The legends of old claim that the Russians were faced with a tough choice on which religion to adopt when those spreading their Gospels came knocking on their doors:
- Judaism: No to Pork, Yes-a-bit to alcohol, Ok to polygamy
- Muslims: No to pork, No to Alcohol, Yes to polygamy
- Christians: Yes to Pork, Yes to Alcohol, No to polygamy
Guess who won? NO! To those attempting to separate Russians from their Vodka (duh!) or their pork. Thus, the Orthodox Church took firm root and grew to be the dominant religion in the largest country in the world.
Okay, so maybe it wasn’t that dramatic or as clear cut, but these are the colourful tales you’ll hear to entertain, as you take the guided tour around the only Vodka museum in the world!
Vodka, is said to be derived from the Russian word ‘voda’ (water) which kind of explains how much it is ingrained in Russian history and lifestyle.
And in the museum you’ll find all manner of memorabilia from centuries past, such as different kinds of bottles, colourful and weird looking corks, photos of promoters or prohibitionists and old scripts about it: costs, effects, restrictions, joys and of course sorrows like losing wars, negative effects on the society, families & health (to date)
Indeed, in learning the history of Vodka, you travel through the history of the country, its dynasties, economy and evolution of social-cultural norms over time to date.
And at the end of the tour, you are given the opportunity to try some.
To honour Russian Vodka, you take it straight up, from a shot glass…. No! DO NOT mix with any other lesser drink or sip slowly (how dare you downgrade it this way??)
That was time well spent while in Saint Petersburg, as part of touring the expansive ancient Russian Port City by the Baltic Sea, with a wide canal running through on which we also enjoyed a cruise.
Two other interesting socio-cultural practices we came across:
- Wine offer as part of a wide-ranging breakfast buffet (not a good idea if you’ve tasted everything in sight and have packed day of touring ahead)
- Random sightings of wedding couples walking, in pairs on a week day, on different streets, at times just the 2 of them, or with few other people in tow (I suspect in some other parts of the world, they’d be a quiet build up following of these pairs hoping to be led to the food?)
Russia wasn’t easy to travel to, and apart from some minor dramas we encountered with immigration (stories for another day) my sis and I really enjoyed the touristy experience out there.
It was worth the hassle! If you can, please GO! 🙂
As for those partaking this weekend (vodka or otherwise), follow these light hearted set of rules found in Russian Taverns during the reign of Catherine the Great:
“Eat for sweetness and for taste, but pour moderately, so that everyone might always be able to find his legs as he goes out the door” (Munro, 1997).
Don’t drink too much you can’t find your legs to leave!