Riga: 10 Bars, Pubs & Clubs Locals Love

With it’s fairytale medieval Old Town enveloped in the largest concentration of Art Nouveau architecture in the world, the 2014 European Capital of Culture has an unquestionable reputation as a premier city break destination.

Snow-covered river Daugava, by @yul.i.am.

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Over the last 10 years dirt cheap flights from all over Europe have made the Baltics largest city increasingly accesible, however budget airtravel has linked Riga to a darker side of tourism. Way back in 2009 Riga’s mayor singled out British tourists for critism –

“If we also had other tourists, then British visitors who piss about all the time would not be as noticeable. Let’s not be politically correct – unfortunately, this is thier speciality”

RIGA SONY A6300 50MM 1.8

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In contrast to the stags, scams and sex tourists, a homegrown scene focused on the eclectic tastes of local Latvians is gaining momentum.

From intimate afterparties to cavernous 13th-century wine cellers and former aristocrats mansions to renovated 19th-century brewery complexes – here’s my pick of where to head afterdark in the Latvian Capital.

Chomsky

Chomsky.. ✨photo by: @viktorijabird #summertime

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Named after the famous American polymath, Chomsky is a short walk out of Old Riga. It’s spacious interior is scruffy and cosy, with original ceiling paintings that date back to the 1920’s. Local beers and good prices for central Riga ensure the bar has a week round atmosphere.

Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs

Located in a 13th century wine cellar, the vaulted caverns of Ala have live music at least 5 nights a week – with a focus on Latvian folk. With a selection of 27 draft beers, range of homebrewed moonshine and central Old Town location, it’s the perfect place to chill after exploring and immerse yourself in the traditional tavern aesthetic.

Aussie Pub

Not your standard Aussie pub – with its central location, weekround warm atmosphere, 14 local draft beers, daily events and bargain price happy hours this Aussie owned establishment has fast become a local Old Town favourite.

Kaņepes Kultūras centrs

With its terrace unmissable in the warmer months, this multiuse space is host to various exhibitions, performances and markets so its always worth checking the programme. Home to affordable drinks prices and a laidback atmosphere, this former Russian aristocrats mansion’s terrace is the spot to chill before heading out to bigger things.

Autentika

Launching in 2016, Authentika has rapidly become a local favourite for those after house and techno. Located in a former brewery complex dating back to the 1880’s, the founders are sucessful in thier aim to create an, opportunity to disconnect from the everyday hustle, bustle and stress, and enjoy an Authentic atmosphere.”

Piens

Launched in 2009 in a renovated 19th century brewery complex, Piens is well known as central pillar in Riga’s nightlife – Wine Wednesday’s here is a local institition, with discounts on wine and a rammed dancefloor till dawn. Littered with an abundance of sofas and two large terraces, it’s also great place to meet and chill by day.

Alus darbnīca Labietis

Bar crawling

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Tucked away beneath Piens, this cosy brewpub has a range of 12 craft beers brewed on site, with a relaxed pub atmosphere both inside and the terrace outside. Notoriously some of the best beer in Riga, their homebrews have fast become popular staples on tap throughout the Baltics.

ONE ONE

#oneoneriga

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Found in the same complex as Piens and Labietis, this venue has a reputation as the one for underground sound in Riga. Regularly hosting international names alongside homegrown talent, ONE ONE has a strong and growing reputation.

The Armoury Bar

#happycolour 🏴 #sistersbdayparty

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Found in the former warehouse district of the Old Town, Armoury has a calm exposed wood and stone interior, alongside the deactivated firearms the bar dervies it’s name from. With a solid whiskey and beer selection, Old Town location and happy hour prices it’s busy throughout the week.

Teritorijā

Launching in late 2016, Teritorijā has rapidly gained local popularity with its intimate space and enveloping atmosphere. With house, techno and disco focused sounds its perfect for late night after parties.

Now part of Northern Europe by UN designation – #Riga

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Tbilisi: 10 best spots to Rave & Recuperate

With dirt-cheap direct flights connecting Georgia with London, Berlin and Budapest daily, the emerging contemporary cultural hub of Tbilisi is now more accessible than ever.

£25 London ~> Georgia

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Isolated out on the far eastern edge of Europe and despite a zero tolerance drug policy, the raw enthusiasm and energy of crowds in Tbilisi transforms every night into an inevitable endurance contest.

#tbilisi ♥️

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Combine this energy with cheap rents and unused Communist-era buildings – the  result is a homegrown club scene that’s internationally hyped –

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From clubs in Soviet swimming pools under football stadiums and 50’s finedining restaurants with world renowned sound systems to smokey local B.Y.O.B basement bistros and 50p pints – here’s my pick of the spots to rave and recuperate in Tbilisi.

Bassiani

It's almost Ben O'clock ⌚️ ⌚️ ⌚️ #benklock #bassiani #klockworks

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Deep in the crumbling concrete bowels of the Dinamo Tiblisi football stadium, late in 2014 Bassiani was born when an abandoned Soviet Olympic size swimming pool was rigged with a Funktion-One soundsystem and some paranormal lighting.

