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Russia Travel Guide

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Main dishes

Pelmeni - Russian dumplings

Vareniki - non-meat dumplings

Kholodets - meat jelly

Syrniki - curd pancake

Blini - Russian flapjacks

Golubtsy - cabbage rolls

National food

Buckwheat as side dish

Black rye bread

Sour cabbage (or sauerkraut)

Natonal soups

Borscht - famous red soup

Shchi - cabbage soup

Okroshka - soup with kvass

Solyanka - salted soup


Zefir - light dessert

Varenie - main Russian dessert


Kvass - Russian drink #1

Kefir - sour milk drink

Mors - berry drink

Kissel - dense drink

Kompot - fruit or berry


McDonalds in Russia

Kefir - Russian non-alcoholic fermented milk beverage


1 Introduction

2 Some features of kefir

3 How to choose kefir in a supermarket

4 Most popular brands in Russia

5 If you want to bring kefir from Russia

6 Interesting facts about kefir


All the pages of our website are created by Russian journalists. We work hard to provide you with a most valuable and actual information. The English language is not native to us, and we misspell sometimes. If you catch sight of a mistake, then please will not throw tomatoes at us, and leave the comment with the description of the mistake. A comment may be left at the end of every page.

Many of Russians believe kefir is our own national beverage. In fact, kefir is spread in few countries of CIS, Eastern Europe, and Scandinavia. Russian love this drink most of others, and we advise to taste it for a better experience during your travel to Russia.

Kefir is made of milk by adding a substance called "zakvaska" (in English "leaven"). This is a set of microorganisms - yeasts and bacteria. Do not worry, these microorganisms are not harmful to health; on the contrary, kefir is a very healthy beverage.

In the times of the Soviet Union, kefir was used as a medicine to cure a large variety of illnesses. It is used in hospitals of modern Russia as an element of a healthy ration. If you do not believe, then we will advise to offer kefir your cat. Cats are usually delighted. We Russians use this idea to check the quality of meat and dairy products. If a cat does not eat something that milky or meaty, then we prefer not to eat it too.

Some features of kefir

Kefir has a sour taste. According our experience, 8 of 10 foreign tourists do not like it when drink it first time. We advise to add some sugar, and the taste will become much better. 200 grams of kefir should be mixed with one full teaspoon of sugar. In Russia, when children drink this beverage, sugar is usually added.

Kefir is good for health, but we do not recommend drinking it for people with gastric ulcer, gastritis or any other stomach diseases. This drink improves metabolism and normalizes the gut flora. It is safe for children.

In Russia, you may purchase special kefir for kids (please see the photo on the left). Kids can safely drink it from the age of 8 months. But, there is an alternative opinion, and some doctors do not recommend kefir for kids less than 1 year.

We used the verb "to drink" above. It is not correct in Russian language, but most of Russians use this word nowadays. It is correct to use the verb "to eat" for this beverage. We do not know exactly what version is correct in English and will continue with the verb "to drink".

Kefir is formed by fermentation and contains alcohol. Up to 1% of alcohol may be found in the fresh product. The concentration of ethanol may increase up to 4% beyond the expiry date.

ATTENTION! According to Russian law, BAC (Blood alcohol content) for driving a car is 0,15. It means, if you will drink kefir and traffic police will test you for alcohol, then you will be recognized as drunken. Traffic police can hold your driver license. You should not drink kefir just before you will drive a car. Need to wait for half or one hour.

This Russian law is very strict, and many drivers in our country lost the driver licenses because of kefir. It is not a joke. The allowed BAC was equal to 0 in Russia few years ago, and it was a dreadful situation. Same situation can happen, if you drink the other national Russian beverages - kvass and mors; they also contain a small quantity of alcohol.

You can prepare kefir by yourself. Boil 1 liter of milk and mix it with 50 grams of kefir. Hold it for 12 hours and your own kefir will be ready for drinking.

You can purchase kefir in every supermarket in Russia. There are various of brands, package types and flavors. Please see our small gallery of photos below.

How to choose kefir in a supermarket

You saw the digits on every package in the photos - from 1% to 4%. It is the percentage of fats, and the flavor is different according it. We recommend to taste 2,5% kefir, because it is a classic type. If you follow the figure, then we will advise 1%.

Russians believe a carton package is much better than in a plastic one. To tell the truth, the Russians do not like plastics at all. In fact, there is no difference of taste and composition of kefir inside different package types.

The taste of kefir is strongly depends on its age and quality of milk and leaven. Fresh (one day old) kefir is usually most tasty. We advise to watch for dates on the package. In most cases, you can find two dates - first is a date of production, the second is an expiration date.

Most popular brands in Russia

The first most popular brand of dairy products in Russia is called "Prostokvashino". Please find the photo of kefir of this brand on the right. This brand is easy to keep in mind because of funny cat. This is the character of the famous Soviet cartoon "Prostokvashino". His name is "Matroskin".

"Unimilk" company bought the rights to use the images of this cartoon in 2002. Since 2008, "Prostokvashino" brand became a leader of market in European regions of Russia.

This dairy products hava a very good quality. We recommend this brand first of all. In Moscow, this brand is widespread, and you can find its kefir in every supermarket or food store of any size.

The second popular brand is called "Domik v derevne" (translates as "house in the village"). It is also easy to remember. You can see a country house and an old lady on every package.

This brand is owned by Wimm-Bill-Dann Foods (WBD) - one of the largest Russian food companies. 66% of stocks of WBD is owned by PepsiCo in the moment of writing this article. You need to remember, a bottle of kefir and a bottle of Pepsi cans have the same manufacturer owner. It is funny.

Other brands are not so famous and popular. We do not want to talk about them in details, because this article should not be too long.

If you want to bring kefir from Russia

It is not easy. Kefir has to be stored only inside a refrigerator. If you get it out, you will have 24-36 hours until it became waste. You can use a refrigerator bag, and it is the only way to transport kefir. But remember, a refrigerator bag will take a lot of place in your luggage.

When kefir is spoiled, it releases carbon dioxide. In this case, the pressure inside a package increases, and a package can even explode. Just imagine the situation, when packs of kefir explode inside your luggage bag! All your stuff will be bedraggled.

If you buy fresh kefir, and have at least 24 hours until you arrive at home, then you can bring it from Russia. But we do not recommend drinking it. Just add 50 grams of kefir to milk and prepare a new one. This way is safe.

Interesting facts about kefir

- Kefir is not the Russian invention. It was first invented at Caucasus.

- Kefir is a base for few diets to lose weight.

- Kefir is fine to marinate meat. Just mix meat and kefir and wait 12 hours. The meat will become very soft.

- Some women in Russia use kefir as cosmetics. They believe this beverage improves skin color and good for hair.

- Some scientist claim kefir can be used as an antidepressant. We don`t know is it true or not.

Remember, it is not recommended to drink more than 0,5 liter of this beverage in one day. Enjoy and read our other articles about Russia (search for links below and on the left column of website).

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