Memories of a Russian winter: Part 2 – shopping

Dom Knigi (House of Books) in St Petersburg
CC photo via Flickr: House of Books in St Petersburg, one of my favourite places to visit

Given the 21st-century backlash against consumerism, it might seem contrary to write a post about my experiences of shopping in Russia, but different country, different era.

What’s more, shopping presented one of the best opportunities we had as students to practise our language skills in a ‘real’ environment outside the classroom.

As I mentioned in my first post about living in Russia in the 90s, after morning lectures had finished, we invariably headed off into the city centre of St Petersburg to see what we could find.

Shops in Russia – even a major city like St Petersburg – were an oddity. Not their existence, rather what they sold.

Buying food

There wasn’t much originality in shop names in 1992. For example, there were numerous places called ‘Moloko’ meaning milk. The irony was that milk was almost never on sale in these shops – in fact, the primary product available appeared to be cognac (the Russian version).

Looking for items of food was always a major element of our excursions into town. Certain items were always available: every second shop’s window display was stacked with jars of pickled goods.

Pickling was of course, a necessary way for citizens to preserve a glut of produce before they went bad (although I didn’t properly understand that at the time). Continue reading “Memories of a Russian winter: Part 2 – shopping”

How ‘Get Back’ demonstrates the change in respect in 2022

Get Back documentary still
A little-talked-about Beatles documentary(!) was released in December on Disney+. Joking aside, the column inches that Peter Jackson’s Get Back has generated must have the execs at Disney rubbing their hands with glee.

It’s a sign of how obsessed people are with John, Paul, George and Ringo that spliced-together footage that’s over 50 years old can still be such a massive deal.

That said, for me, watching the documentary made The Beatles seem more real than ever. Filmed in glorious colour (unlike much of the black-and-white footage of their career) and seeing them going about their ‘work’, you’d barely know it was filmed in 1969.

However, one particular detail stood out for me in Episode 1 that demonstrated what a different world we live in now. Continue reading “How ‘Get Back’ demonstrates the change in respect in 2022”

Memories of a Russian winter: Part 1 – the transport system

St Petersburg in the snow
CC image via Flickr – St Isaac’s Cathedral, St Petersburg

A recent conversation reminded me that it’s almost 30 years since I spent a winter in St Petersburg. As a modern languages student in the early 1990s, I was lucky enough to spend six months in newly-minted Russia.

It was a magical time and one that I still recall with great fondness, so I thought I’d relay a few of those memories. These particularly relate to how alien the country felt to a callow British 20-something. I’m starting with how we got around.

Buses

Every morning we would have Russian classes, allowing us the afternoon to explore the city – something we did without question.

Although we could walk into the heart of the city, it was close to an hour-long trudge, so the trolleybus was a regular option.

A typical trolleybus that you’d see throughout USSR/Russia in the 80s/90s

But this method of transport wasn’t for the fainthearted. Continue reading “Memories of a Russian winter: Part 1 – the transport system”