Hooray! It’s almost the weekend! What do you want to do? No matter what it is, I’ll bet Yaroslavl has it for you. A lot of friends who’ve visited Yaroslavl have been really surprised about just how active our nightlife here can be. Okay, we’re no Moscow or Petersburg, but Yaroslavl still holds its own when it comes to bars and clubs, especially if you know where to go. Plus, you don’t have to deal with the expenses or intensive face control that the bigger cities have, so in some ways, I’d argue that it’s even better!

Мед
“Myohd”, “Honey”
Dancing, drinks, restaurant, unique location

This award-winning club is located literally on the Volga! It’s a floating club that has a fantastic dance floor and good music.  Look up and you’ll see dancers on pedestals and on platforms suspended from the ceiling! There’s a restaurant as well as a bar here, for those who are feeling hungry after hours of dancing. This is definitely a place you shouldn’t dress down to go. Мед is only open on Fridays and Saturdays.

Король Королью
“Korol Korolyu”, “King of Kings”
Dancing, drinks, wild decor

This is one of the most fun places to come on a weekend night. This two-story club has been decorated like the inside of a cave–every last inch of it! Walk down to the bottom floor and you’ll find a dance floor centered around a stage with a wrap-around bar.  This stage hosts dancers dancing to the music with you, and occasionally full-on dance performances.

Тобаско
“Tobasco”
Drinks, hookah, snacks

Тобаско has a cozy atmosphere and lots of recurring customers. It’s a great place to relax with friends or to meet new people. The hookah is especially good here!

Коктейл
“Cocktail”
Drinks, food, hookah, dance floor

Cocktail is another great local hang out. The walls and ceiling are decorated beautifully with a cream-colored mosaic. Dancing is on the second floor, though bars can be found on both floors. The sushi here is particularly tasty and well-priced. Cocktail is open during the day as a restaurant as well and has a full menu of decent food.

Бристол
“Bristol”
Drinks, dance floor, food

Right across the street from Cocktail is Bristol. Bristol is a quieter spot, with more secluded places away from the dance floor for large and small groups to sit, talk, and eat. The dance floor is decent, though it’s not my first choice  if I were planning on dancing. Bristol is open during the day as a restaurant.

Расстагаев
“Rastagayev”
Drinks, food, hookah

This is just a great spot in general. You won’t find any dancing here, but this restaurant has really tasty food, drinks, and hookah for unbeatable prices. To top it off, it’s clean and pretty enough to bring a date! If you stop by, try the blinchiki. They’re 2 USD and absolutely heavenly with chocolate sauce, condensed milk, or a variety of other toppings! It’s also open during the day as a restaurant, and I would highly recommend it during that time as well.

Your Бар
“Your Bar”
Drinks, dancing, food

If you want to come here on a weekend night, you might want to reserve a table! Your Bar just opened up about a year ago and is booming with business. Thursday Flirt Nights are especially entertaining, with the waiters wandering around dressed as cupids delivering anonymous messages from table to table. Good drinks, fun dance floor, and great atmosphere!

Tips for Going Out:

  • If you’re planning on being out late, get a cab ride back to your hotel or apartment. Always settle the price of the ride before getting into the cab.
  • If Yaroslavl is unfamiliar territory to you, as with any new place it would be wise to watch your drink intake more than usual.
  • Dress up. While you may find this silly, you and your friends are more likely to be let in if you look like people who have enough money to spend on drinks. Also, the locals will all be dressed to the nines.
  • Women usually get in everywhere for free. This is not always the case for men.
  • It shouldn’t cost a thing to  just get in the door. If a bouncer tells you otherwise, he wants a bribe. You can argue with him, but that’s admittedly a much easier task if you’re a girl.
  • Brace yourself for a cloud of cigarette smoke. The idea of a smoking “area” doesn’t exist in any of these clubs or bars.
  • Especially if you’re a girl, bring friends with you when you go out. It doesn’t hurt to be safe.
  • If you want to check out any of these places for yourself, just google the addresses. You can get to them by foot from most Yaroslavl hotels, but again, it’s best to take a cab home.

Have fun!

Sarah

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Taking a quick break from “Things To See in Yaroslavl,” I’d like to address an issue that I think a lot of people have faced during their time abroad in Russia. This is the issue of not only being polite in a way that’s understood cross-culturally, but also interpreting (or misinterpreting) well-intended speech and actions directed at you.

If you were to translate certain things you said in Russian directly into English, you could risk sounding pretty rude:

Дай мне ручку.     —     Give me pen.
Закройте дверь.     —     Close door.

