German products, Germany

Mixing it up at Mix-Markt– your source for products from the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe!

Recently, one of my husband’s colleagues told him about a grocery chain called Mix-Markt.  Mix Markt specializes in foods, wines, beers, and spirits from the former Soviet Union and eastern European countries like Poland and Romania.  Bill’s co-worker knows how much we like Georgian wines and Armenian brandies, so he hooked up Bill with a link and an idea for today’s excursion.

There are 297 stores all over Europe, though the chain was founded in 1997 in Örlinghausen, district Lippe in North-Rhine Westphalia.  Locally, Mix-Markt has outlets in Böblingen, Stuttgart, Tamm, Reutlingen, and Nagold.  We live very close to Nagold, but decided to visit the Böblingen store because we figured it would be more convenient to most of my regular readers in the Stuttgart area.  We were also hoping to try a new restaurant for lunch.  Below are some pictures from our little field trip.

The Mix Markt is in a rather busy area of town.  Right next to it is a Turkish market that we didn’t explore.  The Mix Markt has a lot of Turkish products, anyway.  Parking is a bit scarce in the area and the store is in what looks like a weird German incarnation of a strip mall, only instead of it being a strip, it’s more like a doughnut… shops in a circle with a small courtyard in the middle.

Impressive selection of beers from Russia, Poland, Ukraine, and Pilsner Urquell from the Czech Republic.  Sadly, I didn’t see any Kotayk, which is an Armenian beer.  But we came for wine and wine we found!

Mix Markt has a lot of Georgian wines, which are uniformly excellent!

And they also have Armenian brandies, although none by Ararat, which is probably the most popular Armenian brandy.

They even had Polish bison grass vodka, although I don’t think this is the stuff you can get in Poland, which actually has a blade of grass in it.  Many places, including the United States, don’t allow authentic bison grass vodka because the grass contains trace amounts of warfarin, which is a blood thinner.  This vodka was probably artificially flavored.

Armenian brandy can be purchased in fancy bottles.  You’d see these in Armenia, too.  They make interesting gifts.

Ukrainian Sekt.  I haven’t tried this, but I do remember Russian bubbly to be very sweet and cloying.  I doubt I’d enjoy this… but I might try it sometime.

Russian candy!  You can mix your own!  I never got into Russian chocolate when I lived in Armenia because I preferred the occasionally smuggled German chocolate.  But there must be Russians in Germany who miss it very much.  It smelled delicious.

Want some fish?  Mix Markt has you covered with lots of salmon and smoked fish.  You can also buy meats and sausages there.

And there’s even Uzbek canned meat called Plow.

Sausages galore, from all over…  Next to this case is one full of pretty cakes.

And there’s also Russian pop music for your collection.

There’s an entire aisle devoted to sunflower seeds, which are a very popular snack in former Soviet countries.

You can even get glass AK-47s full of booze– Polish vodka or Armenian brandy!  This might make a fun white elephant gift for your next Christmas party.

I found this candy bizarre…  It appears to be a gummy type confection, but it’s supposed to look like burgers.  Weird concept.  Who wants to eat a gummy candy that tastes like a cheeseburger?  I’m sure these are actually fruity… but maybe burgers are more fun than fruits are.  Reminded me of Bubble Burgers from the late 70s.

 

This wasn’t in the Mix Markt– I just remember these from when I was a kid.  Bubble Burgers were bubble gum “burgers” that came in little plastic cases.  I don’t think I ever tried one, but they probably didn’t taste like burgers, either.

They even had melons from Uzbekistan…

And brochures about trips to Russia.

This is just across the breezeway, if you’re wanting more Turkish choices.

 

After we picked up our haul, we headed to downtown Böblingen, parked at the Marktplatz, and had lunch at the Seegärtle Restaurant-Cafe-Bar.  This eatery overlooks the manmade lake in Böblingen.  It has a nice Biergarten, which was open today, but we decided to eat inside because it was a little chilly outside.

