And people say my area is dodgy…

Another weekend, another “district” challenge. On Saturday afternoon, I walked to the back of Central Station, which is where the crème de la crème of Riga society is known to hang out. I think the pecking order is decided by the number of remaining limbs, but I can’t be sure. 

The Kings of Riga

The Kings of Riga

I found John slouched against a wall, doing his best to blend in with the locals. 

Me: What’s that on your chin?

John: What?

Me: Sauce or random drinking injury?

John: Um… (rubbing his chin and examining his fingers) Sauce. 

Me: Great. 

I peeled him off the wall and we hopped on the “3” trolley bus, bound for Sarkandaugava. Forty minutes of breathless excitement later, we hopped off again. Immediately, we saw a woman who would definitely have been Queen of the Central Station Royal Family – had she been able to afford the bus fare. Not only did she have all of her limbs, she also appeared to have a small tree growing out of the dirt on her feet. 

Proving leopard print really is for everyone

Proving leopard print really is for everyone

With the speed that only a hungover man on the hunt for shashliks can move at, John made a beeline for a bar across the appropriately named Sleazy Street. Sorry, I mean Sliežu Street. 

Roll out the red carpet

Roll out the red carpet

We got our beers and made our way to the semi-terrace where the first thing that struck me was the height of the chairs. I’ve had problems in plenty of bars climbing on (and off) bar stools, but I’d never seen anything quite like this. 

John perked up a bit when his shashliks arrived. Unfortunately, with them came a swarm of wasps through the open windows. John stood up and started trying to bat them away. The sight of a hungover Irish man, dancing about ineffectually swatting at wasps with a little red napkin was too much for the old geezer behind us, who almost chortled himself off his chair. 

A happy man

A happy man

Still, John declared the shashliks edible and after a trip to the smallest bathroom in the world, we walked out, just as the local glitterati were arriving. 

All dressed up for a Saturday afternoon in Sarkandaugava...

All dressed up for a Saturday afternoon in Sarkandaugava…

We made our way over the bridge to our next destination – Kundziņsala. I’ve racked my brain trying to think of something to say about this place, but the only word that springs to mind is “WHY?”

Never thinking that we’d be grateful to be back in Sarkandaugava, we headed for the first bar we found – a recovery pint was in order. This actually proved to be an alright spot. The barman was friendly enough – without speaking or smiling – and the terrace provided some entertainment in the form of a loud Russian family and some rather bemused-looking German tourists. They were probably wondering the same thing I was – “WHY?”

Before the masses arrived

Before the masses arrived

I could quite happily have stayed there for another pint, but John was on a mission so, regretfully, we set off in the direction of Milgravis. We were going to walk it, but on the way, we passed a tram stop. The next tram wasn’t for 30 minutes or so, and an incredibly shady-looking bar was beckoning, so we did what any normal people would do and headed for the bar. 

And you thought you'd seen shady before...

And you thought you’d seen shady before…

Greeted with the glower and grunt that is customary in this part of the world, we grabbed a table in the otherwise empty bar. Quite frankly, I needed to sit down after seeing the “food” they were offering. The Brālis beer was vile and we were about to write the place off and leave when another customer walked in. As luck would have it, she was wearing my favourite t-shirt ever – a real Riga must-have. 

ROARRRRR!

ROARRRRR!

The tram deposited us in a barren wasteland, but even there, it seemed like the locals were expecting me. 

Irish (wait for it...)

Irish (wait for it…)

Whore! (Huzzah!)

Whore! (Huzzah!)

A friend of John’s had told us to walk along Ezers Street, keeping an eye out for drunks on steps, as these would be the best establishments. However, these proved too dodgy even for us and after passing a few toothless Russians who wanted us to join them, we clambered up a stony embankment, over railway tracks and into the “new” part of town. 

No thanks.

No thanks.

A student of John’s, Vineta, had kindly offered to show us the sights and sounds of this part of town, and she rocked up with her two kids a few minutes later. We headed towards a promising looking bar – it’s all relative. 

I think they stole the girl from Lido...

I think they stole the girl from Lido…

As it turned out, you couldn’t actually stay in the bar. I guess the Latvians in this part of town are even MORE sociable than the average Latvian. The woman behind the counter poured our beers into plastic bottles, screwed them shut, and with no other options, we headed back to Vineta’s flat. 

