When traveling, you always learn something new. These are the nine things we will not forget from Russia.
1. Suitcases and backpacks are great for traveling. But next time we travel, we will pack all our stuff in cardboard boxes, plastic bags or packages made with cardboard, plastic and duct tape. We saw lots of Russians travel this way on the train, so they must know something we don’t!
2. Lada cars are still being produced today. But they are as shitty as ever. We had the pleasure of traveling in a Lada 4×4 (yes, those exist), and they are really great, except for the very hard suspension, lack of most electronic gadgets such as electrical windows, central lock or airconditioning (let’s not even talk about gps), very small trunk space and complete lack of leg room.
3. Continuous white lines on the road in Russia do not have the same meaning as in the rest of the world. In Russia, they do not mean you are not allowed to overtake other cars, they are merely there for decoration.
4. Machines are great, but using people for easy routine tasks is much better, seems to be the adagium in Russia. It is much more fun to buy metro, bus and train tickets from an actual person, than to have an automated ticket machine. And we still didn’t figure out what the job description is of the people sitting in the end of the automatic stairs in the metro, but we are sure they must be very necessary. (That it is not helping lost tourists, Sophie found out the hard way.) Yes, these people might have expressions of utter boredom on their faces and not care about customer service whatsoever, that is probably just because they like to be happy and joyful on the inside.
5. Apparently, we didn’t really get married. Russians like to take pictures for hours when they get married. The whole wedding party will walk around the city and take pictures in parks, in front of monuments, landmarks and pretty buildings and churches. And with taking pictures, we mean do at least 35 different poses like a professional model before moving on to the next place. Sophie started practicing the posing thing in Russia, so maybe we can get married again. Properly this time.
6. All Russian trains have a samovar, which provides unlimited free boiling water during the whole train ride to make tea or instant noodles. So far nothing surprising. What we did not know, is that the energy used to heat up the water, is actual fire. As in wood that is burning… A bit shocked, we talked to the prodzvonitza (this one spoke some English). “Is this real fire?” “Yes.” “But isn’t that dangerous?” “Yes.” So, we looked at her with a puzzled face. She shrugged, and told us like it is the most natural thing in the world: “This is Russia…”
7. There is no such a thing as a ‘Russian’. Russia is made up of different republics and people of lots of different ethnicities. People from the republic of Tatarstan (Turkish descent) or the republic of Buryatia (Mongolian descent) for example look different from Moscovites, have different habits, religious beliefs and languages.
8. Whoever thought Russia is a confusing country, must have been mistaken. Russians tend to make everything very simple. For example, instead of giving train stations confusing names such as the name of the city or village that it belongs to, lots of train stations don’t have a name, but rather the number of kilometers from Moscow. How much easier can it be? Another example are the cars. Russians drive on the right side of the road, but why make life complicated and only allow people to buy cars that have the steering wheel on the left? Especially in Siberia and Eastern Russia, people like to buy Japanese (second hand) cars that have the steering wheel on the right. What could possibly be the problem with that?
9. Stamps are awesome. Russians really love their forms, official stamps and signatures. We have received stamps and signatures for going to the bathroom, receiving bed linen on the train, drinking a coffee and having a meal.