Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Russian tea and the overthrow of the tzar

Two things fueled my daydream this morning. First, we've been knocking around the idea of a north European cruise this summer, one that docks in St. Petersburg for a couple of days. I've longed for many years to set foot there. First and a half, I've also been reading Trotsky and a bio lately. Second, several storefronts have gone empty in the strip near my train station, including a longtime greasy spoon that, frankly, won't be missed (a greasy spoon can't have that greasy-spoon charm if it's 1. bad and 2. not cheap). So I boarded the train in a semi-daze, thinking about the heady, shadowy tea shop I'd open in its place — a slightly smoky place full of chin-stroking intellectuals all gathered around the shop's central feature: an enormous samovar. C'mon, this neighborhood's full of Russians! The samovar, of course, would have to figure into the name, of course, so the dream evaporated in a brow-furrowing copyright battle ...

Recently in yon Petersburg/Leningrad/Petrograd/Petersburg again, the city held its fourth Samovar Festival, a "four-day tea-drinking fiesta." The cruise is worthless to me now. But here's a heckuva video reporting on the event, complete with plenty of burly men properly lighting a samovar ...

Many years ago, Russian politics brewed around the samovar, as this letter from Trotsky describes:

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