She kept apologising for the mess, but after the places we’d seen, the flat was a palace. She and her husband, Jānis (really), made us feel at home and we enjoyed our beers while listening to tales of their travels – or at least I did, when I wasn’t elbowing John to stop him yawning. Jānis even broke out some Chinese vodka but, honestly, it tasted like what I’d imagine that woman’s tree-feet would taste like. (Don’t worry, I said it to his face – he agreed.)

We finally decided to call it a night, not wanting to out-stay our welcome and knowing that people with kids probably have kid-related stuff to do. But not before taking one final picture of John, who was, by now, too tired to fight me… 

2014-08-09 21.39.43

Heh heh heh…

I can honestly say, I’ve never been so glad to see Avotu iela in my life. (I may have said that after other district challenges – I really mean it this time.)

 

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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, Fashion, Food, Humor, Humour, Moving to Riga, Riga, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

96 Responses to And people say my area is dodgy…

  1. Madam Borges says:

    Check out this website if you haven’t already 🙂 -http://shadyriga.wordpress.com/

  2. Astra says:

    You have missed one of the best šašliks place in Riga – and it is in Mīlgrāvis, near all the large stores, Mežaparks and before Kundziņsala, Linda! It’s unofficially called “Yellow roofs”, because they have outside terrace covered with yellow sunshades, interior is directly (original) from soviet times, but they’ve got really good šašliks there – you can find it by seeing a lot of expensive cars outside, although food is not expensive. 🙂

    • Expat Eye says:

      I wanted to go to that place but we were meeting John’s friend! He’d been there before on his Mezaparks outing and said it was great. Shame!

  3. Pecora Nera says:

    You sure that was a woman with the potatoes growing out of her toes!!!!! They didn’t look like woman’s legs to me 😉

  4. Now if only you had bought that leopard print dress, it would have been perfect for that outing! 🙂

  5. That is the first legitimate use of a neck pillow I’ve ever seen. (Is it me, or are they otherwise unusable?)

  6. Anna says:

    OMG. We are not going to any of those places, right? RIGHT???

    • Expat Eye says:

      Depends on how brave you’re feeling 😉

      • Anna says:

        Not at all?
        I am spending all my bravery on being an authentic Russian in the Baltics, period.

      • Expat Eye says:

        Ha ha, you’ll be fine! You’re with me – actually, you might be safer on your own 😉

      • Anna says:

        Oh that’s right. I am gonna enjoy collecting all the “Wanted” posters!

        2.5 weeeeeeeeeeeks!

      • Expat Eye says:

        I haven’t seen one yet – actually, it’s probably the Irish population we have to watch out for at the moment. I’m an equal opportunities offender 😉

      • Emmi says:

        I thought you considered yourself American? you can just get by speaking English and nobody will notice that you are from Russia (like in the Russian vinnie poo cartoon : I am a little cloud Im not a bear at all!)

      • Mārtiņs says:

        Nobody will recognize that you’re from Russia. Not quite so.
        Maybe a Latvian who doesn’t know Russian at all could be tricked. Otherwise – If you say Izvinite, kak mne dobratsa…, spasibo za pomosh; Sorry, could you help me getting to…, thanks for the help, etc. Using these gap fillers in conversation (like Sorry, thank you) one shows he’s not from Russia.
        Also dressed slightly differently, accent, but these are minor differences.

  7. Chenjovi says:

    Bhahaha leppy.. you seem to forget those are probably normal sized chairs but you’re just super-tiny…..

  8. linnetmoss says:

    You gave me my laugh for the day! Especially the barstools and the hungover dancing Irishman 🙂

    • Expat Eye says:

      Ha ha! Great! It was really funny – the guy was just sitting there nursing his beer and then cracked up laughing – a really throaty, heartfelt laugh! Brilliant 🙂

  9. Mārtiņš says:

    Criminal Riga top 10 of suburbs – in text and pictures.
    http://spoki.tvnet.lv/aktuali/Kriminala-Riga-1-dala/393561
    part 2 http://spoki.tvnet.lv/aktuali/Kriminala-Riga-2dala/394244
    part 3 http://spoki.tvnet.lv/aktuali/Kriminala-Riga-3-dala/394933

    The man has an experience of living and renting apartments there. Everything at its purest.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Great! I’ll check them out!

