I have recently stumbled across some hand written notes from a trip log taken during our first visit to Russia in the winter of 2005. I wanted to share these observations with you;
- Their rules are a little odd – You can smoke anywhere, drink vodka and beer anywhere but coats are not allowed in the Mariinsky theatre (as I found out to my detriment when chased across two floors by a shouting and surprisingly nimble old lady wielding a stick when I put my coat on upon departure from our seats).
- Incidentally – crazed old Russian Orthodox women can run really fast when / if angered!
- On the Moscow metro it might look like you can wander through the ancient looking barriers without buying a ticket…but if you try you will lose the ability to bear children (the snapping motion of the barriers is at exactly the right height!)
- Even if you don’t drink vodka, you will find ourself presented with many an opportunity to drink it at various points in the day….when drank neat in a Russian winter it has very definite warming properties
- Champagne is cheaper to drink than wine – enjoy!
- Pink soup rocks!
- The Kremlin Stars when lit up at night are the prettiest in the galaxy!
- Malacho (milk) is not for adults – or tea! Ask for it at your peril (or stick with Vodka!)
- You will ‘play’ the Moscow Metro for at least 90 minutes before you obtain some small piece of understanding of how to use it and where you are. What’s more – seeing the less grand stations first makes the elegant stations all the more worthwhile visiting.
- When navigating the metro use the numbers of the lines and not the colours
- Everyone must find their Yolky Polky (this is, in fact, the name of a popular chicken restaurant but I applied it to mean a favourite Fabergé souvenir).
And now for the key learnings from our trip, mainly words of wisdom passed to us from our guide (Natasha);
- The moral / popular saying about employment in Russia is that ‘They pretend to work and we pretend to pay them’.
- It is a sin to sit in a Russian Orthadox church
- Putin = not good!
- You can buy your son out of army conscription for approximately $6000 – this buys you a fake certificate citing a critical disease which the doctor ‘signs off’.
- Russians ‘officially’ get paid $50 a month and pay tax just on this amount. The rest of the salary is cash in hand and had not been declared for the past 10 years (at the time we visited)
- The devaluation of the Russian Rouble had an understandably disastrous effect on the wealth of the citizens
- Russians want to build the biggest and the best of everything (Until Dubai was later ‘built’)
- Tourism was higher 10/15 years ago than it was in 2005
- There are 47 depictions of the Virgin
- 70% of people were reported to be happier under Communism
- 10% of the country was in extreme wealth, another 10% in extreme poverty, 20% were middle class and 60% were survivors / horders of sugar.
Photos from our trip to Russia are available in our online Russia Photo Gallery.