RIGA - Just as I was starting to eat my meal, a tall, scantily clad young woman sat down next to me and introduced herself. She asked in a sultry voice if I wanted to go downstairs for a private dance after I finished eating, an offer which I (admittedly with some regret) politely declined.
Though this is not an uncommon experience in Riga, this particular occasion was notable simply because it was so unexpected. On the surface, Victory pub 's one of the latest in a string of new bars and clubs which have recently popped up in the Old Town 's looks like a pretty standard British dive. There are semi-classy leather chairs, a comfortable smoking room and a large menu offering a mix of Latvian and British meals.
The prices for food are average compared to other restaurants in the Old Town, and the quality was run-of-the-mill. The bar's huge drink list, featuring beers from all over Europe, is surprisingly well priced. The red-tinged victorianesque decor could have come straight out of a Dickens novel.
The basement is a whole other world. A stage pole stood empty in one corner, while disco lights splashed bright colors around the room. Three or four secluded cubbyholes were curtained off to one side for private dances. The whole area stood in stark contrast to the pub upstairs.
In retrospect, all the signs pointed to the fact that Victory pub is a little different from the average British pub. The door claimed it was open right up until 6 a.m. 's not exactly standard working hours for most restaurants. The music was absolutely atrocious, exactly what one would expect from a strip club but entirely out of place in the atmosphere upstairs. The clientele seemed to consist solely of frustrated men trying to hide their excitement and beautiful women with extremely low cut shirts.
The truly fascinating thing about Victory pub is that it really is a metaphor for the entire city. The city has it fair share of semi-upscale establishments catering to the large influx of tourists that have recently arrived. It is not too hard to find decent food for moderate prices and a good selection of drinks can make for a good night out on the town. Downstairs however 's metaphorically in Riga's underworld 's strip clubs and mysterious back rooms are par for the course.
My short conversation with the stripper covered a wide range of topics. She told me about her life as a university student, and the trials and tribulations most people in Latvia have to go through just to earn enough money to get by. Though the job paid well, she said, it was certainly not something she would put on her CV.
She talked about how demeaning and difficult dancing can be, not because of sleazy management but because of horny clients who constantly push to buy more than just a dance. She fit the "country girl comes to the big city and starts dancing on the side to pay school loans" cliche so well it was almost hard to believe.
All in all the food and drink weren't bad 's and neither were the prices 's but take care, someone caught unawares may end up with more than they bargained for.
10 Tirgonu Street, Old Town