Bill looks at the menu, which mostly consists of burgers and sandwiches.  They also have soup, salad, and a few Swabian specialties.

There’s a bar and they played VH1 Classic videos, which I really enjoyed.  I’d rather see that than football.

I had a pastrami sandwich.  It was pretty good, with its pastrami, cheese, kraut, lettuce and “special sauce”.  I was full after half, though, since this also came with some excellent fries.

Bill had a cheeseburger.  It was supposed to be made with 100% beef, but he said it was “gemischtes”, meaning it was beef mixed with pork.  I was glad I didn’t order the burger, although he said it tasted fine.

The fries were the bomb, though.  Service was fast and friendly, too.  Total bill was 32 euros.

Outside…  

If it had been slightly warmer, we would have enjoyed outside dining.  I was liking the 80s era videos, though… at least until Kiss played.  Gene Simmons and his flickering tongue aren’t exactly appetizing.

As we were headed back to the car, we passed this Croatian “Feinkost”.  It’s maybe two doors from the restaurant.

We went inside and bought three more bottles of wine, this time from Croatia.  They had some interesting liqueurs, too.

This is the rest of the store.  There’s not much to it, but the lady who rang us up was super friendly.  I was glad to give her business.  They also had Croatian football fan gear.

This was today’s haul.  Lots of wine, some brandy, juice, and some mustard from Russia…

I can’t wait to see Bill try this.  I have a feeling it’s going to blow his brains out.  I once gave my Armenian neighbors quite a laugh when I tried Russian mustard for the first time.  It’s extremely hot stuff that will clear out your sinuses.

 

I’m looking forward to seeing the Nagold Mix Markt.  There’s also one located in our new location of Wiesbaden, so we should be well set with Georgian wine when we move north.  If you live in Europe and want a little something different, you should drop by Mix Markt for a visit.  You might find some new treats!

     

Standard
Germany, restaurant reviews, Stuttgart

Russian lunch at Veranda Restaurant in Holzgerlingen…

This morning, Bill was occupied bottling his latest homebrew, while I was occupied by a nap and a nightmare.  When I woke up, it was early afternoon and there were a lot of clouds in the sky.  Bill asked me what I wanted to do today.  I took a look at the clouds and decided today was the day to try Veranda Restaurant in Holzgerlingen.

The sign out front.  On Sundays, there’s plenty of parking.

Although today was the first time we’d ever tried this restaurant, we have actually eaten in the venue before.  In May 2016, Bill and I went there when it was called Ocean’s First.  It was a seafood restaurant in those days and boasted a very nice looking terrace.  Since it’s on the third floor of an office building, it has kind of a nice view of a rather industrial part of Holzgerlingen.  Ocean’s First abruptly ceased operations a few months after our visit, though, much to our chagrin.  We really enjoyed our one dinner there.

A few months ago, my German friend Susanne alerted me to the restaurant’s new incarnation.  Veranda Restaurant specializes in Russian cuisine…  Well, if I’m honest, it’s more like cuisines of the former Soviet Union.  There are Russian, Ukranian, Georgian, and even Uzbek specialties on the menu.  During the workweek, it appears that they also offer some choices that are more for German businesspeople.  I checked their Facebook and noticed that they are open on Sundays from 11:00am until 10:00pm.  Since it was getting a little late for lunch, I suggested that we visit.

Come on in!

We arrived at the restaurant at about 2:30pm or so.  There were a few folks there, including one guy who used to work in Bill’s office, but was later moved.  It was a little awkward when we first walked in.  A young lady was sitting by a computer and seemed surprised to see us.  Then an older lady who didn’t speak any English came out of the kitchen.  They both encouraged us to get the brunch buffet, which runs 23 euros and is all you can eat, complete with drinks.  But I looked at what was on the tables and decided I’d rather order off the menu.

