3 Must-See places for Russianists in Riga
Anyone brave enough to study Russian, regardless of level, is likely to end up spending some of their time in Riga. After all, for practising real-world day-to-day spoken Russian, it is one of Europe’s most attractive cities. With that in mind, the following lists the top 3 must-see places for Russianists in Riga. From sampling Russian moonshine to taking in the awe-inspiring Stalinist architecture, there are a few places in Riga that you just have to see…
Riga Central Market
The Riga Central Market, or as I affectionately like to call it, the русский рынок, takes the top spot for Russian-speaking attractions in Riga. Indeed, the moniker I have assigned it is more than apt given the abundance of Russian speakers and everything Russian culture related. Stepping foot in to the former German-era zeppelin hangars is, in my opinion, like stepping back in time to a bustling Soviet market. A complete sensory overload of new sounds and smells meets you full in the face; the distinct odours of fish so fresh they’re still twitching and the sonorous cries of продавцы flogging their клубники in earnest elicit this effect.
The best of the four hangars has to be the third, which distinguishes itself through the permanent food-hall that occupies half of the space. The market has everything under the sun on offer, from племени, (жареные or вареные; it’s up to you) to freshly fried donuts, you’re bound to leave the market bursting with both Russian cuisine and new vocabulary. Though the food is some of the best in Riga, you’d be crazy not to take the short walk to hangar four and try the рижский самогон, though take heed: it is not for the faint of heart… The congenial продавщица is bound to entice you with the reasonable €1.60 per shot, but be warned, the stuff is like liquid fire!
The Latvian Academy of Sciences
A short walk from the market in the direction of Maskavas Forštate, will land you outside one of the most iconic silhouettes in Riga’s skyline: the Latvian Academy of Sciences. The looming Stalinist structure echoes the architectural cues of its bigger brother in the form of Moscow State University’s main building, and stands as a palpable reminder of Riga’s Russian-speaking history. With that in mind, a look around the soviet-era icon is obligatory for any Russianist in Riga. Though the building might not appear very friendly (something only confirmed by the disgruntled tones of the кассирша inside), the view from the 16th floor observation deck is second to none, and well worth the reasonable €6 entry fee.
The Drunk Cherry
The final place on this list goes to ‘Piana Vyshnia’ (the Drunk Cherry) – a quirky bar right in the centre of Riga’s Old Town, opposite another of my favourite haunts the NB Clubs pool bar. In this respect, its location is more than favourable; you can enjoy a few games of pool (undoubtedly complimented by a lot of new Russian vocab) and make the 20 second walk to Piana Vyshnia to continue the evening. Piana Vyshnia’s speciality is настойка, a cherry-flavoured (hence the name) fortified liqueur. Any настойка is a quintessentially eastern-European endeavour, and what with the abundance of Russian amongst both proprietors and patron, the bar is another must-see for both language practice and cultural immersion in its most distilled form: drinking!
The above is far from an exhaustive list of the best haunts Riga has to offer. Instead it is a suggestion of the places that are just obligatory for anyone studying Russian in Riga. By all means check these out, but go out and explore, too. The city’s bar to population ratio is not far off 1:1, and the same is true of its churches and cultural relics. Наслаждайтесь!
Patrick, currently studying Russian at Liden and Denz, Riga.
Featured Image Credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/jFqUJacYIsw