Out of (Russian) Vodka | Travel Blog

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Published: November 26th 2023

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Unfortunately, I have had more than my share of bad Russian vodka. Here is my experience: According to Pictures in History: It’s a fact that seems too wild to be true, but it’s actually real: Russia ran out of vodka celebrating the end of World War II. On May 9th 1945, after Nazi Germany had surrendered, Russians celebrated with such enthusiasm and vigor that they drank all of their vodka reserves dry! It was an incredible display of jubilation from a country that had endured so much suffering during the war years, and one that will never be forgotten. The celebration also marked the beginning of a new era for the Soviet Union, as they emerged victorious in the conflict and began rebuilding their nation. So next time you raise your glass to toast a special occasion, take a moment to remember this remarkable historical event – when Russia ran out of vodka celebrating the end of WWII!
While traversing Russia, mostly Siberia on the Trans-Siberian Railway in 2014, there was no shortage of vodka. However, there was a significant shortage of good vodka and cold beer on the train. The Railway is 9288 kilometers from Moscow to Vladivostok. The average winter temperature is -25

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degrees Celsius. We crossed EIGHT times zones, and 497 bridges and sixteen major rivers. We pass or stop at 876 stations, 87 major cities, and two continents.
You would never know booze is banned on the train. Yet every person except for me carried their own supply onboard. I bought my cold beer from the providnitsa in my car. She is the woman who runs each train car with an iron hand (to put it lightly). Somehow, she either took a liking to me, or maybe felt sorry for me. But she always sold me a cold beer from her private stash whenever I wanted one. When my Swiss roomie asked her for beer, he always got one at room temp.
Vodka must be purchased at various train stops, either from tiny little convenience stores or on the platform from the old Russian ladies selling food, like smoked fish and boiled potatoes. The quality ranges from poor (at best) to petrol fuel grade (the worst). I can tell you that I never bought a bottle of vodka while on the train!
But, even in the first-class car, passengers gather at cocktail time to have a few shots of vodka and share their food. It is considered rude to avoid these little parties. I would come prepared with my cold beer and my snacks from back home. I brought rice crackers, beef sticks, jerky, salted nuts, and cookies from home.
Inevitably, the party involved taking too many shots of bad vodka. The home country of the partiers did not maker. The Germans loved the cheap stuff, as did the host country Russians. The Aussies were a bit more discerning, trying to buy “name brand” vodka. The younger passengers, like the Ph.D. students from Omsk stuck to beer. The rest of us just followed along.
This German couple (from Hamburg), now on their THIRD trip (don’t ask me why) across Siberia, seemed to be the ring leaders of the vodka parties. They came around to each first class compartment and invited (I used the term quite loosely), then insisted that we join their party. I swear to you that first shot of vodka nearly knocked me over!
I got smarter on subsequent parties. I bought my own glass, filled with water! They thought I was a real partier! And I always had my beer chaser.
The key to survival on the train is smoked fish and boiled potatoes. Even in first class, the dining car is a questionable place to eat, since they do not have refrigeration. I did not realize this until a local Russian businessman explained the details. “Never eat any food on the train unless you can see it being loaded onto the train at a long rest stop!” The only meal we would eat was breakfast. Somehow, he conned the young waitress in the dining car to bring our food to our compartment, along with fresh coffee and bread!
From Munchies: “There is very little else to do for the majority of the time, so we drank quite often. We met a guy who proceeded to order conical flask after conical flask of vodka to our table. He didn’t speak a lick of English and we didn’t speak any Russian, so we drew pictures on the napkins in a Pictionary-esque way of communicating.”
Somehow, we overcame the language barrier. Vodka does that. I was hoping beer would do the same. I was wrong. In Russia, it must be vodka, even bad vodka.
So, please do not worry, Russia will never run out of vodka again. The quality is so bad, you will opt for beer or water!


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