The legends of old claim that the Russians were faced with a tough choice on which religion to adopt when the different prophets spreading their Gospels, came knocking on their doors. It was down to deciding which would impact them the least, in their social way-of-life at the time:
- Judaism: No to Pork, Yes (ish) 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? It was a resounding NO! to those attempting to separate Russians from their Vodka or their pork. Thus, the Christian 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 oldest Vodka museum in the world.
Vodka, is said to be derived from the Russian word ‘voda’ (water) which kind of explains why it is so ingrained in Russian history and lifestyle.
And in the museum, which has been welcoming visitors since 2008, 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 its impact at various points: costs, effects, regulations, restrictions, joys and sorrows too – like losing wars, negative effects on the society, families & health overall (to date).
Indeed, in learning the history of Vodka, you travel back in time to learn how life was in the country, its dynasties, economy and evolution of social-cultural norms over many centuries past.
And at the end of the tour, you are given the opportunity to try some of the (genuine) good stuff.
To honour Russian Vodka, you take it straight up, from a shot glass…. No! Never mix with any other drink and DO NOT sip slowly (you dare NOT dishonour the ancestors by disrespecting age-old traditions)! However, after a double shot taken in quick succession, you can snack on cucumber, meat slices or cheese, and these are on offer too.
That was time well spent while in Saint Petersburg, as part of a random afternoon walk around the expansive ancient Russian Port City by the Baltic Sea.
And to those of you who love to indulge in a little or more alcohol (vodka or otherwise), you are advised to follow these light hearted set of rules found in a Russian Tavern 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 your tavern and head home!