While St. Petersburg has lots of earthshaking turnstile sights, simply visiting a neighborhood market is one of the most entertaining and enjoyable experiences a visitor can have. Part of my mission on this visit was to find some good markets that are accessible to tourists and add them to our guidebook chapter on St. Petersburg. Do you have any market memories from towns in the former Soviet Union to share? Photos by Trish Feaster, The Travelphile.com.
Pickles are a big part of any market scene, partly because when a Russian man thinks of vodka, he also thinks of pickles. Just like we enjoy chips or pretzels with beer, Russians have pickled vegetables with their firewater.
No offense to Russian cuisine, but even after the fall of the USSR, it's the people from Central Asia ("the 'stans") who bring spiciness and a fun twist to the otherwise predictable local menu. In markets you'll invariably see Uzbeks selling taste treats like these.
As a tourist, it's helpful to enjoy the little chores and rituals of everyday life. Just stopping by the corner mini-market and buying some handpicked blueberries gives us a chance to exchange smiles with a local who may never see a tourist, resulting in fun memories for all.
Chance encounters with sweet people on the street is a delightful contrast to the vast and overwhelming sights of the city. Trish had a beautiful and emotional encounter with this woman and writes about it in an entry titled "Never Judge a Babushka by Her Head Cover" at The Travelphile.com.
It was fun to be a "temporary local" in a very typical St. Petersburg neighborhood with our friend Steve Caron. With Russia's new affluence, fun little eateries and pastry shops are opening up right and left. Steve's joy at the rising vibrancy of his neighborhood was contagious. We had a tasty dinner at a restaurant called Schengen. Schengen is also the name of the treaty that lets most Europeans travel freely within "the Schengen group" of countries. Russians like Schengen because, if they can get to Finland (part of the Schengen group), they can roam all over the Continent. To them, Schengen symbolizes the freedom to travel. Join us as we hop across the street from the Schengen restaurant and into the yummy Cookie Shop.