food caviar

TC Original: My Tryst with Caviar

Caviar in Russia
Caviar in Russia

Eating caviar will never be as fun as the first time I tried this supposed delicacy.  Now I am a foodie inspired by the likes of Anthony Bourdain and Bear Grylls but when it came to actually trying new food, I was a bit hesitant.  It was of course the first time I stepped out of India and I had a hard time adjusting to the bland, almost tasteless food that Russia had to offer.  No don’t get me wrong, there are certain cuisines in Russia which have some hints of flavour and taste, but that’s for another blog post, I’m going to tell you about my tryst with caviar in this one.

I’m very choosy about my sea food. Living in Mumbai, I do have a large variety in terms of fish but I am snooty. I prefer eating fresh produce, found in my Uncle’s backyard in Goa.  If anyone’s ever had fresh sea food, you wouldn’t dream of having fish that has been brought in over many days from the high seas.  Moscow and Kazan, the cities I was staying in, unfortunately imported all its sea food from the coastal regions of the mammoth land mass, so fresh ‘Riba’ (Fish in Russian) was completely  ruled out.  There was however one thing that got me curious, Caviar.  Russia is famous for its caviar and I surely wanted to try it once!

Now the method of having caviar in Russia is to take a slice of bread. Plaster it with an inch of butter. Open the golden tin of caviar and scoop out the orange little balls with a spoon onto the bread and butter.  Spread this evenly and prepare to take a bite.  This was a bit difficult for me as I could smell the distinct odour of old fish.  It was I must say, extremely revolting.  I closed my nose and shoved the piece of bread in and started the awkward munching, hoping against hope that I don’t puke it out. Just when I thought the worst was over the little eggs started popping off in my mouth, oozing liquids that accentuated the taste of fish.  Now that’s where I realised it was an acquired taste.  Beer is bitter, but everybody loves that bitter tang that it imparts. I couldn’t brave myself up for another slice of bread with caviar. Enough of adventure for a day, I thought.  A fellow traveller with whom I was sharing the caviar tin with had a ball laughing at my contorted face.  Mind you I had paid 600 Roubles for a 100 gram tin of caviar.

It was a troubling experience for me honestly, but here’s the funny thing. I think I’m going to try caviar once again.  It’s not to prove a point or act even more stupid. It’s simply to relive that memory and in the process hope to may be acquire the taste.

Tips for travel in Russia

TC Original: Tips for Travel in Russia

Russia is huge and I mean massively huge. It’s half of Europe going all the way to Alaska in North America. I recently travelled to Russia visiting the cities of Moscow & Kazan. Both these cities are beautiful and have their own unique charm. It’s got the European charm that everybody loves and at the same time it has something unique that sets it apart from rest of Europe.  Elements of the ‘Mysterious Russian Soul’ are there in the air and you can feel it when you interact with the people.  Below are some tips which I gathered from my trip.

Visa & visa registration:
Now the Russian tourist visa has a bit of red tape, at least in India. You can get a tourist visa of 30 days maximum and you ought to have proof of hotel reservations for your duration of stay. You need to have an official ‘Invite’ from a tourist agency. They usually charge you anything between 20$ – 30$ for the ‘Invitation’ and a little more if the Russian embassy in your city requires a hard copy.
Once you’re in Russia, ensure that you register your visa with the local post office or immigration office. If you stay in a hotel/hostel, they will do it for you as it’s their lawful obligation.

Internal Travel:
Internal travel in Russia is as modern as it gets. The preferred mode of transport between major cities is by train. Long haul journeys can be fun. It’s recommend trying the Trans- Siberian line. Moscow to Vladivostok is an interesting journey you can try! It would surely be value for money.  In Moscow the metro is great for internal transportation. Places which are further away from metro stations are easily connected with buses.  Kazan on the other hand is much smaller. I’d surely recommend visiting the stunning new Metro Stations.
Kazan Metro

(Kazan Metro)

People & Culture:

Hollywood movies have demonised the Russian and created a negative image of Russians all around the world. Well, the fact is that they are as human as anybody else. The women are drop dead gorgeous and the men are thorough gentlemen (most of them at least).  The culture of Russia is welcoming. There is a huge diversity with people having different ethnicities like Marie, Chuvash, Slavic, Tatar and many more. It’s amazing to see how the communist rule unified all these different ethnicities under one banner. People is Russia love to have a good time, enjoy life  and after all that is done, work hard. Every town in Russia will have a ‘Banya’ a community pool and you are sure to find a ‘Piva’ (Beer) Store next to it.  It’s not advisable to visit them, but if you’re adventurous by all means go for it.

Language:
The official language is Russian, however there a many dialects and sub-languages within the country. Almost like India, the language changes after every 30-50 kms.  Russian is easy to gather and understand if you are attentive.  You can try learning some of these words:

Pri-ve-yt – Hello
Zd-rast-we-tya – Formall Hello
Da – Yes
Neyt – No

Baton – Bread
Vada – Water
Kuri-tsa – Chicken
Spa-ci-bo – Thank you
Bye – Pokah

Money:

The Russians use the Rouble as their currency. Thankfully it trades at 2 INR to 1 RU.  Things are generally expensive in Russia. Sadly the simple jobs don’t pay so well but all the prices are of European standard.  If you eat simple and local you can easily survive in 400 roubles a day for food.

Did you find this helpful? Do leave your comments below, I’d love to chat up!