Read my previous post from the link below;
Post #3. My first morning in Volgograd. And a bit about Russian supermarkets.
So, having given in to some drinks out on this new city I found myself in, I was quite unsure of what really to expect.
Although I had been to Russia a couple of times prior to this, I had travelled independently and on quite a time-constraining schedule. As such, I hadn’t really experienced what ‘going out’ was like in Russia.
Of course, we all have our stereotypes of Russia when it comes to alcohol – vodka, vodka, vodka, and a little bit more vodka to finish off the first 3 bottles.
To be honest, I don’t mind drinking vodka straight from the bottle, although not in the quantities that Russians supposedly do it.
So, after a long and somewhat confusing day spent teaching English, I was pretty keen to go have a drink with my new colleagues.
David, one of the American teachers, and quickly a friend, took me straight to a German restaurant called ‘Bochka’. We had tried to get into one of the better German beer halls in Volgograd, ‘Bamberg’, but being Friday it was full.
Take a step back and think one sec. So the city that was absolutely decimated by Germany in WW2, where millions of lives were lost defending Russia from Germany, now has an abundance of German beer halls and restaurants? Yeah, okay. Alcohol is definitely the language of the universe 🙂
We got to Bochka, which, like most restaurants in Russia, was hiding behind a massive, ugly, uninviting black door, and down a flight of steps to a basement – and drank some below average beer. Being pretty early, it was pretty quiet, and after a few beers, we moved on to the next pub. The next stop was on the other side of Prospekt Lenina, in Ulitsa Lenina – a bar which quickly became one of my favourites. Alyaska.
One thing I had learnt from previous visits to Russia (and Bochka on my first night) was that Russia makes really disappointing beer. Although disappointing, the price is attractive, which mostly makes up for it. When you can get 500ml of beer, in a restaurant/pub/bar for 100ryb (~A$2) it almost doesn’t matter what your drinking!
Alyaska was about the only place in Volgograd which actually served good beer, and it happened to be a random mix of Russian craft beers and IPA’s from Denmark, Germany and occasionally the US.
The exterior had about all the charm of my apartment block and then less some, but inside it was kinda cool. We were into probably our second round when, something which became very common as time went on, occurred. As we were having a chat and drink, a group of Russian guys came over, and straight out asked us ‘Where you from’ in ‘Runglish’. Although the first few times this happened it felt kinda cool for people to be interested where you were from, eventually it got a little annoying when you just wanted to talk without being interrupted. However, about 90% of the time, whenever I would be out with friends speaking English, no fail, someone would come over and ask ‘The Question’.
Anyways, it turned out eventually that one of the guys’ girlfriend was an ex-student of Davids, and immediately this whole group of 15 odd Russians were seated with us. None of them could put more than a sentence together in English, and to be fair, I couldn’t do any better in Russian. Eventually, we (all) decided to go to another pub, Harats.
So myself, David, and our new 15 friends, all started the walk up the street to the next pub.
I was pretty drunk by this stage, and it would have been around midnight, less than 30 hours since I’d arrived, but I was managing pretty well.
Then probably one of the more random things of the night happened.
As we were walking up the street, I was being talked to by a few of the Russians, and none of us really knew what the other was saying. Then all of a sudden, a super old Lada came from a side alley, drove up, and parked across the footpath in front of us. Two super drunk Russian dudes got out of the car, started shouting and yelling, and got out a bottle of whiskey from the back seat. I was super confused, as everything was happening in Russian, and from what I understood, none of the guys or girls we were with knew who these 2 dudes were, but hey, whatever, they had whiskey.
And so, as you do at midnight, in a dark alley in an unknown city, we all got super excited and stood in this big circle drinking these guys’ whiskey from the bottle.
After a few minutes, the two dudes got back in their car, and drove off. I guess to go and have a drink with the next unsuspecting group of people they come across. True legend.
Harat’s was a super loud shipping container style Irish pub, and really expensive in comparison with the other places we had been. But by this stage, I was too drunk to care, and was really enjoying talking to all these new people.
After a while I noticed David had gone home, and I was actually alone with this group of Russians. Around 3am, we decided to leave, and go drink some more vodka in someones car. Naturally, I was excited, as hey, it was Vodka, and I was in Russia.
I don’t know how long we spent in this guys car drinking, but eventually I was super tired, and kinda wanted to sleep.
Even by Russian standards, none of the people I was with were in a state to drive a car (surprisingly drink driving laws are much stricter in Russia than Australia actually), and I honestly had no real idea of where we were or where I lived.
I really wanted to go home, but didn’t know where home was. One of the Russian guys was going to call a taxi for me, and when I got in it, I had no way to really explain to the driver where to go, other than by saying the name of the metro station which I remembered was close to my apartment.
Somehow I managed to get home, and actually ended up being able to direct him straight to my entrance to my flats.
This would have been around 5am, and by this stage, I was super drunk, and feeling like I was going to be pretty sick.
Once I’d gotten that out of my system, I finally, went to bed.
I’ve never been someone who enjoys going out a lot, but surprisingly, while living in Russia, I would be out 6 out of 7 nights a week (if not 7). I think a bit of it is the novelty of price – you could go and have 5 drinks and food for all of $10, but I think also it was just fun because it was different.
Unlike Australia where going out is sometimes a big deal, you have to go to some place, bring your ID, pay $15 for a cup of sprite with a drop of alcohol in it, and stand in a room with 150 other people, going out in Volgograd was so much more ‘normal’.
Sure, going out is still expensive for Russian’s earning an average salary, but there was something much more exciting about it there than at home in Australia. It felt more ‘free’. That and people didn’t go out to get drunk as they do here. It just comes naturally 😉
It’s not a competition to drink as much as possible in the shortest possible period, but more just how things are.
And my first night confirmed another thing for me – the stereotype that all Russian’s solely drink vodka and no other liquids is not true. Yes, Vodka is cheaper than water (quite literally in many cases), and yes it’s popular, but no, it’s not the blanket drink (although there were a few nights where I found it was!).
So, that ended my first real day in Volgograd, and night. I really didn’t have much time to think about what happened in the first two days I arrived in Russia. And I think that was a good thing. It helped me to settle in a little faster, and was actually really fun.
Waking up on Saturday was difficult, and the weekend then was quite miserable, as it poured with rain, and I still had no communication with anyone – my phone didn’t work and I didn’t have internet, but that then gave me a chance to explore my new home myself.
If there is one real thing I learned from this first night in Volgograd – it would be that alcohol is truly an international language 😉
And to be fair, there is a lot to say about Volgograd itself, but then that’s another post for another time.