Since we're returned from Russia, friends keep asking two questions. "What did you eat?" and "Did you run?"
Let's tackle the gastronomical aspect first.
The food was bad. Very bad. Awful. Near the end of the trip when we finally were offered a salad it prompted Blair to comment that he missed my cooking. (Yes, the food was that bad.)
Fruit was scarce and greens almost non-existent. Salt, however, was plentiful. I bloated up like a puffer fish. There was salt was in everything - the bread, the meat (so I was told), the soup, the vegetables, the scrambled eggs...
There was also dill. If there was a potato in sight then, by God, it was going to have some dill on it! Fortunately, I like dill so it wasn't an issue. Others in our group grew to detest the site of the little green flecks.
I had two iceberg lettuce salads during the 10 day trip and those were the ONLY greens I got. I became a fruit hoarder at the American breakfast buffet, stuffing apples and bananas in my purse to eat throughout the day.
In fairness, I'm not sure what we ate is representative of the typical Russian diet. One day our tour guide shepherded a bunch of us to a vegetarian cafe not known to tourists and I had the MOST delicious meal. (Blair missed out as he grabbed two of the younger boys in our group and headed to McDonalds. We ate a lot of McDonald's on this trip. Their french fries were probably the least salty thing available, if that tells you anything.) Also, our Estonia tour guide said Russian tour groups are given the dregs of food in a restaurant. They use the almost gone bad meat and vegetables to make the soups and don't worry about impressing us. So maybe Russians eat a lot better than we did.
I will say this - I saw very few overweight and no obese people in Russia, so salt aside, they're doing something right.
There were 3 other runners in our tour group, which was great. One was a 21-year old soccer player who preferred to run 2 mile dashes that the rest of us could never hope to keep up with. But one man and I had a similar pace and we ran together. In Moscow, we ran a half-mile loop in a dog park across the street from our hotel. In St. Petersburg, I actually went out one morning for a run by myself. I stuck to a main street and felt fairly safe.
The best run was in Tallinn, Estonia, a medieval city on the Gulf of Finland still surrounded by a stone wall fortress. I found a paved running path that ran along the coast and had the most beautiful run.
We lucked out with the weather. It was 70 degrees, full sun, no bugs or humidity everywhere we went. I came back from Russia with a tan. Who knew?
Coming Soon: Moscow & St. Petersburg revisited, plus the overnight train ride from hell.