even worse than “drinking” challenge.

  11. freebutfun says:

    Awwwww, so many great bush pee bushes that you missed in the search of a toilet!;)

    The holocaust memorial itself is pretty impressive! The rubbish not so…:/

  12. Cindi says:

    The bar stories were a fun read.

    The disrespect of the Holocaust Memorial, not so much.

    Your image of the memorial, though, is evocative!

    • Expat Eye says:

      Thank you! I’m guessing it was thoughtlessness rather than disrespect, but really, it’s hard to tell the difference when it comes to something like that.

  13. bevchen says:

    Paulaner huh? Already preparing for all the German beer?

    Ugh, those toilets! Some of the public toilets in France are still like that! I went into one once (in Strasbourg, I think?), took one look and decided I could wait until we stopped for lunch…

    • Expat Eye says:

      Yeah, I would only use one if I was absolutely desperate! I’ve only had to twice since I’ve been in the Baltics – and neither time in Latvia. There not that common any more, thank god!

  14. TRex says:

    Latvian 81’s are pussies!
    *anonymous internet user*

  15. Sharn says:

    Hahaha, OH that toilet brings back horrific memories!

    So glad you found a normal one!

  16. pollyheath says:

    A. How could you turn down a ‘beer party’ from a Russian? There’s no WAY that could end badly.

    B. Forgot point B… Assume it was wildly hilarious.

  17. rigaenglish says:

    Hell’s angels bars, squat toilets and invites to parties from people who are already in their 10th hour of drinking at 4pm… you have to say that these challenges are never boring. It’s almost a shame that the wonders of Sarkandaugava and Kundzinsala are some of the only ones left. I’ll almost miss trudging round nowheresville. I’ll have to think of a new forfeit for you next time, since “the most depressing place in the world” one yielded zero.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Biggest shithole in the world? Meanest bartender in the world? Most disgusting toilet in the world? 😉

      • rigaenglish says:

        All of those 🙂 That was defo not the worst toilet, though! The ones in the motorway service stations in Kazakhstan aren’t even separate cubicles. That’s an image that will haunt me for the rest of my life and put me off any idea of prison worthy wrongdoing.

      • Expat Eye says:

        Yeah, I wouldn’t much fancy ending up in prison here either 😉

  18. MrJohnson says:

    You took a dump on the grass?

    That toilet scrubber brush must be for decoration.

  19. bmagpub says:

    And not I leopard print in sight! And I was reminded of some of the toilets I saw/used in Japan 😉

  20. When i was traveling and staying in hostels, I wanted to visit the Baltics. And then I read about those toilets.

    I decided to wait until I could afford a real hotel. As long as I make it there eventually, I’m not regretting the decision.

    • Expat Eye says:

      I had to use one at the bus station in Palanga (I think) – there was no other option! At least in Riga, I could have held it for a little while longer! They also had them at the train station in Tallinn as I recall… Just when you’re really dying for a last pee before a long train/bus journey – not cool 😉 They’re not that common any more though!

  21. lizard100 says:

    It’s like reverse tourism! Go see some totally unappealing stuff as an entertainment! Awesome! It’s like a 1970s trip down through France!

  22. Guest blogger II says:

    Haha, I started this dog shit trend!

  23. Katrina says:

    I could make a drinking game out of how many times I laugh while reading your blog. Rock on.
    Oh, and mad jealous about the Paulaner – it’s damn near impossible to find it here in the U.S.!

    • Expat Eye says:

      Now that sounds like a fun drinking game! Just don’t surround yourself with highly sensitive people or you’ll end up hammered all by yourself 😉
      Paulaner… drool 😉

      • Katrina says:

        Wouldn’t be the first time! I’ll attribute that to the Irish side of the family. 😉 But yeah, definitely looking forward to enjoying some European brews this summer. I wish I could afford to fill a barge full of it to bring back!

      • Expat Eye says:

        You might just have to make the most of it while you’re here! What’s your beer of choice in the US?

      • thriftygypsy87 says:

        There really aren’t any good Paulaner equivalents in the U.S. I stick with local craft breweries, although Yuengling and Sam Adams are my choice of more nationally-recognized beer brands. I’m a huge fan of German beers, though! We do have St Pauli Girl in most stores and can find some Franziskaner every now and then.

      • Expat Eye says:

        I don’t think I’ve tried those ones but I’ll be on the lookout next time I’m in Germany!

    • bmagpub says:

      Wouldn’t be much of a game – more a dead cert 🙂

  24. I always enjoy a good pub crawl write-up interspersed with scatological elements…

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