The older lady seemed a little concerned at that, although it was permissible.  I think she was worried we wouldn’t understand the menu, although they had one in English.  Then she handed us the barbecue menu, which is offered at certain times during the week (after 2:00pm on Sundays and after 5:00pm on weekdays).  I said, “Shashlik!” and her eyes lit up.  She asked if I speak Russian.  I don’t… only a few words, mostly consisting of curse words I learned in Armenia.  I learned Armenian in Armenia, which even seemed to confuse Armenians, who wondered why I’d learn Armenian when Russian is so much more portable.  But I do know a few words of Russian… and it turned out that made a difference.

So we sat down inside, only because it looked like it might rain.  I probably would have preferred to sit outside, since they were playing manic electro dance music in English that lent little to the ambiance.  If it had been Russian dance music, maybe it would have been slightly more authentic.

Bill makes a decision… the menu is quite extensive, with all kinds of choices.  They had everything from Russian to Uzbek specialties.

 

I’m always a little nervous about new restaurants, especially when there are a lot of selections on the menu that include the dreaded mushroom.  I figured I was pretty safe with pork BBQ (shashlik), which came with lavash (flatbread, kind of like very thin tortilla) and raw onions.  I got a side of shashlik sauce to go with it (extra charge of two euros).  Bill went with a Georgian chicken dish that came with a spicy pepper sauce.  He also got a side of roasted potatoes, which we shared.

We also split a bottle of Spanish red wine and sparkling water.  I was a little surprised that they didn’t have any Georgian or Armenian wines on the menu, but then they can be kind of hard to get and probably wouldn’t sell that well anyway.  People in the west are only now learning how good Caucasian wines are.  Because Bill was chatting with his former co-worker, the proprietor had me try the wine.  She lit up when I said, “Spasiba” (Russian for “thank you”).

It took awhile for lunch to be ready, but it was well worth the wait…

This was a complimentary “amuse”.  Basically like a very fancy style tuna salad, with potatoes, carrots, peppers, fish, eggs, and a very light application of mayonnaise.  It was very good, albeit a little filling.  

While we waited for our main courses, Bill and I discussed a possible trip to Armenia soon.  A friend of mine has been visiting this week and has me all excited about how much Yerevan has changed since I lived there from 1995-97.  My former Peace Corps student is now a director at Peace Corps Armenia and my very first Armenian teacher is now in charge of language training for the new Volunteers.  Naturally, I want to go back and see them, but I also want to see how much Yerevan has changed… and maybe show Bill where I spent two difficult but worthwhile years in my youth.  Maybe we will be able to go in October.  We’ll see.

Bill’s delicious Georgian chicken… it was perfectly roasted, very moist, and so different!  And the sauce that came with it was delightful!  The roasted potatoes were extra, but worth the addition, especially since we shared them.  

My shashlik… I saw the chef take the pork out on the veranda to grill it.  It was plenty of pork, perfectly cooked and juicy.  If I’d wanted to, I could have ordered pork with vegetables, barbecued chicken, lamb or beef.  They also had barbecued vegetables.

 

There were a few tempting looking desserts on the menu, but I was too full to consider them.  Also, by the time we finished eating, we were the only ones left in the restaurant.  Our total bill came to about 62 euros before the tip, but one can certainly get in and out of there for significantly less money.  Prices are very reasonable.  I do hope more people discover this gem in Holzgerlingen.  The food is good; the service is attentive and warm; and it’s such a nice change from Greek, Italian, and German food.

I think Veranda might have a better chance at staying in business than Ocean’s First did, mainly because Ocean’s First was selling fish and didn’t have freezers; therefore they depended on what could be delivered locally.  The food was very good–especially the huge lobster I had there– but I think it didn’t offer enough different stuff to attract people from all over and business was too slow.  Veranda is truly different because it’s Russian/ former Soviet Union food.  That makes it unique and, perhaps, gives it more of a chance at long term success.

