Friday, June 24, 2011

Look At Me, Russia

A really amazing Russian language culture and events listing is Through this listing, I found out that an International Food Festival and an Art Bazaar were taking place in Moscow while I was there.

My second night at Gorilla's* I kidnapped a tiny Korean minister called Lee and made him accompany me to a club/cafe called Gogol. When I tried to order a drink in Russian the bartender started laughing at me and shouted, "No I cannot understand you I am from Las Vegas Ha Ha Ha Ha." When I tried again with another man, I got an appreciative eyebrow raise. Tricky people, these Russians.

The next day even though it was raining I dragged Lee and a front desk clerk** to the food festival at Sad Hermitage. Sad apparently means "garden" but in this case it was actually kind of sad, as the food was borderline insultingly overpriced and the drizzle depressed the scene. Surprisingly, I ended up selecting Russian food from one of the friendliest vendors. I saw only pickles, tiny potatoes, and black bread, which was perfect, but then once I was in possession of the bowl I found a secret layer if four types of very sinister looking sausages, which of course I had to try. Let us just say, I am fairly certain that that meal effectively doubled the amount of different seemingly inedible animal parts that I have ever consumed.

The Native American group at the festival, who had no food, but were eager to get me to participate in a rain dance with them; of course I complied.

Then, I met my Russian hosts, who took me to the Vinzavod art center for the bazaar. Comparing the contemporary arts and crafts upswells in San Francisco and DC with that of Moscow was a rewarding experience, and I was impressed by the amount of creativity and innovation with some inspiration from nostalgia and kitsch, but not a heavy reliance on them. They also had handmade lollipops in the shape of roosters, always a good thing.

An architectural-philosophy-urban-hiking-excursion led us to Kitay Gorod***, which turned out to be my favorite neighborhood in the city, and correspondingly house my favorite restaurant, Pyr E. O. G. I never would have found this spacious, hip bar/cafe/restaurant without the expert knowledge of my hosts, nor would I have been able to finish the 3200 mL antique teapot full of home-brewed, unfiltered draught beer either. Our kettle 'o' beer was accompanied by delicious savory pies with assortments of little pickled salads for only 130 rubles, a price that could have easily been tripled elsewhere.

Best dinner in Russia thus far.

Later that night they helped me to buy my first Russian train tickets, to a small town eight hours away called Novgorod.


*Which, if I did not say so compellingly enough before, is a very pleasant place with literally the most helpful and genuinely friendly staff I could ever dream up. This is an especially dramatic quality given that this is Russia we are talking about here.

**Who shall remain nameless to protect their identity.

***Which means Chinatown but does not, has not, and presumably never will have anything to do with said nation or its people.

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