    • rigaenglish says:

      Nice, but that’s his opinion, seemingly based on long running stereotypes. I did a post before with the official figures http://therealriga.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/violent-crime-in-riga-2/ Bolderaja is safer than Teika and Vecpilseta and Tornakalns are the top two for violent crime. Imanta, which he mentions, is actually one of the safest districts, based on official crime figures.

      • Mārtiņs says:

        Safer than Teika? Try walking in Bolderāja after dark – bar Paradīze, Daugavgrīva.
        The guy lived in these regions. Nobody beats Moskachka still.
        He based on his experience and described only areas he had lived in. So yes, in that way it is subjective.
        Old Riga (also the central station area), is a different story he writes. And I agree. No problem of getting beaten up at weekend. I have had trouble when I lived there from drunkyards.
        Anyway If you know Latvian it’s worth reading – a bit of prison slang in his language I suspect. A man knows the subject.

      • rigaenglish says:

        I have walked in Bolderaja and Daugavgriva after dark without problems, Linda even accompanied me once. Been to Bar Paradize twice 😉 I live in Maskatchka, have lived here for 6 years without a problem. I lived in Centrs near Antonijas. Had one fight there and one very near fight. I also had 2 other incidents, both in the Old Town. Does Maskavas have dodgy bits? Absolutely. It’s near the top in terms of crime stats, but Vecriga and Tornakalns are higher. My ex’s brother moved out of Teika because he said the area was becoming dodgier.

      • Mārtiņš says:

        And Dombrovskis moved from Teika to European Parliament:) Not safe any more:)
        I’d it is safe if you feel safe. If one starts looking around nervously there is a higher possibility to get into trouble (esoterically speaking fear attracts problems).
        I’ve heard a case from a self defence couch about an athlete who had his skull contused by “baseball” lovers. Passed him by. Hit him twice and rubbed. Waking up in the intense care…
        I was sort of attacked by a drunkard in London, Camden.
        If in country-town one starts a chat or dance with a local girl non-verbal conflict is real. Isn’t it world-wide spread tendency?

        I wonder how is it in New York? I’ve heard (only in films) that there are suburbs, where white people/tourists are suggested not to enter. I do not know places that bad in Riga where problems are guaranteed.

      • rigaenglish says:

        As I’ve been to them all, I wouldn;t say there’s any Riga district which is especially unsafe. Riga is definitely safer than London. There’s a certain class of person in London who considers a good night out to be drinking 7 litres of beer and having a fight with a random stranger.

  10. Mārtiņš says:

    [We finally decided to call it a night,] not wanting to out-stay our welcome
    I like your English so much.

    Talking about the district challenge. You should have travelled (trolley 15) or walked to get a better insight of a central station area. Latgales priekšpilsēta is a place to be. Mazā Kalna iela… and definitely the market Latgalīte where old, antique, soviet, hokey-pokey stuff as well is sold.
    Maskavas forštate, old Maskačka is a place to be. And take somebody with you.

  11. bevchen says:

    Love the T-shirt!

    The bottles of beer to take away amused me, for some reason.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Yeah, it doesn’t exactly encourage conviviality!
      I’ve been trying to take a photo of someone in that t-shirt for ages! It was worth going to that hole just for that! 🙂

  12. Baiba says:

    You know, that bench on the other side of the central station was actually the place, where the hookers from Lienes street moved during the economic boom years before the crisis:) That was so weird, you see one and think – hey, I know her, but how… wait a minute, yes, that was one of our hookers:)

    • Expat Eye says:

      Ha ha! I do the same with ‘my’ drunks – luckily they never move far though so I don’t really have to try to place them out of context 😉 I’ll miss those crazy kids 😉

  13. 1WriteWay says:

    What is it with the leopards?? I mean, I like leopards, I really do. I like all cats, but they are almost everywhere in your photos. Oh, well, I guess animal print was considered fashionable a long time ago in the US. Fortunately at a time when I was too young to be allowed to dress that way 🙂

  14. I would need plenty of pints to survive that district challenge! I give you a lot of credit, John looks like a handful. 🙂

    • Expat Eye says:

      He is, Jill, he is! This will be our last dodgy district unfortunately, as he’s almost finished all 58 districts! But nice timing too 🙂

  15. NancyTex says:

    I don’t know what I’ve been thinking these past 9 months of reading your blog, and telling you to leave this place.