If you’re looking for a change and don’t mind a drive to Holzgerlingen, I would highly recommend Veranda.  And if you speak a little Russian, you will score points!  The proprietor lit up again as I said “Do svidaniya!” on the way out.  I may have to add to my vocabulary besides Russian cuss words.  Incidentally, the young lady we saw behind the computer waited on us and spoke some English, so really, language should not be a barrier!  I just think maybe that restaurant doesn’t get a lot of Americans… yet.

Standard
Czech Republic

Cheap thrills in the Czech Republic! Part three

Saturday morning, we woke up bright and early.  Bill went hunting for a bakery and didn’t find one.  He did find a small mom and pop shop, though, where he found some rolls that kind of resembled hot dog buns (but tasted much better).  He had scored some ham, cheese, and eggs the night before at the neighborhood Coop, which is tiny, but has the basic stuff.  Our rental had one of those coffee pod machines, which my coffee purist husband hates.  He resolved to pick up a French press later.

After breakfast, we beagle proofed the house and set off for Plzen.  Bill took a couple of turns and we suddenly found ourselves confronted by a truly awesome sight…  Who would have thought that little Senec would have an Airpark?  We pulled up at the same time a young family with a little boy arrived.  The boy was obviously very excited to check out all of the old planes, helicopters, and tanks.  I was excited, too.  Some of the stuff they had there was flat out awesome.  The fact that we weren’t expecting to find this place made it even cooler.  I mean, where else but in a former communist country would you find huge airplanes on display on the side of the road?

The boy rang the bell and a tall, older woman came out.  She didn’t speak any language other than Czech and the signage was mostly in Czech.  I think I saw one or two English signs and a few more German signs.  The rest was all local lingo…  Fortunately, my husband was a tanker in the Army, so he knows about this stuff.  He especially took great pleasure in telling me about the tanks.

There are a couple of areas in the park that cost extra to visit.  There’s one area that requires a guide and has a plane you can pay extra to see the inside of.  Since the lady on duty didn’t speak our language, we decided to stick with the basic tour.  It was pretty frigid outside, anyway.  There were a couple of planes where you could climb up on ladders and look into the cockpits.

I should mention that the Czech Republic has kind of a special place in Bill’s heart.  At the beginning of his Army career, back in the mid to late 1980s, he was posted at both Ansbach and Vilseck.  Part of his job, in those days before the Berlin Wall fell, was to guard Germany’s border with the Czech Republic.  He said there were times in that era when he and his buddies were sure the Russians would invade and they’d be killed due to being outnumbered.  I remember so well what it was like for Bill the first time he crossed the Czech border in 2008.  He said it was very surreal, since he could easily remember a time when that was an unthinkable thing to do.  I must admit, having grown up during the Cold War era, it’s a little strange for me, too.

The entrance.  It even hearkens back to the days before communism fell.

Stalin is watching you!

Missiles!

For an extra fee, you and three friends can climb the steps and see inside this Soviet era plane.  Since I flew in one in 1995 on the way to Yerevan, Armenia, I didn’t need to see it.

Extra charge for this exhibit… maybe if it hadn’t been so cold outside… and our guide could communicate with us or vice versa.  But we were content to look at the planes over the gate.

Bill was explaining the finer points of missiles to me.

We spent about a half an hour here, I think… give or take a few minutes.  It was really cold out and I had to rely on my eyes to tell me a truncated story.  Still, I think this would be an awesome place to explore on a warmer day with your buddies who are fascinated by aircraft, tanks, missiles, war stuff… you know, stuff military folks dig.  It’s well worth a visit if you visit Plzen.  I think it was probably the highlight of our Saturday, which turned out to be a lazy day.  After we checked out the planes, we drove to the city with big plans of touring Pilsner Urquell’s brewery or a brewery museum or something.  But we got waylaid by lunch.  More on that in the next post, which I’ll probably write tomorrow.

