Russia ’16 – St. Petersburg Day 4

We got a few Pirozhki pieces (different jams as filling) for breakfast from the very popular, upmarket chain cafe Штрогель (Strogell, look for the swirly apple logo). Mr K had an amusing language fail. They didn’t have any change so they suggested we add черни́ка instead. Husband couldn’t figure it out so he insisted that he wanted his change. Warily, they kept repeating that taking a черни́ка would be a better alternative to waiting for change, so he asked what черни́ка was. The shop assistant’s face fell, as she couldn’t fathom why someone would so dumb as to be unfamiliar with something as common as blueberries. However, he quality of the food made us forget about that faux-pas in an instant. Mr. K’s mother certainly found the story quite hilarious.

Zwischenablage015z65Huge (and complicated) pirozhki.

To quote Wikipedia –

The Siege of Leningrad, also known as the Leningrad Blockade (Russian: блокада Ленинграда, transliteration: blokada Leningrada) was a prolonged military blockade undertaken mainly by the German Army Group North against Leningrad, historically and currently known as Saint Petersburg, in the Eastern Front theatre of World War II. The siege started on 8 September 1941, when the last road to the city was severed. Although the Soviets managed to open a narrow land corridor to the city on 18 January 1943, the siege was only lifted on 27 January 1944, 872 days after it began. It was one of the longest and most destructive sieges in history and possibly the costliest in terms of casualties.

I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t know anything about this blockade (or even there being a Northern frontline) or the horrendous toll it had taken (especially) on the civilians. All I was taught in school regarding the Russian front focused on Stalingrad. So our visit to the Museum of the Defense and Siege of Leningrad had us quite shocked and moved. Unfortunately, all the explanations were given in Russian, so it took me ages to decipher with the help of Mr. K, whose reading of Russian doesn’t go beyond 5th grade material…

The afternoon was less heavy history, but nevertheless breathtaking, as we made our way to the Grand Maket Rossiya, displaying literally the whole of Russia in detailled minatures. Most likely a rather orgasmic experience for any model train nerd. But look for yourself:

Mr. K and I don’t drink alcohol, apart from beer in his case, so our visit to the Vodka Museum was intended as somewhat of an inside joke and a singular chance to try vodka. And indeed, there wasn’t much to see, apart from some vodka-related tools and cups (love the creepy bear-shaped bottle!). The staff seemed quite surprised that someone actually had turned up.

A little tipsy, we enjoyed a satisfying dinner at Izba (the term denotes a typical Russian countryside house, and the restaurant was decorated like one, making for great atmospherical dining), which alredy offered a Postnoe Menyu – a special animal product-free menu for the Veliky Post (Great Fast) starting after Maslenitsa. We tried the vareniki, borshsh, mushroom soup, cabbage salad and preserved mushrooms. While the cooking couldn’t compare to homemade fare, it was a great showcase of these rather iconic Russian dishes. I think it was also the only postnoe meal for us that didn’t feature grechka (buckwheat).

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