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If it’s your first time in Russia, chances are you’ll be thrown by the Cyrillic, even if you’ve diligently studied the alphabet charts in your guidebook beforehand. The mix of recognizable Roman and Greek characters and the Russian ones with no English equivalents will be charmingly baffling and somewhat disorienting for about four hours, or until you get seriously hungry. Even simple staples like kulibeka, a bread with white mushrooms or cabbage baked inside, or moiva, a small dried fish served whole as an appetizer, or the traditional fermented wheat beverage krace, a sort of peasant’s pop like a dark near beer, are hard to translate, let alone order. Never mind delicacies such as pickled garlic or pike-and-perch soup.  I Had Borscht because I could say it, though I hadn’t touched beets since some unpleasantness at age five.

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