What is typical of Russia? Caviar, fur hats, vast land, Siberian cold, the Kremlin and Red Square in Moscow, novels by Tolstoy, music by Tchaikovsky, the balalaika, the kozachok dance, Father Frost, sleighs (troikas), pioneers of space travel, matryoshka dolls and, of course, vodka.
The vastness of Russia
Covering an area of more than 17 million square kilometers, Russia is the largest country in the world and stretches over two continents, Europe and Asia. From West to East, the country is approximately 9,000 kilometers wide and has nine time zones. When it’s 9 a.m. in Kaliningrad, Europe, clocks in the Russian Far East point to 6 p.m.!
The capital of Russia is a huge, vibrant city with more than ten million inhabitants. Right in the middle of the city is the heart of Russian politics, the Kremlin, which stands next door to the Red Square with its majestic St. Basil’s Cathedral, the GUM department store and Lenin’s Mausoleum. The real architectural gem runs below the city, the Moscow Metro whose stations are also referred to as the “underground palaces of the people.”
Culture and technology
Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and Solzhenitsyn – Russian authors have written world literature. The Russian Classical Ballet is also famous all over the world. Training for dancers is intense but the result is a feast for the senses. Russia’s most famous composer was Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840-1893), who composed such ballets as “Swan Lake” and “The Nutcracker.”
Matryoshkas, small wooden dolls of women that are placed inside one another, are popular among tourists. Space travel is a more modern part of Russian culture. The first human to travel into space was Juri Gagarin from Russia in 1961. And the “Mir” space station, which circled the earth’s orbit from 1986 to 2001, is also world famous.
Sport in Russia
Two major sporting events are coming up in Russia: the Football World Cup will be held in Russian stadiums in 2018, and the Olympic Winter Games will be coming to Sochi on the coast of the Black Sea in 2014.
Soccer and ice hockey are the country’s national sports, but Russian chess players are also hard to beat. Former World Chess Champion Garri Kasparov leads the way as one of the best players in the history of chess.
Saint Petersburg – Venice of the North
Saint Petersburg is certainly one of the most beautiful cities in Russia and Europe. Its many bridges and canals make it the “Venice of the North.” The State Hermitage Museum is as significant as the Louvre Museum and Nevsky Avenue (“Newskij-Prospekt”) is also well worth seeing.
Enjoying Russia – more than just vodka
The Russians don’t only enjoy drinking the famous transparent grain spirit. What many people don’t know is that Russia is predominantly a tea country. Russian cuisine is known for soups and stews that are full of flavor, such as borscht and solyanka. Pastries also feature on Russian menus: buckwheat pancakes called “blini” and pierogies. Finally, Russians also eat caviar, fish eggs from sturgeon – the “black gold” of this enormous, diverse country.