No one in this country speaks English


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No one in this country speaks English, said the man from Shanghai. That was pretty much our experence of Russia, where the predominance of the Russian language is immense.

He’d found us on a side street in Suzdal, the quietest little town on the Golden Ring just north west of Moscow. We’d taken some time out from what seems like an endless set of city tours to see a little of rural Russia and this was our last stop, with two nights in the Alexeevsky Dom homestay.

Thinking that ” a small way out of town” might be nice and quiet, we’d booked two nights and were heading back after a day pottering around the town, where churches appear to out number residents. It was, of course, quiet. The whole town was quiet, and the little way out of town was a 15 minute yomp, on top of the 2.5 km yomp from the bus station into the central square. In the middle of the hot sunny day.

Mad Dogs and English Men had nothing on us.

Our man from Shanghai clutched an incredibly poor map from Booking.com, and was tailed by his wife, who, as Nige pointed out, was not only carrying a backpack, but also dragging their large suitcase.

As he was looking for where we were staying it was simple to literally take them home with us, much to the consternation of our host, as they hadn’t booked. Entreaties to him that “she doesn’t speak English” went unheard and we abandoned them to their two-sided conversations one in increasingly louder English and the other in increasingly louder Russian.

He’s right, though. There isn’t much English at all spoken or written. Perhaps as we’re just at the beginning of the season, perhaps because we’re traveling at the cheaper end of the scale, or perhaps its because we’re not going the organized tour route we have most definitely found very little English.

The museums I’ve already written about, the metro systems in St Petersburg and Moscow, might have maps produced in English, but it’s no damned good if once you’ve pushed your token in the slot or swiped your card, then all you can see is Cyrillic. And of course beautiful, beautiful metro stations. Perhaps being lost isn’t so bad.

The trains too, I’m pretty certain that the only English I’ve heard spoken on our trains so far has been “mattress” and “please” – the please from a young girl wanting to use the charging point that happened to be located at our seats. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a problem, you do just have to plan ahead though. We know our pleases, our thank yous, our hallos and our good byes. We know dva billeta (two tickets) and dva piva (two beers) and we know Angliski will send most people off in the other direction.

I wonder on the trains if we were further away from the cheap seats (we’re on the 44 train from Ektaterinburg to Irkutsk, again in third class, because third on this train was half the price of third on one of the faster trains) would there be more English? Well, the budget is hard to keep to in Russia, because of the cost of accommodation and museums (this train that will take us 3,530 km’s and that we’ll be on for 54 hours costs 4489 rubles each – around $128 each, so you can see why, with the budget in mind we picked this one and why, we’re doing like the locals do and loading up on noodles, picnicking at our seats and not swanning off to the Pectopah Baron (Restaurant Car).

Meanwhile, my bum is numb after only 8 hours and 30 minutes, only another 46 hours to go…

Have a few shots of lovely Suzdal to amuse you..

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About Sarah Carter

Sarah Carter is an avid reader, writer and traveller. She loves hiking, sailing, skiing and exploring the world through food. She left a successful career in IT security and compliance in both the UK and US to travel the world with husband and partner in adventure, Nigel.


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One thought on “No one in this country speaks English

  • rantingman

    I studied Russian as a boy of 11. It was the height of the Cold War and I guess my school thought it might be a good idea for our futures. About all I can remember now is (phonetically) ya tebya lublu and dva piva (no idea why they taught a child of 11 the word for beer) or in fact the first phrase. I love you…