Standard
Uncategorized

In honor of my departed friend, Patrick… A review of The Singing Revolution

I posted on my main blog about my friend, Patrick Killough, who died yesterday after a battle with leukemia.  The review below prompted my first online meeting with Patrick, who was a delightful man who lived near Asheville, North Carolina.  He enjoyed the movie after reading my review, so I’ve decided to repost it here in his honor.

The Singing Revolution… a very moving film about Estonia’s journey to freedom

Jan 10, 2010 (Updated Jul 20, 2011)
Review by   

Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating:Excellent

  • Action Factor: 
  • Special Effects: 
  • Suspense: 

Pros:Very inspiring and moving documentary about Estonia.

Cons:None.

The Bottom Line:The Singing Revolution shows how the power of music can overcome oppression and despair.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie’s plot.

Last summer, my husband Bill and I took our very first cruise. Although we were both hoping for a trip to the Greek Isles, we ended up with a Baltic itinerary. One of the exciting ports of call we visited was Tallin, Estonia. I was particularly interested in seeing Estonia because it was once one of the fifteen republics that had made up the Soviet Union. In the mid 1990s, I spent two years of my life living in another former Soviet republic, Armenia. I wanted to see how Estonia was faring since the fall of the once great Soviet empire.

Tallin, Estonia turned out to be a wonderful place. Bill and I wandered around the old town, very impressed by how well preserved the medieval city was. Although we only got to spend a few hours there, I found myself mentally planning to come back someday. Then, the other day, while dreaming of my next trip to Europe, I read a CNN travel article about Estonia.  The author mentioned renting the movie The Singing Revolution, a documentary film about Estonia’s great love for singing and how it helped them achieve independence. Intrigued, I immediately went to iTunes and downloaded the film so I could see it for myself.

The premise

Estonia has a long, complicated history as a land that has been passed around and fought over by a number of different peoples. It has been a Swedish, Danish, and Russian territory at different times in its history. In the last 100 years, it was invaded by Josef Stalin and the Soviet Union as well as Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. In the wake of these invasions, thousands of ethnic Estonians were killed, sent to prison in Siberia, or just plain disappeared. Thousands more fled to other countries, hoping to be able to return to their homeland someday.

The Singing Revolution introduces viewers to several people who were directly influenced by Estonia’s history. We meet a conductor whose grandparents were killed during the Soviet invasion. We meet a female conductor who, along with her family, was herself sent to a Siberian prison camp at age 14. We also meet a man who was considered a “Forest Brother”; he and other men lived in the forests of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania for years and worked against the Soviet occupation through guerilla warfare.

The film very touchingly paints a picture of the way Estonia was “Russified”; Russians were moved into the country as a way to homogenize the culture and stamp out the Estonian majority. People lived in oppression, unable to express themselves freely. For fifty years, life went on this way until the late 1980s, when Mikhail Gorbachev was the President of the Soviet Union. Gorbachev sought to reform the Soviet Union and improve its lagging economy through perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness). Through these new reforms, more freedom of expression was allowed among the Soviet people. Estonians now had the power to protest.

Starting in 1987, Estonians began to demonstrate by singing. In 1988, as many as 300,000 Estonians aided by Estonian rock musicians were singing Estonian national songs and hymns that, under Soviet rule, had been forbidden. One man in the film quipped that when thousands of people start to sing, it’s impossible to shut them up. That’s exactly how the Estonian people started to be heard. Meanwhile, by 1989, formerly Communist Eastern Europe was starting to disintegrate. One by one, countries were rejecting Communism and demanding freedom. In 1990, Estonia openly defied the Soviet Union by offering aid to Estonian residents who wanted to avoid being drafted into the Soviet Army. And of course, by 1991, the Soviet Union was dismantled.

