Food & drink discoveries: kissel and shchi

Believe it or not, after two and a half years in Russia, I tried two new traditional foods last weekend!


Kissel is a drink made of fruit, usually berries. It reminded me a bit of mors, but it was thicker and chunkier. There were two options on the menu, a hot and a cold drink. Given the cold weather, I decided to go for the hot one. Good choice!



This is a soup whose name doesn’t only look impossible to pronounce, but actually is! (At least for me.) It’s written with the letter щ, and the difference with the letter ш still remains a mystery for me today. Anyway, the soup itself no longer is a mystery now! Shchi is a cabbage soup. It usually contains meat (what doesn’t in Russian cuisine?) but I went for a ‘Lenten’ (vegan) version with mushrooms. Very tasty!



More signs of spring

In addition to rising temperatures and sunshine (at least on some days), green grass and budding flowers, there are some more signs that spring is here.

  • No more central heating
    Heating is central in almost all buildings. This means you cannot turn it on or off for your individual apartment and you cannot set the temperature lower or higher either. Before you start thinking how cold we must get in winter … not at all! The temperature is set at a crazy level and it’s always very warm inside. I really don’t understand this. First of all, it’s not ecological at all. But secondly, when you’re dressed for -25 outside, +25 inside is really unbearable. Anyway, what I actually wanted to tell you was that in spring, central heating is completely shut down and is only started again in autumn. Luckily, most apartments do have some individual climate control, mostly in the form of air conditioning that can also be set to heating instead of cooling. So do we! And… even better: we also have floor heating in the bathroom! 🙂
  • New road surface marking
    Well, actually I can omit the word ‘new’ because most roads don’t have any marking at all. No, that’s not only small unpaved roads in the countryside. But also big 3 or 4-lane (you can never tell) roads leading in and out of the city and huge roundabouts with 9 exits like Yaroslavl’s Red Square. Crazy, right? And dangerous!
    Yaroslavl Red Square
    And that’s only one of the reasons I don’t like driving here… Every spring, however, I get really excited because in some places, new road surface marking are painted. It makes life so much easier!! This year, I noticed it especially at the intersections on Moskovsky Prospekt, the big road to Moscow. Now at least you know where to wait for turning left or right or for driving straight ahead. Never knew I could be so enthusiastic about road markings. 🙂 It would be even better if they also painted some markings on the parts in between the intersections, so it would be clear not only where to wait but also where to drive… but let’s not ask too much! 😉
  • Tourist season has started
    When we first moved here, I couldn’t believe there was tourism in Yaroslavl. Hardly anyone speaks English here so having a bite to eat or buying a souvenir is a challenge, let alone getting some information about the city. I thought that it was mainly Russian tourists from other cities that came to visit. In the meantime, I discovered that some restaurants do have an English menu, that there even are a few waiters who speak some English and some tour guides who speak quite excellent English. We now even have two books about Yaroslavl in English! And they’ve recently also placed some tourist information panels with indications in both Russian and English.

    We’ve also moved to the city center, in the meantime, near the embankment of the Volga river, which turns out to be the heart of Yaroslavl’s tourist center. There’s a terminal for big cruise ships with a tourist market right next to it and also along the embankment, there are cute little stalls selling souvenirs and local products. When we go for a walk with Lucas, we often see groups of tourists wearing earbuds and hear some English, French or German. Feels a bit strange … We’re definitely not locals yet but cannot identify with the tourists either! 🙂


Happy Easter!

This year, orthodox Easter exceptionally falls on the same date as western Christian Easter. As you may know, the orthodox church still follows the Julian calendar, while all other Christians switched to the Gregorian calendar a couple of centuries ago.

Russian Easter traditions include church services and religious processions (of course), baking kulich (Easter bread) and painting eggs, which are traditionally dyed red, the colour of the blood of Christ, using onion peels.


On Easter Sunday, people greet each other with “Христос воскрес!” (Khristos voskres; Christ has risen) and reply “Воистину воскрес!” (Voistinu voskres; Truly He has risen). After that, they hug and kiss three times, for belief, hope and love.

Fortunately for most people participating it, but sadly for me, Easter also means the end of Lent. As I’ve written before, Lent is a real feast for veggies here, who are shamefully neglected the rest of the year. You can find some vegetarian products (like plant-based milk and dairy-free mayonnaise) in supermarkets, which are often marked as “постный” (Postnyi; Lenten) and most restaurants have a separate vegetarian Lenten menu.

Especially this year, I was very glad that in Russia, Lenten products and dishes are mostly even vegan instead of ‘just’ vegetarian as I set myself the challenge of not eating any animal products for 46 days. If you wonder how I managed not to starve, I invite you to have a look at my Instagram account.

Who knows maybe this was the start of long-term dietary change, like the Dagen Zonder Vlees (Days Without Meat) inspired me to go veggie a couple of years ago. However, I don’t think that’s very likely as long as we’re still in Russia, where you have to be very resourceful once Easter has passed…

Picture taken from here.

Spring’s here!

It finally seems that the long winter has ended and spring’s here!


Picture from our apartment’s garden. Freshly planted! Noticed them while I was sitting on a recently installed bench near the entrance to our flat, waiting for Lucas to wake up from his nap after going for a walk:


So nice to be able to sit outside for a while and not freeze! Today the weather was even much better than in Belgium…


But unfortunately we can’t get overly excited because… there’s been snow announced again for Monday. But hey, we’ll enjoy it while it lasts!

On the radio

Belgian music channel Studio Brussel has just held a special week dedicated to Belgian music, ‘De week van eigen kweek’. (‘Eigen kweek’ literally means ‘homegrown’.) I’m a big fan, I think we’re really spoiled by how much excellent music there’s made in our little country and listening to it always makes me feel a bit at home.

One evening, the presenters asked the audience where and when they had ever heard Belgian music abroad. I remembered writing a blog post about it a while ago, looked it up again to refresh my memory and texted them. And they called me right away! I first had a little chat with one of the two presenters on the phone and before long, the other one was interviewing me live on air.

It was only very short, of course, but it was fun to do. I explained we live in Yaroslavl and where that is, which Belgian artists I’ve heard here and where, that some Belgian music is known here but that most people don’t actually know it’s Belgian and that I do my best to promote it 🙂

So far my minute of fame. Oh, they did play Selah Sue for me, too. You can listen to the interview and the song here.

If you’d like to know more about our great Belgian music scene, I can highly recommend this section of the blog of a friend of mine. Enjoy!

You know you’ve been in Russia for a while if… 

… this feels like spring:

I went for a walk with Lucas today and even hesitated to take my hat and gloves. Fortunately I did. After 15 minutes I put on my gloves and 15 minutes later also my hat 🙂 

That’s not un-Russian, though. I’ve hardly seen anyone without a hat today. You might think that Russians can stand the cold better, but I think that’s just because they dress warmer! 

Story of the week – We’re in the newspaper again!

Remember we were in the newspaper Het Belang Van Limburg in the beginning of this year? We were in it again last weekend! This time it was in an article about how Christmas is celebrated around the world. I must admit I was a bit jealous of the other emigrants in warmer countries talking about swimming pools and iced drinks 🙂