10 Alternative Souvenirs From Russia
What to do if you can buy a “Matryoshka” and a samovar in the souvenir shops worldwide, and you really want to bring an outstanding souvenir from Russia? Of course, you can find some alternatives!
National Russian hats are recognizable around the world. Almost every tourist in Moscow considers it his duty to buy “Ushanka” – a hat with earflaps. But, firstly, it’s not a principal Russian souvenir, and secondly, eBay is littered with such hats (and they are mostly sewed in China, not Russia). So, if you are interested where to buy ushanka in Moscow, think twice before buying it – be creative!
Moscow urban adventures prepared a list of unusual alternative souvenirs from Russia. They are not as stereotypical as Matryoshka-dolls, but they fully reflect the Russian spirit!
Faceted Glass and Metal Cup Holder
If you were lucky to use the Russian railway, you probably saw these glass holders. They are almost never to be seen anywhere else today – this is a truly Soviet emblem (although they appeared much earlier, in the 18th century)! Such a glass with a metal cup holder, which does not burn your hands, can be found in a gift store when we explore Moscow through the eyes of a local at our Moscow Behind the Icons tour. So, if you find a cup holder and a faceted glass, you will have a cool and memorable souvenir. Nothing could better remind you of Russia than good black tea in a glass!
Valenki (Felt Boots)
In winter, such warm shoes are indispensable part of outfit in Russia. However, valenki (felt boots) come into fashion again, so they can be worn in any climate – even if the winter is not too harsh. In winter in Moscow they can be bought at any street market, in summer you will have to look for them in souvenir shops. But every time when boots will warm your legs, you will remember Russia with warmth in your heart!
“Imperial Porcelain Factory” is a unique company that has existed for more than 275 years. It was created by Queen Elizabeth Petrovna, and since then it has glorified Russia in the whole world. The finest products that are produced in a single copy or in limited editions – avis rara even in Europe! And I bet you have never tried to drink tea or coffee from such fine porcelain – you will feel incredible aesthetics of the Russian imperial court!
Wines of Krasnodar Region and Crimea
The climate and soil of these regions are very similar to the vineyards of Italy and France, although different types of grape grow there. Krasnodar region and now Crimea are the main suppliers of Russian wine. Of course, you can’t take a lot of wine with you, but you can put a couple of bottles into your bag as souvenirs. By the way, Gerard Depardieu, a famous wine lover, highly appreciated local drinks. So, try to surprise the guests with Russian wine!
In Russia they say: “A book is the best gift.” Perhaps this is not the most unusual souvenir for foreigners but in some cases it may be appropriate. For example, if a person is interested in art, he will appreciate a book about Russian paintings and architecture. Or anything related to the history of Moscow – colorful photos and information about the places you visited will remind you of a wonderful holiday in Russia for many years!
Like wines, Russian watches can surprise not only you but also your friends. The world famous watch brands are Swiss and Japanese, but in the USSR they produced high-quality wristwatches – “Luch”, “Raketa”, “Pilot”, “Pobeda” and others. The traditions of Russian watchmakers have been preserved till today, now it is easy (and inexpensive!) to find new watches “Raketa”. In addition, nothing stops you to wander through antique shops and find real Soviet military wristwatches and even unusual women’s and children’s watches.
Well, when will you find an opportunity to buy binoculars? To visit the Bolshoi Theater and not to see the actors is like coming to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower. Ordinary binoculars do not fit for this purpose, it’s just not comme il faut. You certainly need theatrical (or opera) ones – beautiful, elegant, they are associated with ballet, Moscow and high art.
Of course, such a binocular is useful in any theater anywhere in the world. You can hardly watch the next performance without binoculars and not to remember Moscow!
That’s right! Balalaika – the most stereotyped musical instrument associated with Russia, but why not to consider it as a souvenir? Learning to play the balalaika is as simple as the ukulele, and they are of almost the same size. Just imagine how cool it is to be able to play it! Your friends will go crazy first with surprise and then with envy.
The main thing – to find unusual ones. The sweets produced at a candy factory “Red October” are already known in other countries but “Ptich’e moloko” (“Bird’s milk”), “Grilyazh” or “Ozersky souvenir” will surprise you! Linden honey from Bashkiria, “Belevskaya pastila” and, of course, cedar cones jam – there are no such things anywhere in the world! The most important thing is that everything can be brought home safely, and honey and jam can be kept for more than one year.
Products made of malachite occupy a special place in Russian souvenirs history. Souvenirs from this noble mineral deserve admiration and have become an icon of style, a sign of success and prosperity. Of course, such fame and popularity of products made of malachite are due to the writer Bazhov and his famous work “Malachite Box”.
Malachite box or casket is not only beautiful but also a useful souvenir. You can store any jewelry in it but such a box is a real jewel itself. So this is also a great gift from Russia!
I do not think that the search for Russian souvenirs is a difficult task. In any case, kokoshnik, Gzhel or traditional clothes can be found almost at every corner in Moscow. But if you want to buy unusual souvenirs or to surprise your friends and relatives, alternative souvenirs are what you really need! For more special things just sign in for our Alternative Moscow: Art, Design & Wine Tour.
by Denis Bets