Things I have Learned In Russia
“They’re professionals at this in Russia, so no matter how many Jell-O shots or Jager shooters you might have downed at college mixers, no matter how good a drinker you might think you are, don’t forget that the Russians – any Russian – can drink you under the table.” Anthony Bourdain
Russia is the biggest consumer of heroin in the world. It started in 1979 when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and started a 10 year war. This kickstarted the Afghan opium trade to fund the Afghanis in the war. Though it was sold all over the world, the Russians became the main consumers.
Russians never shake hands over a door way, they believe it leads to arguments.
For fans of The Master and the Margarita (I am) there are walking tours and maps of Bulgakov’s Moscow.
Chelsea is the most famous Russian football club in the world. The club was founded in 1905 and later on in 2003 was bought by Russian businessman Roman Abromovich. I stayed in the hotel with them in Moscow. That was cool.
The Urals are the oldest mountains in the world.
The Russian State Library is the biggest in Europe and second in the World after Library of Congress in the USA. The Russian State Library is located in Moscow and was founded in 1862.
Moscow actually has more billionaires living in the area than any other city in the world.
St. Petersburg was known as Petrograd from 1914 to 1924 and Leningrad from 1924 to 1991.
The Church Of The Savior Of The Spilled Blood was built by Alexander III in St. Petersburg on the same spot where his father Alexander II was murdered in 1883. As beautiful as the outside is, the inside is covered in breathtaking mosaics commemorating the story.
The Metro of St. Petersburg is the world’s deepest subway (about 100 m deep).
The Trans-Siberian Railway (connecting Moscow and Vladivostok) is the longest railway in the world.
The largest McDonald’s in the world is in Moscow and in Beijing (700 seats per each). (a McDonald’s)
The first Starbucks in Russia was in Moscow on Arbat St and I was there. I had a hard time ordering food in Russia since no one spoke English and everything was written in Cyrillic (several years ago) . I would just point and eat whatever I got. But in Starbucks I said soy latte with sugar-free vanilla and it was correct.
The most famous computer game –Tetris – was created by Russian programmer Alexei Pazhitnov in 1985,
Russia has some of the best art institutions in the world, like Bolshoi Theater and Pushkin Art Gallery in Moscow, and Mariinsky Theater and the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. My favorite dance company Eifman Ballet is there as well. (Maryinsky Theatre)
The Hermitage is one of the largest and oldest museums in the world. It was founded by Catherine the Great in 1754. The Hermitage has over 2.7 million exhibits and displays.The Museum is made up of six different buildings, including the Winter Palace (formerly the residence of Russian royalty.
In Russia there are 10 time zones because of the enormous extent of its territory, from west to east.
The Moscow Cat Theater is a traveling circus that showcases cats. Cat theatre is very popular in Russia – not so much in other places.
Kremlin means fortress in Russian and was the biggest medieval fortress in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.(I had really bad hair in Russia but how often do you take a photo with the Kremlin in the background?)
The Great Bell Tower is located on the north-east corner of the Kremlin and is said to mark the geographic centre of Moscow. Completed in the 1600s, it is it was the tallest structure in the city until the Russian Revolution. The Tsar bell is the largest bell in the world. It was broken during casting, and never rung.
The Kremlin was home to the Tsar’s and presidents including Lenin and Stalin. (St. Basil’ Church)
It is surrounded by some of Moscow’s best known sites, such as; St Basil’s Cathedral, Lenin’s Mausoleum, the Red Square, Kazan Cathedral and the State History Museum
Communism is referred to as the time of the Soviets. There are retro trendy Communist cafes and restaurants – a certain nostalgia for “the way we were”. I had lunch at Stalin’s bunker. It was weird.
Russian language uses the Cyrillic alphabet instead of the Latin and is one of the 5 most spoken languages in the world. (I believe this says Welcome To Stalin’s Bunker. I did a lot of fake translating in Russia. There was not one sign in English when i was there.)
Peterhof is a royal palace built by the Peter the Great in the year 1710. The palace features buildings and gardens and these structures are known as “Russian Versailles”.
There are about 176 operating fountains (including 40 huge fountains) and 5 cascades in Peterhof, located in the suburbs of St.Petersburg
After an 18-month tour of Europe, Peter found himself extremely impressed with western traditions and customs. As a result, he decided to issue an annual tax of one hundred rubles for those who refused to shave their beards.
The renovation of the Amber Room at Catherine’s Palace took 24 years to recreate the amazing Prussian artistry.
Built during Stalin’s rule, the seven buildings of Moscow, now the Hotel Ukraina, the Hotel Leningradskaya, Kotelnicheskaya Embankment Apartments, the Kudrinskaya Square Building, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Red Gates Administrative Building, and the main building of the Moscow State University, have identical architectural style. These buildings are evenly spread around the city and are known as the Seven Sisters in English and Vysotki or Stalinskie Vysotki in Russian. The typical architectural style is called Stalinist Gothic. The original idea was that people would work and live in one place. The idea of locking people up in the buildings appealed to the Soviet architects and the Soviet government.
You never drink alone in Russia. It is abnormal and antisocial.Never drink without eating a bite of something immediately. If you are drinking vodka (and why wouldn’t you be?) it should be salty – olives or herring perhaps.Never sip vodka and never add ice or tonic. A shot of vodka is the only way.
There is a vodka museum in St Petersburg. Vodka is a drink ‘close to the human soul”. It is an all-purpose irreplaceable drink used in both joy and sorrow throughout Russian history.
Russians produce some of the best caviar in the world. You eat it from a metal caviar spoon with vodka of course, But be careful when buying it. Buy from a reputable vendor where you might pay a bit more, If you don’t read Russian you don’t know the quality you are getting and there is also lot of illegally produced caviar in Russia. (cruelly and unsustainable). Fresh caviar is sold in bulk in the open markets and fun to try there. You can only bring a small jar to the US and nothing that is not prepackaged. (Grand Hotel Caviar Bar St Petersburg)
The Moscow metro which was opened in the year 1935 is famous for its elegant architecture with art, murals, mosaics, and elaborate chandeliers. The Moscow metro has a total of 182 stations, which boast of one of the deepest subway systems and Europe’s longest escalator in Park Pobedy.
Easter is the most important holiday in the Russian Orthodox Church. In 1884. The Russian Jeweler Peter Carl Faberge made an egg for the Tsar that became a gift for Tsarina Maria. They agreed that Faberge would make an egg for Maria every year. This continued on through their sons. They were inspired by historical works of art from his travels or the Hermitage. Fifty six Imperial eggs were made of which only 44 were found. Some were on display in the Kremlin Armory (now a museum) but a Russian billionaire bought the collection and opened a Faberge museum in St Petersburg.
Lenin has never looked better. Russia is obsessed with keeping his body intact and has used new experimental embalming techniques. The focus is to preserve the body’s physical form but not necessarily its biological matter. There is definitely some plastic involved. Queues are very long. (Lenin’s mausoleum)
Many things in Russia are almost impossible to explain, There is a very good saying that you will hear over and over again as first response to your questions: “Rossiyu umom ne ponyat” which can be translated as “Russia cannot be understood with your mind” (a quotation from the poet Tyutchev).
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