During the middle week of May I visited a new side of Europe and a country my feet haven’t yet touched upon, Latvia, specifically the city of Rīga. Rīga is located on the central part of Latvia, on the shores of the breezy Baltic sea. Through out my time there I experienced tremendous amounts of culture, intellect, coffee and art.
As an avid coffee consumer I obviously looked for the best third wave coffee shops in the city but one specifically stood out. MiiT. MiiT is a vegetarian café located subtly in the city center, no pun intended? The café has three spaces, one large space for sitting down alongside the big bar where coffee is ordered from, a medium sized one with bar stools on the neck of their small porch where goers can enjoy Latvia’s eluding sun. The coffee served at MiiT is a local roast, mainly arabica, whilst they also serve Drop Coffee from Copenhagen and Five Elephants from Berlin for their espresso variants.
The prices are generally fairly priced for Western European standards and a bit high for Latvia’s speciality coffee scene. The baristas are highly trained and the coffee is great. Some let downs of the café would be that their WiFi stinks and is an everlasting struggle to connect to. On top of that, Flat Whites are served in latte cups causing the milk to overpower the coffee’s taste. MiiT’s oddity are the people who go there, in a positive sense. Programers, geeks, musicians and students dwell there and all converse and amplify the artisan coffee stereotype while being productive.
Rocket Bean Roastery
Located on Rīga’s Northeast side site a huge place for pseudo-gourmet food and artisan coffee and is probably the city’s most marketed place. I visited Rocket Bean Roastery on rainy day’s -what a surprise- evening. The space is huge and well designed with a Tom Edison vibe to it with a lot of wood, orange lighting and coffee roasting rooms. I tried some herbal made soda in a Cola flavor which was delicious. The accompanying playlist at RBR is a great mix of contemporary electronica that got my company and I reaching for our iPhones constantly to check what songs are broadcasted.
Kaņepes Kultūras Centrs
While having the most difficult name in the history of the western vernacular, KKC is where the cool kids hang out. Inside of Rīga’s center lies a two story house with a wide yard with a lion foam sculpture stuck to its side, that’s exactly how eclectic this venue is. It’s a home for the creatives of Rīga and a lot of foreigners, English was constantly spoken through its inhabitants. KKC is a hang out place where you’ll meet your friends or your drunk boss, encounters like this always happen there. Latvia’s population is a mere two million while seven hundred thousand live in Rīga so you’re bound to meet friends or foes. What makes KKC a cool place is its down to earth attitude and providing the city’s messengers, creatives and students a place to have a beer or ten.
Noam Chomsky is known for his academic and humanitarian work, while also being a ground breaking linguist of the twenty first century and there’s a bar and venue to honor his good doing. Chomsky is the hairy armpit of the city, where hipsters, curst punks and esoteric students migrate to if Kaņepes Kultūras Centrs is too mainstream for them and it sure does smell like tofu in there. The place has a very post-Soviet feel and architecture to it, like a crazy uncle’s house. On the night I was there a duo called LCDD were there playing noise through children’s toy kind of like Igor Krutogolov's Karate Band.
Rīga Photo Month 2016
Rīga’s Photo Month was probably the artistic highlight of my week on the Baltic state. The exhibition took place in Latvia’s Dzelzceļa Vēstures Muzejs (Latvia’s Railway Museum) with presenting artists Heikki Kaski, Katrīna Ķepule, Daniels Mekšs , Andrew Miksys (US/LT), Igor Samolet (RU), Igor Savchenko (BY) and Sara Skorgen Teigen (NO). The photography featured in the exhibition had a common denominator of loneliness, despair and the soviet union, through my eyes. Below are some pictures. While the main piece of art was Daniel Mekšs’ film that featured narration with a nihilistically themed vibrato to the narrator’s voice that made the viewer question every life’s decision and upbringing below is a clip from the film.
Latvia’s National Library
Hailing at over seven stories tall is Latvia’s National Library. The architecture is like an inverted vert ramp you’d catch at the X-Games with a coating of brushed aluminium. The interior features light wood floors, with a vertically inclined bookcase showing as it were the brains of the behemoth. Staircases feature bright LED lighting and a bottom of naked concrete a brutalist touch to the resurrected post-Soviet landscape.
Rīga is amazing city filled with art, creativity and design. The city features various forms of culinary culture, art and sports. If you’re a weekend warrior for arts, a barista, a cyclist or even a troubled student there’s a bar or venue that’ll serve your interests. I would highly recommend Latvia and Rīga specifically for the urban traveller.