The result is a space that has become frequently labelled the “closest thing to Berghain you can find outside Berlin” and the “new Berghain in Georgia” .

Cafe Gallery 

Alongside art exhibitions and a cotch cafe to chill in by day, come night the tables get cleared out and the compact space transforms into a bubble of energy till sunrise.

Launched in 2008, the success of this multifunctional space and its role as a haven of liberty in extremely conservative Georgia, Cafe Gallery has been a central driver in the evolution of the city’s club scene.

Mtkvarze

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This former finedining restaurant for Soviet elites suspended above the river Mtkvari in the 50’s, has become home to hedonistic young Georgians since launching in 2012.

With a main room focused on house and disco, alongside boasting a Void Acoustics Soundsystem, a relaxed crowd and a wrap-around balcony overlooking the river flowing below it’s an exceptional venue.

Khidi

Launched in June 2016 and located inside some classic Soviet civil engineering – Vakhushti Bagrationi Bridge – Khidi has rapidly emerged as one of the city’s top clubs, arguably the best for those who prefer a dark and intimate Techno focused atmosphere. Whilst the main room has its own intensity, there are plenty of spots to cotch and watch the entrancing light work.

Fabrika 

Weekend is coming 🙌🏼 #fabrikatbilisi

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A former Soviet sewing factory that’s been transformed into a sprawling entreprenurial/creative complex focused on a central courtyard, it’s perfect for predrinks before heading on to a club.

Beyond bars Fabrika is home to restraunts, a barbers, local brands, cafes, the largest hostel in the region – alongside co-working and educational spaces. I was there in late summer and as soon as evening came the central space was flooded till close.

Shavi Lomi

Translating as Black Lion in English, this Georgian fusion restaurant is well-known as one of the best in the city, alongside their in-house beers which are served throughout the city. With a shabby chiq charm to the interior for colder months – the winding outside terrace levels are perfect for an abundance of Georgian food and wine in the summer months.

Lolita

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Centrally located on the ground floor of a pseudo-Gothic house near Rustaveli station, Lolita brings together a bar and open kitchen to form a very chilled, partially open air spot with a warm, unpretentious atmosphere. They played tune after tune and all. Apparently there is a space being renovated upstairs to include a club.

DIVE BAR

A relaxed place for drinks with a consistent crowd – its rugged asethetic is blended with some tasty music keeping you chilled for hours.

Warszawa Bar

Kawałek Warszawy w Tbilisi #warszawabar #georgia #Tbilisi

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Situated on central Liberty Square, this compact bar draws in locals and foreigners week-long with its combination of excellent location and 2 Lari (apprx 50p) beers and shots of chacha and vodka.

Racha Dukhan

In a smokey basement conveniently only minutes walk from Liberty Square metro station- you can find legit local food that’ll get you right after any night out. One of few remaining traditional duqani in the cityI doubt much has changed in decades. Get some plates of Ojakhuri, Khinkali and the Georigian salad with walnuts – as it’s B.Y.O.B. keep yourself refreshed with some world renowned local Georgian wine.

 

Split Sundowners

A Dalmatian cultural hub for near two millenia, Split is popular the world over. From classical courtyards to hipster hangouts, here’s my pick of where to head when the sun goes down – summed up in 3 words a spot.

Ghetto Club & Art Academy

Chill – Funk – Hipster

BEPA

Dalmatian Platter #BEPA

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Aesthetic – Location – Pairing

Sanctuary Bar

1st craft cocktail bar in Split, Croatia #backbarporn

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Cheap – Cramped – Smoky

Zlatna Ribica

Seafood – Seafood – Seafood

Noor Bar

🍹🍹🍹 #cocktails #bar #splitcroatia #summeriscoming @noorbarsplit

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Compact – Elegant – Original

Perivoj

Cosy – Al Fresco – Hidden

 

If you’re heading to Split this summer – enjoy !

Exploring Skrunda – 1 – abandoned Soviet secret city

Despite the collapse of the Soviet Union in late 1991 and the end of the Cold War,  skeletal relics from the era of mutally assured apocalyptic nuclear destruction lurk throughout the former USSR.

The Skrunda-1 Radar installation – Credit: Latvian History

A few hours drive out of the Latvian capital Riga, obscured deep in a forest of silver birch,  the secret Soviet military research facility of Skrunda-1 was a key component in the Evil Empire’s confrontation with the free world.

Big L #MygunsgoBOOMBOOMandyogunsgopowpow

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Known to Latvian locals simply as “Complex“, a series of early warning radar installations were constructed on the site from the 1950’s onwards. Aiming west, the last of these was the second tallest building in Latvia when it was demolished in 1995, a monumental 19 stories high. 

Summer strolls

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As a closed city all Soviet military and scientific personnel and families were restricted from leaving the site, with further restrictions on those who could enter.

The amenities for 5000 inhabitants were on site, including a nursery, theatre, gym and even nightclub, alongside uniform apartment blocks, soldiers barracks and prison cells.

