Once I first heard of “Torzhok,” I assumed it was some kind of primitive mauling weapon. It seems it’s really a small city of fifty,000 folks positioned 4 hours north of Moscow, and it’s a beautiful place the place I had the pleasure of spending the primary few days of the New Yr. It’s also house to the Berkuty, aka the Golden Eagles, Russia’s acrobatic helicopter workforce.
In the US, New Yr’s Eve is usually not a household vacation — in truth, most of us would most likely not need our relations wherever close to us throughout our NYE celebrations. In the US, we are likely to salute the New Yr with our pals and an enormous, heat champagne jacket. In Russia, New Yr’s Eve is extra similar to American Christmas. Sure, there are those that go bar-hopping and sure, there are many drinks, however till midnight in Moscow, the streets had been comparatively quiet as a result of everybody was at house with their family members.
As soon as the bells of the Kremlin chimed midnight nonetheless, there have been fireworks till the wee hours of the morning. The nightly salutes continued for at the very least the primary ten days of the 12 months, and I’ve a sneaking suspicion their noise was one of many predominant causes we left Moscow for a couple of days.
We left for Torzhok on New Yr’s Day and I seemed up the coordinates on my iPhone, studying that it was a mere 200 kilometers north of Moscow. I figured that it will be a simple two and a half hour journey. As soon as once more, Murphy’s Regulation (which appears to have a fairly robust grip on Russia) took its toll on us. The Russians aren’t mendacity once they make jokes about Russian roads — they don’t seem to be nice. It was additionally round minus ten Fahrenheit exterior, which result in our windshield wiper fluid freezing strong. I used to be impressed that my buddy Zhenya, who was behind the wheel, may see something. Moreover, there have been mile-long stretches of freeway the place the streetlights merely didn’t work. It took us round 4 hours to get to Torzhok, and by that point it was so chilly that my mustache froze over inside seconds when exterior. In fact, all of us shortly hurried to the bar in our lodge to defrost.
In Torzhok, the chilly dulls folks’s sense of urgency. We had been instantly informed that due to the scale of our social gathering (which was massive — round 20 folks, together with youngsters), we must wait about two hours for meals. So, we did what any logical particular person would do and ordered a bunch of beers. As the one non-Russian there, I discovered it attention-grabbing that I used to be the one one who ordered Russian beer (with everybody else choosing both Asahi or Tuborg). I’d quickly study there was a purpose for that, as (see earlier posts) Russian beer shouldn’t be recognized for its superior high quality. Apparently sufficient, with a little bit of inspection, we discovered that each Asahi and Tuborg, regardless of being from Japan and Denmark, respectively, are brewed on the Baltika brewery in St. Petersburg. Basically, we had been all ingesting the identical stuff, although I’m fairly certain my hangover the following day was worse than anybody else’s.
My hangover was additionally because of a brand new elixir that I hadn’t tried but, as I’d by no means seen it in Moscow. “Tverskaya Gorkaya Nastoyka” is a spirit created from cognac, apple juice, and varied herbs and roots. Briefly, it’s fairly unimaginable. Native to Tverskaya Oblast (the place Torzhok is positioned), it’s good for the vacations and chilly climate because of its warming results. Although cognac-based, it goes down like apple juice, and the delicate spice character from the herbs and roots distract the palate from the booze. I discovered that, in contrast to with many spirits, I didn’t want to combine this liquor as a result of the flavour was so gratifying. In fact, the following day I regretted not chasing it with something, however that’s one other story. Everybody was so happy by the drink that we determined to make it our beverage of alternative throughout our keep in Torzhok, and I’m pretty sure that every one of us introduced a couple of bottles again to Moscow with us.
Apart from the bottles, I introduced again a reminiscence of Russia that may stick with me ceaselessly, and no, it has nothing to do with something I drank.
On our final night time in Torzhok, we weren’t the one massive group within the restaurant/bar of our lodge. A number of tables over, there was a bunch of middle-aged and older people who had been hitting it fairly arduous all day. I used to be fearful that they might be so plastered by the point we sat down for dinner that we might encounter some unpleasantness. I’d say the alternative occurred. Although somewhat far gone, these people had been fairly nice and handed out sweet to all the youngsters within the restaurant. Most significantly, they sang.
One of many gents within the group had an accordion and was taking part in the identical chorus over and over, whereas every particular person on the desk took his or her flip singing. After about 10 minutes, I remarked that this was a somewhat lengthy track (and I’m a Led Zeppelin fan). My girlfriend laughed and informed me that it wasn’t a track a lot as a “Chyastushka” — a convention the place every particular person improvises lyrics to a brief verse and sings them to the identical chorus. The aim is to provide you with one thing humorous and/or political — a strategy to snort about historic or private hardships. It additionally appears that that is an avenue for vulgar humor, which isn’t practically as widespread in Russia as within the American canon of humor — or maybe I’m simply not hanging out with the proper folks. I sat in awe as everybody, with nice ease regardless of his or her intoxication, sang, drank, and laughed. I famous that none of those people had been taking a look at their telephones or watching TV, however had been fully current, sharing a uncommon human second of previous custom.
My girlfriend requested me what the matter was, assuming that I used to be in a nasty temper. I answered on the contrary, noting that my pals, household, and I’ve by no means performed something like a Chyastushka. I virtually felt like I had been excluded from one thing, which led to the hope that all of us might discover our personal “Torzhok,” which means that for just a bit whereas, we will put our telephones away, neglect the exterior noise and bustle of our day by day lives and get again to having fun with the corporate that we’re retaining — and some small glasses of Tverskaya Gorkaya whereas we’re at it.
С Новым годом (Completely happy New Yr)!