Whilst travelling from St Petersburg to Moscow, we were invited to enjoy breakfast at a Russian family home. Up bright and early, although still feeling the effects of a vodka tasting session the night before, breakfast consisted of dried bread, some very fatty meat and a shot glass.
Russian hospitality is renowned, and our hosts were very welcoming. Breakfast started with a toast За здоровье! ‘to your health’ and a shot of vodka. Very warming!
It was clear we had two sides of the table at this point – the ones who happily downed the first shot and those who took one whiff and passed. It was left to us ‘shot downers’ to ensure this important moment in Anglo-Russian relations ended well, because then came shot number two.
By shot five, I began to appreciate the fatty meat, the first sight of which had made me feel queasy. At this point I had to admit defeat. Not so the elderly couple next to us who continued undaunted. All the while our Russian hosts were smiling and sharing their vodka.
By this point I had lost track of who or what we had toasted: ’to friendship’, ‘to women’ and maybe even ‘May we suffer as much sorrow as drops of wine we are about to leave in our glasses!’
I am just grateful we didn’t have to do the 10 departing toasts. Starting with a mark of respect to those at the table and working down to respecting those with the ability to leave!
Breakfast over, we were given a tour of the garden. It had taken the owners over 16 years to build their home and they were extremely proud of it. We were just grateful for fresh air.
This little episode is one of the reasons I love to travel. I love to find out about people and places and gain a better understanding of them. If it means drinking vodka for breakfast, then so be it. Culture and particularly that expressed through food and drink fascinates me.
In these days of uncertainty around foreign travel, a new initiative in London has meant that a staycation in the UK need not necessarily mean missing out on other cultures.
Women in Travel has launched a new collaboration with Intrepid/Urban Adventures: women-led tours which connects visitors with local people to uncover their stories and see London through a different lens.
Led by women who have overcome challenging circumstances, these give travellers a unique insight into the lives of immigrant communities in the capital.
There are three tours: ‘Ethiopian Flavours in Shepherd’s Bush’, ‘Balkan Tastes and Culture on the South Bank and ‘Moroccan tea ceremony and dessert (virtual)’. Food and drink are central to the three tours, with visitors taking part in a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony, trying delicious Balkan kofte and learning how to make the perfect Moroccan mint tea.
More information from Intrepid Urban Adventures