Abandoned Soviet officers theatre

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Following the sites total abandonment in 1998, all materials of value were stripped and removed to Russia ,the Latvian government has yet to find a viable way to regenerate the concrete shells of the 60 buildings that remain.

Diverse

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After unsuccessful auctioning to private investors, the property has passed from the Latvian military to the local Skrunda municipality who charge a 4 entry fee.

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Former occupants

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Gym + rotten wooden floor

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CSKA MOSCOW

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Combat

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Exercises

 

 

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Cells

Abandoned Soviet Prison Yard

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Entering Skrunda

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Shabby Chic

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Pastel Tones

 

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Inside the barracks

Abandoned Soviet nursery

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Creepy murals

 

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Shops

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Nature returning

 

 

Moral Crusaders, Police Raids and Freedom: why the party is not over in Vilnius

With some of the strictest alcohol laws in Europe coming into force at the start of 2018 and indiscriminate raids by balaclava clad armed police that are happy to call a couple of joints a great success – what does the future hold for a city defined by its homegrown aesthetic and sound ?

Freedom – social, political and economic –  is a theme that permeates native businesses and organisations.  From the libertatrian BBQ joint Keulė Rūkė, who gained international noteriety last summer, to the LFMI (Lithuanian Free Market Institute), ranked as one of the premier think tanks independant of government in the world.

The antiquated policies of the new Lithuanian Government, led by the Peasants and Greens, comes as a stark contrast to the perception of a progressive Post-Soviet Vilnius.

“Have you ever seen a child in national dress, dancing in clogs, singing folk songs who is high on drugs? No!”

Historically moral crusaders, like the above quoted leader of the Union of Peasants and Greens,Ramunas Karbauskis, use moral panic over a perceived alien threat to legitamise repressive policies.

Think Reagan stepping up the war on drugs in 1984 and the resulting expansion of the American prison-industrial complex, currently incarcarating over 2 million people – 22% of the worlds prisoners.

“The party is over”-  recent streetart depicting the politicans who have campagined for extremely socially conservative laws as a troika of terrorists killing culture.

Karbauskis has spearhead comedic alcohol controls that are due to come into effect next January, restricting sales past 8PM and baring everyone under 20 from drinking and even touching alcohol. Far worse, police have unsucessfully raided various bars and clubs searching for illegal drugs, even bringing their own press photographers.

Arguably the role of the police is to protect you from others, but when law enforcement is attempting to protect you from yourself by restricting behaviour, they become the state’s moral enforcers.

Writing for VICE, Max Daly observes – 

“Unfortunately it’s not just the muddled alcohol clampdown that young Lithuanians who like a party have to contend with. It’s a crack troupe of anti-drug cops who are under the impression they are battling a drug peddling alien horde.”

A black and white, binary perception of the world – Good vs Evil, Light vs Dark  – is funadmentally flawed, as without one the significance of the other disappears. Arguably in a city with a recent history of breaking free from a respressive empire like Vilnius, any perception of a new police state results in instant condemnation, delegitamising the moral crusaders and thier moral enforcers.

Early 2016 in Ukraine, a successful legal defence by Kievan cultural center Closer over drug trafficking charges, street protests and a social media campaign broke down the moral and legal legitamcy of drug raids targetting the club.

If such a result can be achieved in crisis struck Kiev, it looks promising for the future of Vilnius nightlife.

 

Vilnius night mayor and counciller, relocated Londoner Mark Adam Harold, who’s playing a key role in organising legal redress for the police raids suggests –

“Most likely it’s a new political entity full of people who don’t know shit about harm reduction, who are just doing their honest best to combat a problem they don’t understand. They seem to be very bemused that not everybody is congratulating them about their upgraded war on drugs.”

The clumsy approach of a few politicans reacting to a relatively non-existent drug problem and an alcohol problem arguably endemic to economically deprived rural areas, is less of a step towards freedom and closer to repression. Unfortunately, there’s no doubt the new regime reinforces old negative sterotypes of Lithuaina many have worked hard to erode.

Keep Vilnius open, the party is not over.

 

 

 

 

Barcelona’s Best Bar?

It’s March, it’s still bare cold and the weather couldn’t be further from the heavy heat of the Catalan Capital in mid-summer . If you’re heading there this year check out 33|45, a 10-minute walk from La Rambla, in the heart of the diverse El Raval Barrio and my favourite my bar in the city.

No need for words, here’s a compilation I feel represents Barça’s best bar’s vibe throughout the hours.

 

Tornar a casa 🖤

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When your bartender takes you and your 'with extra olives' seriously 🍸

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33/45. Raval. Bcn. 28/11/15.

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Moderneig #barcelona #3345

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#Sunday #nightcap

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#havefun with Lau @lau_aguilarc #3345 #raval #barcelona

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Esto es un no parar #lamerce2016 #3345bar

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🍻 #goodtimes #bcn 🇪🇸

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Getting drinks at a very awesome vintage bar 🍸#3345 #barcelona #elraval #bar

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Donde està el baño? #3345 #barna #barcelona #graffiti

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Night is a trap.

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If you’ve got somewhere else in mind as Barça’s best, give me a shout !