We reached the our first host in the latvian capital shortly before midnight after our hardcore cycling day. It was the Kreicbike-workshop. A place where loads of crazy custom- and freakbikes are built. Also motorized ones. It was an impressive place with tons of tools and equipment. They were also related to Radi Vidi Pats, the other freakbike-workshop we were visiting earlier in Liepaja. Unfortunately, here we didn’t feel as well as we did there. It was not a very comfy place to sleep and to hang out. And we were facing sexist and macho behaiviour by the guys using the workshop.
So we were super happy, when we discovered the Free-Riga-Collective. We had contacted them in advance, without really knowing what they do. To meet them, we made an appointment to cook together at their place in the evening. As we arrived, it was suddenly clear that they are the kind of people who share our views and values. It was great to meet a community like that the after dissapointing expieriences the last times. Lot of hugs were exchanged, they showed us their place, the freeshop (where we dressed up ourselves), the offices, workshops and ateliers (where different people and groups rent for small price, such as an animal rights group, an instruments-builder and other artists). We cooked a delicious vegan meal together (was it potato-starch or lentils with fried veggies?) and exchanged some stories, found out that some of us had met before. Then we ate and tey told us what they are doing:
The aim of Free Riga is to fill empty houses with new life. It all started with an action, where they had put stickers on vacant buildings all over the city. There are many, many. Somebody mentioned 10% being empty. And population is decreasing. (And new stuff is built, nevertheless!) The sticker-campain recieved a lot of attention, grew to a bigger movement with more actions. Even the national media was reporting.
Then a group of people (that found itsself within movement) wanted to do more concrete and longterm projects. Inspired by the german “Wächterhaus” initiative, they asked the owners of hundreds of empty buildings, if they could use them. Without paying rent, but electricity, water and heating. In case of longterm-usage, they would take care about the house and do some renovations. The contracts are made in a way, that they can’t be kicked out at short notice and if they have to leave the house all their efforts and investions are rufunded. But they also do shorter period projects, a concert for one evening or a week-long exhibition.
When we visited them, they had three objects: The house where we met, a hangar for concerts and a house for living.
For us this evening was a bit of a farewell-party, as half of the group was leaving in Riga. But it was a lovley evening with crazy dancing, laughing and big hugs. We had become really close in the last days/weeks/months.
Still some of us were left. They gave us the contact to another place, the Fukushima-Sauna. It was a small shelter right next to the river in a wild industrial area. We had to pass a scrapyard to find the cabin at the bank, sourrounded by green vegetation. A jetty, made from old doors lad out on the river. You could sit there and catch the last rays from the setting sun. We had to cut the wood to heat up the sauna. Really massive pieces of wood (probably old railway sleepers), had to be sawed with a two-peoples-saw on the lenght of the oven. We also brought our rocketstove to cook another delicous meal.
Sauna was great fun! They even showed us some traditional technics to whip each other with freshly picked branches. We had hazelnut and birchtree, mainly. You dip them into a bucket of cold water and punch the other person that is laying face down on the bench. (on a pillow of these branches smelling super freshly) All the body has to be treated and then rubbed of with the branches. Then you can jump into the river, et voilà feel like new-born!
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