We tend to only hear about the extremes when the subject of Russia arises, whatever the particular subject. It is as if emerging news has to fit a certain mould for it to be repeatable. We’ve been considering the virtues of summer and winter ‘over there’ and the extremes therein. Frankly though; the scope of the country is so vast that you would be bound to find some location, somewhere that fits you in terms of climate.
Perhaps it’s the longevity and extremes of winter that appear – from the outside at least – to prompt Russians into making the most of the summer’s brief intensity. A case of making the most of it while it lasts. No surprises then that a quick scan for Russian habits and pursuits during the brief, brighter months reveals a strong propensity for outdoor activities with fishing, socialising around camp fires, barbecues, cycling, picnics, sports and ball games, heading for the beach/riverside/park and more; all on the collective menu. It’s as if the games console had never been invented. As much as I enjoy technology, this sounds fantastic.
For those of a nervous disposition, it’s worth highlighting the Russian thing that is: middle-aged man + Speedo combo. Good luck to them all: semi-naked and unashamed, but you may need ‘somewhere to put your eyes’ at times. Or just go with it: we’ve all got skin after all, right?
Another national thing is the Russian love of ice cream – in a wealth of flavours. It’s also a reportedly different experience than the Western equivalent, and for some global aficionados of the stuff: decidedly better. Russia’s equivalent of Belgium’s chocolates perhaps? Who knew?
The relative lack of air-conditioning (by American and Australian standards), coupled with crowded city streets oppressed by traffic fumes, makes Russia’s copious green spaces, the places to be in the heat; natural urban overflows to be enjoyed by all.
For those that really want to get out of the urban crush, there are a few favourite holiday spots both at home and abroad. The Black Sea city of Sochi – home to the 2014 Olympics – is an obvious choice on the Caucasian Riviera with a subtropical climate of warm/hot summers and mild winters. Mild winters in Russia? Who’d have thought it?!
Lake Baikal is another favourite with the ‘home crowd’ – and foreigners alike. We’ve looked at it before on the blog, but suffice to say that’s it’s a remarkable holiday location in Southern Siberia with its own mountains, weather system and wildlife. And yes, as that description implies: to call it a lake is something of an understatement – it’s roughly the size of England and more of an inland sea.
Locations on the Dnieper River are also favoured over the border in Ukraine as are locations in the Baltic States of Lithuania and Latvia – again, a relative stone’s throw away from European Russian cities.
Those with more cash may (typically) venture further out into Europe, North Africa or Asia – though with enough money then anywhere is possible of course. I suppose that it’s logical to assume that the further away from their homeland they are, the more money they must have spent, and therefore the wealthier they are likely to be? It’s dangerous and often lazy to draw such hard and fast conclusions, but with the ruble so cripplingly low, there may be some truth to such assumptions in the current economic climate.
Oddly though, the Russians don’t seem to be so welcome abroad as they might (putting Crimea and Ukraine aside, momentarily). With astonishingly blatant racism, some venues and tour operators display signs proclaiming “no Russians” on their itineraries. How bizarre? Something worth investigating another time. Although it’s something of a relief to hear of negative associations being shifted away from fellow Brits abroad – at least occasionally.
[Photo by alexfrance]