The Mystery of Sherlock Holmes in Riga

The Mystery of Sherlock Holmes in Riga
18 September 2023

Background

Even the greatest of detectives might wonder what links Sherlock Holmes with Riga. Well, *puffs on pipe*, on a recent tour of the Old Town, my guide informed me that Riga was once a Soviet Filming location for Sherlock Holmes. Soviet directors chose the filming location to be Jauniela (New Street). This was because, supposedly, the cobbled streets and impressive architecture were reminiscent of Baker’s Street in London and the original series, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. 

Holmes in Riga

Another filming location for the series opposite his house

However, as a born and bred English rose, I had to laugh at this. In London we, unfortunately, do not have nearly the amount of ornate and beautifully designed town houses as in Riga. Moreover, Baker’s street is like stepping into a real life black and white film. This could not be more different from the multicoloured streets of Riga. As the Cold War was at its peak during it’s filming, the directors could not travel to England to film. This is why Riga was the birth place of the new spin-off.

Cultural Significance

In Russia, people still acclaim it as one of the finest television series ever produced. Spanning from 1979 to 1986, a team meticulously crafted a total of 11 episodes. This enduring admiration stands as a testament to Russia’s deep-rooted fascination with the legendary detective. This fascination has its roots in the widespread popularity of Arthur Conan Doyle’s original tales, translated and cherished at the turn of the century. Additionally, local writers crafted their own spin-offs, with Holmes tackling cases in various Russian locales, further fueling the obsession. 

Notably, this adaptation is one of the most faithful portrayals of Doyle’s works. Its appeal even crosses borders, finding favor within Holmes’s home country. Vasily Livanov, the Russian actor who played Sherlock in the Soviet rendition, received the esteemed MBE from the Queen in 2006, a testament to his outstanding contribution to the enduring legacy of the great detective.

Where to Find ‘Baker’s Street’

If you are somewhat of a detective yourself and want to find the filming location, I highly recommend that you take a stroll into the Old Town to find this street. It is called Jauniela Street and Holmes supposedly lived in the red house by Kalku Varti restaurant. 

Holmes in Riga

Holmes’s Riga Residence

Equally, you could just do what I did and get a tour from Free Tour Riga which will show you the filming location and many interesting facts about the series. These tours are led by historians also so you can ask them any questions you may have. In turn, you will receive a knowledgeable and educated response. 

On the other hand, if you are not as fortunate as myself to currently be in Riga, (or simply cannot be bothered to stroll around looking for this house!), you can find full episodes on YouTube of the series here. The beauty of the programme as well is that although it is in Russian, it has English subtitles. This means that you can practice your Russian or even learn some new vocabulary whilst watching.

This blog was brought to you by Emily Gray, currently studying Russian at Liden and Denz in Riga

These images were taken by Emily Gray

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