    This blog post has exposed a whole new dynamic. What a very special place! How could you even think of leaving? Are you crazy? Are you drunk? Go buy that tshirt, get your best scowl on, and re-up your lease in the flat.

  16. Emmi says:

    two crazy leopard print photos in one post) you ve made my day=)

  17. I agree- Avotu iela actually is not so bad.:)

  18. You’re back home. Alive. It’s all that counts.

  19. Nerdator says:

    Oh, that bench is a notorious tramp magnet – you’d think that the place itself could be nice, but really, that whole open area in front of the central station is really the Scum Pole of Riga – the only direction you can take there is away from the scum. 🙂 I’ve seen more people publicly quarrelling there than anywhere else in Riga combined.

    I generally hate this area, and often deliberately miss the bus stop there – to get out on the next one. I’d much rather walk a little more, but through Vērmanes dārzs, and not through the rows of shops with ugly signs selling trash, and the kind of people who buy this trash, only to walk out to the hideous flower shop/vomit dog eatery/currency exchange conglomerates (the Mārijas/Satekles fork).

    (Also let me be a bit of a killjoy – and a bit of a hypocrite perhaps – and say that, honestly, the lost limbs remarks sound unnecessarily mean.)

    • Expat Eye says:

      Sorry, just saying what I see – as usual!
      That area is just horrible. There are always people fighting/sleeping/drinking – it really is the dregs. The police just move them along or remove a bottle every now and then. Great help.

      • Nerdator says:

        Well, I’m not sure what the police should do there. 🙂 I mean, tear gas and truncheons might make a interesting show, but it really sounds like the kind of solution when you have a crack in the wall and cover it with wallpaper, hoping that no one would notice – instead of at least plastering it over with mortar (true horror story from my flat 😉 ).

      • Expat Eye says:

        I don’t know – other countries have schemes to get the homeless and down-and-outs back into society again. Here they just shuffle people around from area to area.
        http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-25548061
        http://www.bbc.com/news/health-28681372

      • Nerdator says:

        Sure, that’s essentially what I meant – and we do have state-provided social security – including the schemes allowing you to get a state-owned home, or to get free professional education. I don’t know about any help for the addicts – and if there is any offered, you can see for yourself how well it is working, with the number of staggering ‘martians’ on Avotu and elsewhere.

        And when you have just average old age pensioners sometimes having to beg, because for whatever reason their children don’t support them – you cannot but think that there is something wrong in our country. And it’s not these people’s children’s fault, really.

        I also suspect that we’ll sooner have an openly gay Prime Minister here than officially give out beer for trash to winos. 🙂 (Though I don’t see why this is critically better than hiring more people to clean the streets. This is probably not the best way to deal with addicts anyway, and sounds a bit like ‘let them eat cake’ to me.)

      • Expat Eye says:

        At least they’re trying something. Not sure about it either, but at least they’re trying!
        And no, it’s not the children’s fault because they can probably barely afford to support themselves.

      • Nerdator says:

        I understand the reasoning they provide for giving out beer – that otherwise the winos would not be interested (and actually getting a job is a huge step, having been slacking off for years, even if your life is shit, and even if you’re not an addict) and this at least increases their quality of life – marginally.

        I appreciate their honesty – I mentioned free professional education here – while these courses are perfectly legitimate, and will give you training for sometimes fairly lucrative working-class professions (provided you can actually find a job), many people do the barest minimum at these courses, just to get the monthly scholarship, which is about 100 €. Which in many cases is used to buy plastic udders with beer. And it’s not like social workers don’t know about this, plus it’s not reasonable to blame the people who use the system like this.

        I mean, giving out beer may be an interesting idea, but it can be a good one only when it is complemented by other measures. Otherwise, it’s just palliative treatment.

      • Expat Eye says:

        Yes of course. Otherwise you’re just handing out alcohol to alcoholics!