My thoughts

I found this film extremely moving, especially since the Singing Revolution happened relatively recently. The film shows how everyone– men, women and children– came together to reclaim their independence against a mighty opponent. I also found this film very informative. Although I was a teenager and young adult when all of this stuff was going on, I was woefully uninformed about it as it was taking place. It was very interesting to me to be able to see this story unfold in a powerful and beautifully filmed documentary. Finally, I found this film satisfying on a musical level. I am myself a singer, so I was very interested in hearing the music the very talented Estonians produced. I found it very inspiring on an artistic level.

And now…

I’m dying to go back to Estonia. In fact, I’d love to take a trip to all three Baltic nations to learn more about their history and peoples. The Singing Revolution was a very worthwhile film in terms of giving a perspective of what it was like for Estonians in the wake of World War II. It was fascinating for me, as well, because I spent time in Armenia, where the Russians were seen more as saviors than oppressors… the Russians saved the Armenians from the Turks.

Having just spent two years on a continent that was so heavily affected by World War II, I now find myself much more eager than I ever was in the past to learn about what happened during the war. There’s nothing like actually going to a place to develop an appreciation for it and a desire to learn more. Estonia is not one of those places that’s easy to visit, particularly from America. Watching The Singing Revolution may be one of the next best alternatives to visiting.

Overall

I highly recommend this film to anyone who is interested in history, particularly as it affected the Soviet Union and the Baltic region. I also recommend it to anyone who enjoys music, powerful, inspirational stories about triumph, and a good documentary. The Singing Revolution runs for 97 minutes and is unrated. It’s a film by James and Maureen Trusty.

For more information: http://www.singingrevolution.com

Recommend this product? Yes

Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Better than Watching TV
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 9 – 12

Standard
Uncategorized

A review of Moscow, December 25, 1991: The Last Day of the Soviet Union

 

Here’s another review of a book about the death of the Soviet empire…  

Conor O’Clery looks at the last day of the Soviet Union.A look at the day the Soviet Union died…

I’m pretty fascinated by the former Soviet Union. Ever since I found out about the Soviet Union as a grade school kid, I’ve enjoyed studying it. I also lived in the Republic of Armenia, which was one of the Soviet Union’s fifteen republics, just after the fall of the Soviet Union. I well remember the 1990s and, in particular, that time in August 1991 when there was a political coup that seemed to accelerate the Soviet Union’s downward spiral into eventual oblivion. That’s why I read Conor O’Clery’s 2011 book Moscow, December 25, 1991: The Last Day of the Soviet Union.

Who is Conor O’Clery? 


It’s pretty clear that with a name like Conor O’Clery, this author isn’t Russian. Actually, O’Clery lived and worked in the Soviet Union during its final days as an award winning journalist for the Irish Times. He’s worked as a journalist for over thirty years and covered stories all over the world. He’s also got some family connections to Russia, having married a Russian born Armenian woman.

The Last Day of the Soviet Union

Having been a teenager when Mikhail Gorbachev became the leader of the Soviet Union, I vaguely remember hearing about the concepts of glasnost and perestroika. O’Clery writes about what led up to the fall of the Soviet Union, providing exhaustive commentary about Mikahil Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin and their respective political careers. According to O’Clery, Gorbachev had a lot to do with Yeltsin’s entry into politics, having brought him in to clean up the ministry of construction. They came from very different worlds, though, and did not like each other, but Yeltsin got things done. When the Soviet Union ended on December 25, 1991, it was Yeltsin who was poised to lead the country first post Soviet times.

When Gorbachev was forced to resign the presidency of the Soviet Union, Yeltsin wasted no time in taking over and re-launching Russia. O’Clery goes into great detail in his writing about how Gorbachev and his wife, Raisa, were treated in the days after Gorbachev left office. They were quickly evicted from their home and given no professional courtesies whatsoever. O’Clery provides some juicy details of the ways Gorbachev was humiliated as he left power. It was payback, though… because Yeltsin was similarly humiliated when Gorbachev had his time in the sun.