Even with a пожалуйста[1] at the end of the phrase and articles successfully added, the intonation that Russian speakers tend to use comes off as quite curt in English. The thing to remember when speaking with Russian speakers is that this is not rude in Russian, so try not to take it that way! If you were to directly translate your English into Russian or to use English intonations in Russian, you would sound silly at best and not understandable at worst. When you’re speaking with Russian classmates and someone says Дай мне ручку, they’re really asking quite nicely Could you pass the pen? When your teacher says Закройте дверь, they’re asking Could you close the door? And most of the time, you will hear a “please” from these two groups!

Studying in Russia, there are a number of things that people from Western cultures often interpret as rude that really are just normal here. Take for example:

  • Instead of asking for you to move aside on the bus, a бабушка[2] will actually move you aside so she can get through to the door. Woops! There goes Granny!
  • People won’t smile without a reason. They’re not scowling at you or angry, it’s just that overt smiles in public when you’re alone reflect a person being stupid, mentally unstable, or foreign. It makes it wonderful when you do get a smile—you know it’s sincere and special.
  • A man will frequently open a door for a woman, carry her bag for her, compliment her looks, etc. He’s not trying to be sexist and he’s probably not trying to run off with your bag—it’s just that old-fashioned chivalry that’s still very alive here.
  • People will comment on your weight. Coming home on a train from Ukraine, a passport control officer commented to me that I’d lost weight since my passport photo was taken—my face was a lot fatter in the picture. I laughed. Thanks, officer!
  • People will ask intimate questions about religion and money. Meeting strangers, I have been asked, “What religion are you?” “How much do you earn?” “How much do your parents earn?” and so on. While I still find it hard to not feel uncomfortable talking about money (that cultural quirk of mine has been drilled in hard), I can appreciate that for them, it’s normal–and they’re just trying to have polite conversation with me!

Invest time during your semester or year abroad to just observe the dynamics of the people around you. How is that person speaking to the other person? How is the other person reacting? Try to step into the shoes of the people you’re living with. Imagine you’re acting out a role in a play and sit on the bus and scowl like the best of them! You’re not changing yourself as an individual, you’re experimenting and experiencing study-abroad to its fullest. But don’t take this as an excuse to try to drink vodka like a Russian. There are some things foreigners should leave to the pros!

One final parting note: it’s also very worth while considering how you come across to the Russians you’re with. Beaming at the woman who collects the tickets on the bus might leave her feeling like you were making fun of her. Not finishing the food that your host mother made–even if it was practically a six-course affair–might leave her feeling like she doesn’t cook well enough for you. Be sensitive to these things. You can start out by being polite to people in the way that you know best, and after some time abroad you may be able to show people in their way that you care.

Still learning,

Sarah


[1] Thank you

[2] Grandmother or simply elderly woman

The ice might be melting in Yaroslavl, but it’s still snowy in Сахараж (Sakharazh) at Galya’s dacha! Galya, Natasha, and I went cross-country skiing and explored the frozen river, plus I got to experience the winter version of the Russian banya–which involved rolling “naturally” in the snow. Yikes, that was cold! Here are the photos from our last adventure (even the banya ones are G-rated, I promise!):

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If you’re curious about what the dacha looks like without the snow, what Russians typically do at their dachas, or want a more detailed account of the Russian banya experience, check out:

‘Til Next Time!
Sarah

Maslenitsa Merriment

March 1, 2012

From the 21st to the 26th of February, Yaroslavl enjoyed a myriad of Mасленица[1] celebrations with all sorts of festivities! Blini and Maslenitsa dolls were everywhere, and Galya’s demmands of “Кушай! Кушай, дорогая!”[2] redoubled their efforts.

So what is Maslenitsa? The first time I described this holiday to someone, I told them, “Well, think Mardi Gras—only without the nudity, and lasting about a week!” In a way, Maslenitsa is the Orthodox Mardi Gras. It comes right before Lent on the Orthodox calendar and is a state- and church-approved right to binge. At the same time, Maslenitsa is originally derived from a pagan holiday that was meant to welcome the spring.

A Peek into Maslenitsa Festivities

One of the main traditions that I took part in daily was the eating of блины[3]. I’ve mentioned in earlier posts that blini are a bit like French crêpes. One of the main differences, however, is the toppings. One day, Galya had left some blini batter for me to do as I would. I whipped up what I thought was perfect—very thin blini with butter and sugar on top. When Galya came back, she went, “Good! You had some blini! What did you eat them with?” “Butter and sugar!” I responded proudly (there was no lemon for a good beurre, sucre et citron). She gave me a dismayed look. “But what about the mushrooms?” Apparently grilled mushrooms, sour cream, sour cream and sugar, onions and meat, home-made jams and творог[4] account for Galya’s favorite toppings! I tried each of those after my francophile fail, and loved them all. Galya even caught me with a spoon in the meat and onions pan later when she left the kitchen to grab something. It just smelled so good!

