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 🙂



Russia’s love for ice cream

I heard on the radio that today is Ice Cream Day at GUM, a famous shopping centre on the Red Square in Moscow. Too bad I’m in Yaroslavl at the moment!

GUM is one of my favourite places in Moscow. Not for shopping – it only features exclusive stores with insane price tags – but because it is such an amazing building that’s always beautifully decorated depending on the season. Its architecture reminds me a bit of the Galéries royales St Hubert in Brussels. It was built before the Soviet era, at the end of the 19th century. In the 1920s Stalin converted it into office space but in 1953, it reopened as a department store. Now it’s difficult to imagine the queues there must have been back then, because most of today’s luxury stores are empty nearly every time I go there.

Here’s a video showing what GUM looks like during the flower festival that’s going on right now.

Although I visit GUM almost every time I’m in Moscow, I had my first ice cream there only a couple of weeks ago. At first I didn’t know what a big deal it was to try an ice cream at GUM and by the time I had learnt about it, it was wintertime and my tongue was one of the only body parts that wasn’t frozen yet, which I wanted to keep that way. Now that’s a very un-Russian attitude because Russians love ice cream, whatever the season or the weather. You can find ice cream stands any time anywhere and they’re even selling ice cream on the train, all year round.

Russia’s love for ice cream dates back to the 1930s, when the first ice cream factory in Russia was opened after the Russian Ministry of Food Supply had visited the US. The idea was to create a mass-produced product at a reasonable price for everyone to enjoy. Ice cream was taken so seriously that a state-wide standard for manufacturing was introduced in 1941 to ensure its quality. According to the standard, the ice cream could include only natural ingredients and could contain no chemicals of any kind. These strict rules meant that the taste of the different types of ice cream available were the same everywhere, so it was very recognizable and therefore nostalgic for Russians today.

Many of the Soviet ice creams are still sold nowadays. The most legendary one is that from GUM, which traditionally comes in crème brûlée, chocolate or vanilla flavors and is served in a waffle cone. I tried the chocolate one (of course) and was pleasantly surprised. After having tasted fresh gelato in Italy, my expectations weren’t too high. But the taste was pretty good and very creamy. (Probably because of the high fat content but let’s forget about that!) And the best part of it? An ice cream only costs 50 rubles (about 60 eurocents). I think I’ll make an ice cream at GUM part of my standard routine when visiting Moscow!

Picture taken from


Russians read Tolstoy’s War and Peace in 60-hour TV marathon

More than 1,300 Russians are reading Leo Tolstoy’s notoriously lengthy novel “War and Peace” aloud in a 60-hour marathon on national television and radio as well as in a live webcast.

The public readings, pre-recorded at locations all over Russia, from the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg to remote Arctic islands, have been coordinated by Tolstoy’s great-great-granddaughter. They feature Russians from all walks of life, from schoolchildren, gas workers and sports personalities to scientists, armed forces staff and cosmonauts.

On Thursday morning, three-minute passages from the novel were read aloud by a pop singer in Moscow, a jeweler in Nepal, an airline company owner in eastern Siberia, an actor in Chechnya and a baker in the Far East.

The organizers invited French actress Fanny Ardant to read the numerous French-language passages in the novel, which describes both the Napoleonic wars and French-speaking high society in imperial St. Petersburg.

Among the upcoming highlights are the readings by Tolstoy’s descendants at the family estate south of Moscow and a recorded message from cosmonaut Sergei Volkov who is currently at the International Space Station.

From: Daily Mail and BBC News

Best translators of Russian literature rewarded at ceremony in New York

That’ll be me in a couple of years! Or not … 😉

The laureates of the biggest translation prize for the best translation of classical and contemporary Russian literature, the Read Russia English Translation Prize 2015, have been announced in New York.

Oliver Ready was named as the best translator for contemporary Russian literature for his translation of Before and During by Vladimir Sharov. Before and During was published in Russia in 1993 and is an action-packed historical mystery.

Vladimir SharovThe jury made a unanimous decision: “If achieving the perfect is impossible then the superior is achievable. And that is exactly what Oliver Ready has done in translating the essence of Vladimir Sharov’s novel in English. Ready has been able to catch the convoluted ideas of the narrator, which combine his love for Christ and Lenin, who simultaneously prays for the sinful Ivan the Terrible, and attempts to come to terms with the Bolshevik legacy.”

The jury members took note of the resounding success of two translations of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina which were done last year by renowned translators Marian Schwartz and Rosamund Bartlett. They received the special Hero of Literary Translation prize.

Read Russia, founded in 2012, is an initiative based in Moscow, New York, and London that celebrates Russian literature and culture. Read Russia gives international audiences fresh opportunities to engage – in person, on screen, and online – with Russia’s literary leaders and heritage.

I translated this from: В Нью-Йорке наградили лучших переводчиков русской литературы

Just kidding, I found the English article here. 😉

Belgium shares first place with France at a Russian vodka event

The vodka brand Mamont Vodka hosted a culinary competition in Moscow on Tuesday night, challenging chefs from across Eurasia to capture the essence of the vodka’s Siberian heritage in a food and cocktail pairing.

The Belgian team, Arie Visscher and Dries Botty, had prepared a salad with king crab and caviar, accompanied by a cocktail named “Yukagir” in honor of the only mammoth of its type found to date.

As the judges were unable to declare a single winning pair, they eventually announced that the Belgian team and the French team would share this year’s honors.

They’ll take part in an all-expenses-paid expedition to Siberia to search for a mammoth led by a “professional mammoth hunter” and accompanied by travel-blogger, photographer and travel writer Sergei Dolya.