As O’Clery points out, Gorbachev had introduced the concepts of perestroika and glasnost; he had been a polished politician who had won over the likes of Margaret Thatcher and George H.W. Bush. But it was Yeltsin who led Russia under those concepts… and he did so despite being alcoholic and unhealthy.

O’Clery does a great job detailing the history of these two men who were from different worlds and had very different personalities. This book is factual, but reads a lot like a political thriller. O’Clery has a way of making the people involved come alive and, for me, it was especially interesting reading because I remember these men so well. O’Clery offers some insight into how Soviet and Russian government work.

I was riveted as I read about the colonels who were tasked with carrying the briefcase that had the power to launch nuclear war. Remembering the 1980s, I recall how people often talked or even joked about the “red button” and how if either the American or Soviet president pushed it, there would be war that would end the world as we know it. Conor O’Clery explains the truth behind that little briefcase that was always in the possession of the man in charge. O’Clery also offers some astute commentary on the reactions of the world leaders of the time, including George H.W. Bush.

This book is a look at one day. But it’s also a look at what led up to that one day when the Soviet Union fell to pieces. If you were around during that time or are interested in Russia or the former Soviet Union, The Last Day of the Soviet Union is an excellent read.

Overall


This book was a challenge to read, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it or learn from it. I was young when the Soviet Union fell apart and I saw firsthand what happened in the earliest years after it dissolved. When I lived in Armenia, people were still recovering from the massive changes. A lot of things were still done in a very Soviet way. Indeed, O’Clery writes about how American business leaders and politicians swarmed to Russia and the former Soviet Republics after the Soviet Union fell apart. They were there to offer advice and, of course, make money. In those days, Russia was in very bad shape. As I read O’Clery’s account, I found myself nodding a lot.

I would definitely recommend The Last Day of the Soviet Union to anyone who is interested. I found it a good, entertaining, exciting and useful book to read.

Mikhail Gorbachev resigns.
A truly excellent video about this subject. I just subscribed to History Scope’s channel. He’s got a good touch.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

Standard
anecdotes

Interesting video from the Soviet era…

If you’ve read my main blog, you may know that I was once a Peace Corps Volunteer in the former Soviet Union.  From 1995-97, I worked as a teacher at a school in the Republic of Armenia.  The job itself was pretty tough for a lot of reasons.  I think teaching is difficult, but trying to teach in Armenia was, for me, pretty chaotic.  A lot of times, I didn’t even know which class I would be teaching.  Sometimes my classes would be cancelled or reassigned and I would find out the day of.  I did have some good students, though, who were well-behaved and smart.

Last night, while messing around on YouTube, I found this video that was listed as a “tribute” to Soviet style education…

What strikes me about this video is that all the kids are dressed the same.  In Armenia, a lot of kids would come to school in black and white on the first day.  Maybe a couple of them had red kerchiefs kind of like what they would have worn as Young Pioneers.  After the first day of school, they dressed as they pleased.

The next thing that strikes me is how old this video looks.  It was from 1981, when I would have been 8 or 9 years old.  I know that was a long time ago, but it doesn’t seem like it was that long ago to me!

I appreciate the musical numbers.  I used music a lot in my classes, though I don’t remember my pupils being this well-behaved or singing as well as the teachers and students in this video.

Finally, it just strikes me as weird that for the first 19 years old my life, the Soviet Union existed and seemed like such a huge threat to the United States.  And then I actually lived in the former Soviet Union and realized that it was mostly a big facade.

I would not trade my time in the Peace Corps, even though parts of the experience sucked.  My time as a PCV changed my life in positive ways.  But this video is far removed from my experiences in the former Soviet Union.  I can’t imagine that things changed that much from 1991 until 1995, when I started teaching kids English.  I also learned through this experience that teaching is not my forte.

ETA…  check out this bizarre relic from the Soviet era.  The same guy in the above video is in the one.

Standard