Blini with sour cream

Aside from gorging on blini, another of my favorite parts of this holiday was definitely the beautiful Maslenitsa dolls. Traditionally, the Maslenitsa dolls are made of cloth and decorated in beautifully colorful clothing to look like women. So far, so good, right? Well, on Sunday, the dolls are carried around on sticks and then burned. I’ve heard mixed stories as to why this happens, ranging from, “Well, the pagans used real people but we use dolls,” to “It wards of winter,” “It brings in the spring,” “It welcomes Lent,” “It’s about purification,” and “It wards of bad feelings.” If you’re familiar with this Russian celebration, please feel free to help clarify this for me in the comments! For now, I’m just going to assume it’s all of the above.

All week, Maslenitsa celebrations carried on in missionaries, on main squares, and in homes. Organized games were held and families toured the Maslenitsa doll displays, small children in hand. The list of songs the Russians have for this holiday must go a few kilometers long. I feel so lucky to have been able to take part in Yaroslavl’s Maslenitsa. This is definitely a tradition I’m taking home with me!

Reporting from the Golden Circle,
Sarah


[1] Maslenitsa

[2] “Eat! Eat, dear!”

[3] Blini

[4] Tvorog is sort of a cross between cheese and yogurt. It’s very sweet, and may have raisons or other personal touches added.

Hillary and Sarah on the Red Square

Look! St. Basil’s!

Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of visiting Hillary in Moscow for a day. I took the 7:15-11:13 train into the big city and Hillary very kindly met me at the Комсомольская[1] metro, right next to the Ярославский[2] train station.

Within moments, I had my metro card and we were off! We went first to the Red Square (обязательно видеть![3]). Standing in the middle, we could see everything from the famous St. Basil’s Cathedral, to Lenin’s Mausoleum, to the Kremlin, to the world-renowned ГУМ[4]shopping center. After a few quick photos, we scurried into the Государственный Исторический Музей[5].

Shopping Success!

After our fast paced site seeing and museum touring, it was time to relax! We headed over to a wonderful little café that Hillary frequents for some coffee and pastries, then set out on a very important mission: Moscow shopping. It turned out that we couldn’t have picked a better time. While shopping in Moscow is usually quite expensive, we lucked out with the end-of-winter sales. Two stunning, Russian winter jackets for $70? Don’t mind if I do!

We trudged back to the metro, heaving behind us our enormous bags of shopping spoils. That whole “relaxation” thing turned out to be a bigger work-out than we anticipated! By the time we arrived  at Hillary’s apartment, we were getting hungry.

Toppings are fair game for snacking until the pizza’s made

Hillary and I did some quick food shopping for fresh ingredients. After that, we (and by we, I mean Hillary!) set to work making a pizza from scratch. Around 10:00, it was time for me to catch the train home. That was, without a doubt, the most productive day of my semester so far!

Hillary, thank you so much! You were such a wonderful guide and hostess, and I had a blast touring Moscow with you. I can’t wait for you to come visit Yaroslavl!


[1] Komsomolskaya

[2] Yaroslavsky

[3] Must-see!

[4] GUM: The Harrod’s of Moscow

[5] State Historic Museum

There is one drink Galya loves to make that simply reminds me of the holidays. It tastes a little bit like a hot mulled cider, only fruitier and a bit richer. When asked what it was called, Galya thought for a moment and then said matter-of-factly, “витаминный чай.”[1] I hope you enjoy the recipe. According to Galya, this is “очень полезный!”[2]

 

Ingredients:

A little more holiday cheer for you!

A little more holiday cheer for you!

  • Boiling water
  • Fresh apples
  • Fresh cranberries
  • Fresh ginger
  • Fresh mint
  • Hawthorn (бояршник) berries
  • Briar (шиповник) berries
  • Rowan (рябина) berries

Instructions:

Cut up an apple or two (or three!) into pieces and toss them into a thermos. The apple can be followed by a handful or so of cranberries. If available, try adding a handful of hawthorn, briar, and rouan berries. Cut a few pieces of fresh ginger and pluck of handful of mint leaves and toss them, too. Pour the boiling water into the thermos and close the lid. Let sit for at least 3-4 hours, if not over night. The drink is delicious both hot and нормальная![3]

Note:

The exact amount of each of these ingredients will depend upon two things: first, the size of your thermos, and second, your personal taste. If you do not have all the ingredients listed, don’t fret! It seems that the art of Galya’s cooking is spontaneous improvisation, and it produces absolutely delicious results. Also, if you do not have a thermos, simply toss everything into a pot, put on the lid, and cover it with a towel. If it isn’t hot when you’re ready to serve it, just toss the pot on the stove and quickly heat it again.


[1] Vitamin Tea

[2] Very healthy

[3] Normal (It is not typical to drink cold drinks in Russia, as cold beverages are thought to be quite unhealthy. Hence, drinks are served either “hot” or “normal,” i.e., at room temperature)