There are quite a few, but I chose my favorites from my trip there. I was going to include some wedding ceremony stuff, but I think that will have to be a whole separate post.
1.Ice Cream in a bag. You go to the little corner store and in their freezer section they will have ice creams called “plombier ice cream” (translated of course). They are vanilla ice cream cones in a bag. Cone and all. I know, you are thinking “how good can ice cream in a bag be? It’s darn good.
2. Knowledge Day. On September 1 every year the Russians celebrate Knowledge Day. It’s the first day of school, whether it’s Saturday, Sunday, Monday, or what have you – it’s the first day of school. The kids get dressed up in white and black nice clothes, the girls put GIANT white bows in their hair. They take flowers to their teachers. They have parades of the first and last (entering and graduating) class. They do a little program and see their classrooms and go home. They even have certain sayings – like “perve class, perve raz” which means first class, first time. Some times the first class (entering class) students ring the school bell while being carried on the shoulders of a final year student (graduating class). They also have a big family dinner and often give flowers to mothers and grandmothers. There is usually a special treat or dessert for the children. It’s a big holiday type atmosphere. Especially important to those first year students.
3. Turkish Coffee. Made in a special pot called an Ibrik, with finely ground coffee and sugar and water. Instructions on how to make it are VERY specific, and you drink it out of tiny “demitasse” cups. It’s very strong, and honestly I don’t like the taste too often, but the tradition of it is really more important. When you get together with friends or family the hostess usually makes turkish coffee.
4. Live monkeys to pose for pictures with. In clothing. Need I say more?
5. Vodka by the gram. When you go to a restaurant you order a certain amount of grams of vodka for the table. Say 300 grams for a couple people. You do not order 5 shots. You order 500 grams. They bring it in a pretty glass bottle and give you shot glasses for the table. You only drink it straight. No mixers. Even by little old women. Pickles, lemon wedges or smoked fish for chasers. (or, if you can’t do that, soda)
6. Napoleon Cake. Honestly almost every desert I have had is delicious. But my favorite and my husband’s is napoleon cake. It is a many layered cake with light flaky dough layers and thick creamy layers in between. So nummy. (the picture I have here has decoration on top, but I have never seen that – usually it is covered in crumbs from another layer of flaky crust.
7. Banya. To be fair I have not gone to do this, though one of our friends here in Denver does have one. It’s called Red Rocks Banya. I don’t think I can take the heat. It’s usually done only with the same sex. A group of women will go together or a group of men. I am under the impression more men go than women, but that may depend on where you live, or the community you are in. It’s a type of sauna/spa ritual. You go sit in a super super hot sauna naked. Like so hot it can fry your brains. Then someone beats you with sticks. No really. They beat you with birch, or eucalyptus branches which still have the dried leaves on them. All over your back and legs and stuff. Supposed to increase circulation. Then you go jump in a cold pool area, or you roll in snow, or something cold like that. (Here it is a cold pool.) Then you re-enter the sauna. Sometimes you repeat this several times, but the beating is only one time usually. Then you go into a still hot but dry area and play games, drink beer or vodka, and talk with the other men. It’s supposed to cleanse your body of toxins. Sometimes they do honey masks or mud packs. I won’t go into what the mud packs are. I will just say they are “good for the prostate.”