Movin’ on Up (Riga Style)

Movin’ on Up (Riga Style)

For anyone who reads this under the age of 40ish, watch this to get the title reference:

The rest of you can watch it just to feel a dose of nostalgic inspiration.

Rita, Max and I have moved. The process has been delightful and I love moving so much.

Seriously though, is there anything worse than moving? Don’t answer that because I know there are much, much worse things a person could go through.

What happened? I thought you loved your flat!

View from Ģenerāļa Radziņa

Yes, we did enjoy our flat on Ģenerāļa Radziņa krastmalu (boy that is a mouthful), but unfortunately, we were optioned out. When I say “optioned” I thought this was a familiar term, but I have had to explain it to everyone. We were given the “option” to buy the flat for a “good price” or move. All 30+ flats in our building were changed from rentals to condos. I think I have just been the victim of gentrification.

The process of finding a place in Latvia is pretty straightforward. You go to https://www.ss.com/ click on “Dzīvokļi” and start looking. After a week or so, I became a master of finding brand new listings that fit our criteria. My inner hunter had been awakened, and I was seeking my prey. A 3-bedroom flat near the center in a quiet location with space for all of us to live and grow.

However, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Ultimately, it was Rita who found this building that we are now in. I had two appointments to see places, but both of them flaked on me. We went to see one other new condo near the river, but it felt sad and constricting. We came to Miera iela, to a building by famous Latvian architect Jānis Alksnis, and felt much more at home. (Check out Latvian Vikipēdija for much more info!)

View from Miera

Miera iela itself is historic and interesting. You can read about it here. Miera means “peace” and is aptly named for being the street hosting Riga’s major cemeteries. Our building is near a famous tea shop. So that is cool. Our former building had Big Ben Appliances on the first floor, but they also had to move. Now, our most famous neighbor is the Laima chocolate factory and museum. Yes, we live across from a chocolate factory! Oompa Loompa jokes are welcome, but what they don’t tell you in the movie or book is how loud a chocolate factory can be (and it isn’t the joyful singing of orange workers or the screams of delighted/terrified children, so don’t get your hopes up)!

What is the new flat like?

We originally went to see a flat on the 2nd floor of the building. It had just been remodeled. However, it was painted weird colors, and the floor was all this unnatural laminate. As I sit here now, I cannot recall anything about it other than green… a big green wall. Let us just say that this flat did not speak to us.

But the kind real estate agent, seeing our dismay, said that there was another flat (there is another…) a few floors up that was still being worked on, but we might be interested in seeing. Sure! So we went, and we saw open brick work (just like our other flat), high ceilings, real wood floors (in some of the rooms) and loads of space. It is 114 m2. For those of you not living in Europe, that comes out to be about 1200 square feet. Which is about as big as my house in Omaha was. I hadn’t realized that until I did the conversion just now.

We have four big rooms, and Max gets to sleep in the corner room which has one of those cool Oriel windows that you can stand in and look down over the people below like some kind of god. Max will enjoy that, I think.

However, the flat is on the 4th floor. We used to live on the 3rd floor. I know it doesn’t sound like much of a change, but you can really feel the burn by the sixth or seventh trip after carrying boxes or whatever. By the way, movers are saints. I don’t care what anyone says. People who you pay to carry all of your stuff up and down stairs are miracle workers and deserve statues.

We have a weird bathroom where the shower and sink are in one place, and the toilet is in a tiny closet all by itself. It is kind of scary to use it because you are just in this tiny room, and then you have to go somewhere else to wash your hands. Maybe it is more civilized this way. Don’t shit where you shower, my friend.

Virtuve

The kitchen is actually bigger than in our old flat, but it feels much smaller because the corridor between the counters is only big enough for one person. If you have to get by, you have to do the “beep beep” back it up to an open space.

The four big rooms are the highlight of the flat. We have our bedroom on one end, then a giant dining room with a fireplace, my office/library and Max’s corner room. Each room is spacious, light, and comfortable.

On the other hand, the whole flat is heated by a single wood stove and a fireplace. Rita thinks it will be wonderful to have wood heat in the winter. I am a bit skeptical. I keep telling myself if wood heating is so great, why did we pretty much abandon it a century ago?

I will certainly update you on wood deliveries and lugging cords of logs up the stairs. It will be great!™

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What now?

Now, school is starting next week for Max. I am going to be teaching at RTU and continuing my work at Lingua Franca. I am down to two real jobs instead of three or four, so hopefully things go well.

We are enjoying the new neighborhood which is full of life and young hipsters walking around and having fun. We went to the Talin kvartals just up the street to try it out. It was packed on a Tuesday night with beautiful people having a good time.

K. K. von Stricka villa is just a short walk away, as is Max’s school. Rita is the only one who actually extended her commute to work by moving.

I will miss my morning ride along the promenade and the Daugava river, and I will miss the ever-reliable Tram 7 on cold winter mornings. But I think that overall, this move will be for the better.

Now, Tram 11 rumbles by, to and from Mežaparks. Cars drive slowly on the cobblestone streets, and we can see the rooftops of our neighbors and lots of trees through the giant windows. All is well on Miera iela.

Side note:

When I told my students where I lived, they all talked about how dangerous it was, and how that area of the city was known for crime. But I had lived there two years, and never really seen anything terrible… until Sunday.

Last Sunday, we borrowed the Grasmanis van (thanks!) to help us move some stuff before the big movers came for the heavy stuff. We parked it downstairs, and we were going quickly up and down with boxes, so I left the back door open.

When Rita and I came down, there were four zombie-vampire people creeping across the street. Rita whispered that they were headed right for the van before they saw me. This was Sunday morning in broad daylight, mind you. Two men and two women sauntered by, and you could almost smell the desperation. The last woman, a young lady with light hair, just walked past me glaring. The daggers still linger.

I watched, kind of in disbelief, as they walked to the end of our pagalms/yard and behind a building. I thought… maybe they are going to hang out there and do drugs or something. But no, they came right back out, started looking in the trashcans, and then walked back across the street without saying a word.

I am sure that Rita is right. If we had not come down when we had, the van would have been emptied of all valuables. I felt pretty good about moving to a new neighborhood after that.

 

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