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Fine Titz

Got a genuine old-skool snail mail letter from Germany couple of days ago. Uh oh, these things have never meant anything good, I thought. It was a speeding ticket from couple of weeks ago from a trip to Ruhr area and Benelux. Looks like it is possible to exceed the speed limit even in Germany! Fortunately the twenty euro fine I have to pay is considerably less than the 750 € that I was dunned for in the case explained behind the previous link. Moreover, the car rental company charged me an additional fee for passing my information to the authorities, but I guess that's only fair.

The felony took place in a town called Titz. No wonder your driving was so hasty and excited, said wife. 


Soaking up Siberia - Tea & Coffee

Nice cups of tea sold by provodnika.
When traveling around, one of the most interesting and fun things is often paying attention to cultural differences in eating and drinking products, habits and customs. Like I have mentioned in this blog earlier, I try to taste local products, drinks, cheeses, specialities wherever I go. Usually the experience is fascinating, sometimes it's nothing special to remember, some other times it's not necessarily something you would like to go through again, but nevertheless, you're one experience richer anyway. During my Trans Siberian trip I had an opportunity to observe some details of foreign drinking habits and especially the beverages themselves. I decided to write a small series on the topic. So let's soak it up and start with tea and coffee.

Perm station vendors
Before leaving Finland for the Trans Siberian trip, I heard a supposedly useful advice on having coffee and tea in Russia: If you're a coffee drinker, better learn to like tea. The advice hinted that tea works generally better as tea in Russia than coffee works as coffee. Fair enough, since I am definitely more of a coffee drinker, my cunning plan was to take some instant coffee with me, so I would at least be able to get my morning fix. Of course, in the end I forgot that unfortunate jar of instant coffee home.

Looking for tea bags.

There is always hot water available from a samovar in Russian trains you'll be able to brew your own tea or coffee on the rail. Of course, provodniki (the train stewardesses) can sell you whatever beverages you want, but in the long run (and Trans Siberian is long) it's more inexpensive to bring your own stuff with you or buy it at the stations during the stops. I tried to purchase tea bags from the station platform vendors on the first few stops by asking for чай (or rather: chai), but I was always offered ice tea bottled by multinational corporations. Even my weird tea bag bobbing hand mimics accompanied with my chai-chanting  didn't lead to a purchase. Finally a good woman on the platform of Perm station dug up a package of Russian tea bags from her booth.

Samovar. Get your hot water here.
As for coffee, I mentally prepared to have my last good tasting cup of coffee at a way overpriced coffee shop on Moscow's more touristy area, the pedestrian Arbat street during the second day of our voyage. And an excellent cup it was. But those couple of times I had some coffee elsewhere on the trip, like in the hotels at Irkutsk and Beijing, weren't totally bad. I've gotten used to that coffee just tastes different in other countries than what it's like at home. While some people might think it's bad coffee and get a cold turkey on caffeine during their vacation, I will just settle for another, typically unfamiliar and strange flavour. It's a simple take it or leave it situation, and being a coffee junkie, I like to take it.

Next: Soaking up Siberia - Kvass