Russia: Weird and Wonderful

One of the best things about traveling is seeing how the place you’re visiting is different from your home. I’ve traveled widely in Europe and Russia was probably the most different place I’ve been yet. To sum it up in one sentence: Russia is not for wimps.

There didn’t seem to be many rules there at all, and many of the public health things we now take for granted—safe and stable stairways, pedestrian crossings, lanes on the interstates, no holes in sidewalks smoking bans—do not exist. Not even medicines cater to the weak—check out the non-coated tablets.

Sensitive stomach? Too bad!

Sensitive stomach? Too bad!

You all probably know by now that I really enjoy taking pictures of oddball things. Here are a few more images from weird and wonderful Russia:

Russians LOVE exclamation points.

Russians LOVE exclamation points -- why use one when you can really make your point with three?

Even after a week, I never did figure out the rules of parking, other than that there weren’t any. Seeing a car parked like this was the rule, not the exception.

Parking on the sidewalk? Sure!

Parking on the sidewalk? Sure!

Jetskis are permitted on the Neva and the canals, apparently.

He zoomed right past our boat tour.

He zoomed right past our boat tour.

Speaking of the canals, they seemed to be a popular drinking spot for many Russians. Can’t blame them since a beer  costs about a dollar in the store and about $3-$4 out at a bar or restaurant. This was a common sight.

Eye-catching Aztec prints are perfect for a Sunday night out.

Eye-catching Aztec prints are perfect for a Sunday night out.

We got served orange juice every morning for breakfast. It seems to be a very popular beverage for Russians. I have never seen a machine like this anywhere else…have you?

Fresh squeezed while you watch!

Fresh squeezed while you watch!

This isn’t too weird, but it is wonderful. Dottie and I had no problem following these footsteps, though we didn’t quite become caviar lovers.

05.25footsteps

Another wonderful thing we did was visit the Udelnaya flea market. A few subway stops north of the city, it felt like the real Russia — no tourists around for miles. I got some great bargains, but we had to walk through a lot of crap stalls selling made in China tracksuits, scarves and the like along the train tracks before we got to the real flea market portion.

The only weird thing about it is that Russians don’t heckle you at flea markets (well, at the non-tourist ones, anyway). I actually had one guy say, when I commented that a certain article cost too much, “think about it and come back later.” Had I not known how good Dottie’s Russian was, I might have thought she’d mistranslated.

Udelynaya market -- the good part.

Udelynaya market -- the good part.

We saw a lot of limos in Russia. Most were Hummer limos, but I found this one especially eye-catching and snapped a pic while Dottie was standing in front of it . We never did find out how much it cost to rent a pimpmobile.

05.25dotlimo

Back to public safety: while our hotel was a great value, and the people were friendly, the FOUR FLIGHTS of decrepit stairs leading to it left something to be desired. They were full of atmosphere, though, and we took full advantage.

dothallway05.25stairwell05.25stairwel2

The mounds of sauerkraut and pickled veg at the market were definitely wonderful.

One day we were walking to the Hermitage and came across a military procession. It seemed to be made up entirely of 16-year-olds, but the scale of it was impressive.

Russia's finest 16-year-olds showing off their military might.

Russia's finest 16-year-olds showing off their military might -- and taking pictures for their Facebook pages.

And, last but not least, the weirdest thing we came across the entire trip: Upright sunbathing outside the Peter & Paul fortress. Imagine walking along a quiet beach, past parents and kids feeding seagulls, and turning a corner to see this:

05.25sunbathers

Possibly the best picture I’ve taken my entire life. Dottie, when are we going back?

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20 thoughts on “Russia: Weird and Wonderful

  1. QM2 says:

    Great photographs! Last time I was in Russia was 2000, and it was considerably more chaotic then :)

    By the way, the uncoated ibuprofen is not just a Russian thing. In many European countries, they believe that pills are more effective when uncoated; this is what Austrian and German pills look like as well.

    Oh, so where are the bicycle photos — anybody there riding anything pretty?

  2. dottie says:

    Oh my gosh, this is perfect!! Such memories! You have a fantastic eye for the weird and the wonderfully weird. I must point out that most of the upright sunbathers left on their trouser socks and shoes. Also, the guy to the right of the fourth window is doing a headstand. Awesome.

  3. vakadesign says:

    The wall must have been warm from the sun? Too cool!!! <– three exclamation points for the Russians.

  4. meligrosa says:

    oh so cool! traveling with a bff must be so much fun, thanks for sharing these with us <3

  5. Christa says:

    Great commentary on Saint Petersburg and Russia.

    My boyfriend grew up in Saint Petersburg. We stayed with his family and toured for two weeks. It was so nice to have a native show me around!

    I saw very few cyclists September 2007. I hope they put more greenery and bike lanes near the canals.

  6. anna says:

    Great pictures. The three exclamation points remind me of the two at the end of Russian reversals: http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/Russian_reversal_(joke)

    In America you ride a bike, in Soviet Russia bike rides YOU!!

  7. Avertedd says:

    Интересно сделано. Почти за душу берёт, заставляет смеяться над остальной блогосферой. Но несовсем полно тема обозрена. Где об этом почитать подробно?

  8. Julian says:

    I’m relieved you didn’t feature a photo of Russian toilets. On my stays there in early 00’s, just about every toilet had what we called a “Soviet trophy shelf” where things landed (with not a lot of “clearance”, as it were), which required a big deluge of water to clear. Clearly the sign of a culture that likes to examine their movements.

    I’m going to give upright sunbathing a try, though. Sounds like an excellent way to get yourself booked on indecency/exposure charges.

    And I LOVE St. Petersburg. There’s a guy there who’s dedicated his life to building a temple to the Beatles, a Church of Rock and Roll. The temple’s not built yet, but he throws incredible parties in his apartment.

  9. Scott says:

    I once took an elevator ride in Turkey that made me appreciate the US tort system more than I ever thought I would. I had the feeling that if we had all died in the elevator shaft, everyone would have just gone on with business as usual.

  10. John says:

    This was such a wonderful story. I’m definitely having some vodka when I get home toninght.

  11. Trisha says:

    Anna, I LOVE that reversal.

    Julian…didn’t notice any trophy shelves but would have loved to visit that apartment!

    Scott, that is the feeling exactly.

    And John, happy to do my part to inspire vodka-drinking…that’s quite a compliment!

  12. grambev says:

    Any seat belt laws or carseats for infants?

    • Trisha says:

      Hi grambev! I am honored to see you in my comments. :) I don’t know about carseat laws — didn’t notice any but that probably means they were there. As for seatbelts, that’s less certain. I know none of the vehicles we rode in had them, but they were shuttles so that’s normal. Pretty sure our driver was wearing one.

  13. grambev says:

    Hi Trisha! : )

  14. Grams says:

    Trisha, I found your bike stories and pictures and the stories of the trip to Russia. Am so glad you reminded me to look them up :). And 3 bikes in your living room… what’ up with that ??? ha,ha. Looking forward to seeing you soon Love Ya..Grams P.S. My bike was a red & white Schwin…not a scratch on it when I sold it and got married !!!

  15. Matt says:

    Hi Dottie and Trisha,

    I wanted to ask your permission to use a photograph of yours for a project I’m working on. I’d be happy to tell you all about it and give you credit. Please email me!

    Thanks!

    -Matt

  16. Grams says:

    Trisha..I loved the comments and humor..the pictures are great too. Think I saw the last one earlier. ‘spose you’ll want to go again. :). Grams

  17. MedoSpobe says:

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