    • Nerdator says:

      Well, it might mean that people would have less reasons to buy contraband and moonshine – or consume whatever contains alcohol – like cheap cologne or shoe polish (true story). I also wonder how much truth there is in this bit from the beer for trash article:

      ‘Since the street-cleaning programme started 12 months ago, local police have received fewer reports of stabbings and muggings in the park. And all of the residents we spoke to said they were happy with the government supporting this unconventional approach.’

      I somehow fail to imagine the homeless alcoholic as a street criminal and mugger. I mean, there’s plenty of violence while drunk, but handing out beer isn’t gonna help with this, is it?

      • Nerdator says:

        (Oh crap, missed the thread again. It’s my response to the ‘alcohol to alcoholics’ comment.)

      • Expat Eye says:

        I guess a couple of beers a day is better than a bottle of vodka or moonshine!

      • Nerdator says:

        No questions about the moonshine, but I’d say that if I had to choose between 2 bottles of beer and an alcohol equivalent of vodka (not that I would ever consume this much alcohol) – I’d take vodka every day of the week. 🙂

        I really don’t see what people like in beer – and given the choice of 1 litre of a liquid I hate, versus maybe half a cup of a liquid I hate – it’s really no choice at all. 🙂 (Not to mention that vodka is a useful liquid to have around the house – for cooking, or disinfecting stuff, or as a solvent.)

      • Expat Eye says:

        I probably wouldn’t use it for any of those reasons though 😉

      • Nerdator says:

        For cooking – it’s really standard stuff, especially for frying meat – alcohol helps some reactions and releases substances that improve taste (brandies are used for this, too. If you see a high-powered chef somewhere pouring fine cognac into a pan, and lighting it on fire – he/she could have done the same with vodka, to the same results).

        Beer is used sometimes, but rarely – and it’s not an ingredient that you can store for years, and use every once in a while. 🙂

      • Expat Eye says:

        Sometimes it’s like you’re speaking a different language 😉

      • Nerdator says:

        So that’s really what I like it for – it’s ethanol and water, no other nonsense. Just don’t drink it, for crying out loud. 🙂

      • Nerdator says:

        Sorry, I am talking at you and rambling again? 🙂

      • Nerdator says:

        Oh, I thought that the ‘different language’ comment was a mild suggestion to stop chattering out of tune. 🙂

        So what did you mean? 🙂

      • Expat Eye says:

        Cooking – it’s not really my thing 😉

      • Nerdator says:

        Well, I suspected this since the time you said that they annoyingly put frozen pizzas on the highest shelf at Mego. 🙂

        (My internal reaction to this was ‘wait, frozen pizzas exist? o_0′)

      • Nerdator says:

        And now this conversation has made me crave for pizza. 😉

        It’s been some time, and it’s a perfect moment – what with tomatoes and bell peppers being so cheap. 🙂

      • Nerdator says:

        Oh, yes, I will! But tomorrow – I think it’s raining now. 😉

      • Nerdator says:

        Speaking of which, wanna see something mildly titillating? 😉

        Warning: this is totally safe for work, seriously. 🙂

      • Expat Eye says:

        Is that supposed to be a nice looking pizza?

      • Nerdator says:

        No, these aren’t the best-looking ones I’ve made, but I have been experimenting this time, especially with the one on the right (the messy brown stuff is caramelised onions, I should have hidden them below the rest, as they certainly taste far better than they look.) The piece on the left is what margarita should look like, really.

  20. LOL! Another fun article from you 🙂

  21. rigaenglish says:

    So with me in total, you’ve done north-west (Bolderaja, Daugavgriva,) south-west (Ziepniekkalns, Bisumuiza, Katlakalns,) centralish (Avotu, Grizinkalns,) south-east (Brekshi, Dreilini, Plavnieki,) and north (Sarkan, Kundzinsala and Milgravis.) Pretty decent sample of the real Riga! Looking back, best bar? Worst bar? Best districts? Worst districts? Shadiest boozer? Worst bar person? Remember it’s all relative.

    • Expat Eye says:

      I think Avotu was the best! That finish in Chomsky was perfect 🙂 Ziep, Bisu etc was definitely the worst – another “why?” district – possibly tied with this one. Bolderaja and Daugavgriva actually turned out to be surprisingly fun – maybe because I like being shouted at by cranky old men trying to watch TV 🙂

  22. The last picture makes the whole post. 😛

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