To begin my travel blog, I thought I’d write about my home town of Moscow, Russia. Although I have never truly lived in Russia having moved to the United States when I was just one year old, I have visited the country multiple times as much of my family still lives there.
Undoubtedly, you have all heard of the outrageous myths and stereotypes of Russia and its people. If you believe such myths, you probably think that Russia is a place full of corruption, mafia, bombings, cold winters, depressed people, and of course, vodka. While some of these myths are quite true, many of them are extremely exaggerated.
First of all, Russia has become very corrupt throughout the last few years. Vladimir Putin has now been in office for twelve years and over those twelve years he has eliminated most elections, monopolized major media, and destroyed the democratic political system. Everyday people are brutally arrested for starting and participating in anti-Putin protests, while some are even detained simply for being nearby. Clearly, Putin’s actions are those of a dictator, and he plans to stay in power as long as possible.
However, the political system alone should not scare you away from visiting the unique, beautiful city of Moscow and Russia overall. Contrary to common belief, Moscow has exceptional food and drinks, welcoming people, and a unique and enriching history.
The cuisine in Russia is unlike any other. An abundance of delicious soups, meats, pastries, and desserts are sure to make you fall in love with Russian foods (which are not so popular in the United States yet). First off, Russians love to eat soup with nearly every meal, with the common soup being Borscht, a mix of beets, vegetables, beef, and sour cream. Caviar and dried fish are two other common foods that Russians often eat alongside their main dishes, which include an array of meats, fish, vegetables and garnishes. However, my favorite part of the Russian cuisine is the desserts. Their cakes, candies, and pastries are certainly unlike any dessert found here in America. A common favorite is “blini”, which are very similar to the French crepes and can be filled with anything from sour cream to jam to fruits.
Even though the foods are quite unusual, Russians primarily differ from Americans in their drinking habits. Whereas Americans drink soda or water along with every meal, Russians tend to withhold until they are finished with their meal to drink anything, unless its a few shots of vodka or cognac. As you know, vodka is very popular in Russia and you will often see people drinking with lunch or even breakfast (this is one myth that actually holds true). Other common drinks that can always be found on a restaurant menu include tea, mineral water, and beer.
Now, while the vodka myth may be true, most other Russian stereotypes are quite false. For example, the people of Russia are actually very kind and welcoming to tourists and as long as you stay away from dangerous areas and illegal activity, Russia can be a very safe place. Just like in New York, Philadelphia, or any other big city, you will always encounter gangs and violence, but a majority of Moscow is calm, clean, and beautiful. Much of this beauty comes from Russia’s unique history full of strong religious belief, Tsarism, and Communism. You must travel to Russia merely to see the extraordinary cathedrals and other memoirs left behind from Russia’s Communist and Tsarist eras. Today, you can even still visit the tomb of Vladimir Lenin and the beautiful KGB headquarters.
So as you can see, Russia is not a place to fear. It is a place full of enlightening culture and history and even if you make the trek out to Russia during the middle of the winter, it can’t get much colder than State College has been for the past few weeks! But, if you go at the right time, you will see a world that looks as if it is straight out of a winter fairytale.