Bring me a souvenir! The best gifts from Russia
Everyone knows that going on a trip means a lot of expenses: between the flight, the accommodation, the museums and dinners out, you’ll feel like your pocket will be more and more lighter but be careful! It’s only an impression! Certainly experiences, new friends and unforgettable moments will be always with you and you will carry them forever without any problem, but not souvenirs… You need to put them in your bag and they can weigh a lot! And do not make the mistake of thinking you are immune to this mania, especially when you travel in Russia: before you go home, you would surely want to buy something that can make you think or say to your friends and relatives “Hey, I’ve been in Moscow!”. So here, especially for you, there is a list of the best souvenirs and gifts that you can buy for your loved ones or that you can simply leave on your bedside table, so you would never forget the Country of the czars.
Undoubtedly, matrioshki are the tourists’ favourite souvenirs and are universally recognised as the symbol of Russia. It is a set of painted wooden dolls in traditional dresses with a scarf on their heads, one inside another. Their number can reach even more than 50 pieces and nowadays their colours and styles can vary to the point that inside markets and shops you can find matrioshki sets representing politicians, famous people and cartoons.
Palekh boxes (Шкатулки Палех)
These lacquered boxes of various measures are made of papier-mâché and are the result of a special Russian art that was born in the villages of Palekh (Палех), Fedoskino (Федоскино), Mstera (Мстёра) e Kholuj (Холуй) and that has been circulating around since XVIII century. The miniatures are painted with bright colours over a black background and represent different historical or contemporary subjects, fables, troikas, popular dances and battles. The most famous palekh boxes are the ones decorated with fierce horses rearing up or ridden by figures dressed princely or with armours.
Ghzel Ceramics (Гжель)
This style of Russian ceramics with blue designs over a white background was originated at the beginning of the XIX century in the village of Ghzel, not far away from Moscow. Nowadays it is possible to find a very large number of this kind of ceramics, from house pottery for the house to figures of all kinds (also matrioshki!).
Ushanka (Ушанка) or shapka (Шапка)
Equally famous souvenirs are the traditional Russian hats called “ushanka” (Ушанка) or more simply “shapka” (Шапка). These fur hats are perfect to cope even with the bitter cold.
Pavlovo Posad Shawl (Павлопосадский платок)
This tipically Russian shawl too, very similar to a common foulard but larger, is ideal for warming up during Russian winters. Generally made of wool or cotton, it has very bright colours and is very loved by Russian women of all ages.
Fabergé eggs (Яйца Фаберже)
Even if they were invented by a French jeweler, these particular colorful eggs are for all intents and purposes Russian and have a long tradition. The first egg was commissioned by the czar Aleksander III for his wife in 1885 as a surprise for Easter and as a gift for their wedding anniversary. Now, of course, in the markets you won’t find high-end jewelry pieces, but don’t worry: they will look find anyway.
Don’t you dare go back home without putting in your bag a bottle of vodka. In case you don’t like it neat, you can find also different kinds of aromatised vodka: the lemon flavoured Limonnaya (Лимонная), which is one of the most traditional, the chili pepper flavoured Pertsovka (Пертсовка) and the Okhotnichya (Охотничья), that contains different flavourings, like juniper, ginger and clavs. Anyway, you should remember to buy also some caviar: only then you’ll be a real Russian.
This blog was brought to you by Lucia, currently studying Russian at Liden & Denz.