Travel To Russia…without Leaving The U.s.!

Let’s face it, traveling overseas is a drag. First, if you don’t have a passport, you need to get one, which takes time and money. Then, depending on your destination, you may well need to get a visa, which takes – you guessed it — more time and more money. Russia, which is one such visa-requiring country, also demands that all visitors register their visa within three days of arrival. Add that hassle to the tiresome list of dealing with jet-lag, struggling with language barriers and coping with culture shock, and it’s clear: Traveling overseas, especially to Russia, can be a major headache.

But don’t despair. Turns out, you can visit Russia without ever leaving the U.S. How is this possible? By visiting one of the various Russian communities across the United States. Whether it’s a few shops at the intersection of 19th Avenue and Northern in Phoenix, or the entirety of the Brighton Beach district in Brooklyn, you can get a taste of Russian food, Russian language and Russian culture right in your own time zone.

Brighton Beach, often called Little Odessa, is located on the Lower New York Bay in Brooklyn, New York. From Manhattan, take the Q line on the subway headed “Downtown / Coney Island.” From there it’s 26 stops until your destination, so make yourself comfortable. During the hour-long ride, notice how the passengers become more and more Slavic looking. And that interesting language you hear? That’s bound to be Russian. Exiting at the Brighton Beach stop, head down the steps to Brighton Beach Ave. Faster than you can say Zdravstvuite!, you find yourself in the heart of New York’s Russian expat community. Signs in Cyrillic (the Russian alphabet) surround you. The smells of borscht and blini and sashlik entice the olfactory, and all you hear is the Russian chatter of merchants and customers and locals on cellphones. The money is still American, but the culture is all Russian.

Pop into any of the shops along the strip for a chance to practice your Russian…you’re bound to find a willing partner for conversation. If the written word is more your style, visit one of the Russian bookstores. (If you’re relatively new to the Russian language, children’s books can be particularly helpful due to the simplicity of writing, and the lack of slang and idiomatic language.) At the very least, linger somewhere – in a café, perhaps – and just listen. Russian is one of the great languages of the world, and certainly one of the most beautiful.

After exploring the numerous offerings of Brighton Beach’s main drag, head over to the beach itself. Even if you know no Russian, you can still approach locals and ask them for the best Russian restaurant on the boardwalk, or the hippest Russian nightclub. Brighton Beach offers perhaps the best chance to interact with Russian people in the convenience of your own country.

But it’s not the only Russian community in America. If you live in a western state, consider a trip to Sacramento. California’s capital city is also the Russian capital of America, with more than 100,000 Russian-speaking residents. While not as compact as Brighton Beach, Sacramento is still studded with Russian bars, clubs, restaurants, grocery stores, etc. Since businesses come and go, I will refrain from making any particular recommendations for where to go. Instead, visit the website for Sacramento’s Russian Yellow Pages for a current list of Russian businesses.

Farther to the north you can find plenty of Russian stores and restaurants in Seattle. Just visit for up-to-date information. And down in Los Angeles, you can find Russian grocery stores in West Hollywood and Russian Restaurants on Fairfax. These are all excellent places to get a taste of Russian food, and they offer a great opportunity to practice whatever Russian words you know on a native speaker.

These are just a few of the Russian communities across America. There are others in most major cities, including Phoenix, Denver, Chicago, Atlanta and Boston. And in the Norfolk and Virginia Beach area of Virginia, at least during the summer, you’re bound to meet lots of young Russians, visiting here on temporary J-1 Work & Travel visas. So hop on a search engine and research your nearest major city for Russian communities, or head to one of the cities mentioned in this article and explore for yourself on foot. The faraway land of Russia awaits you just outside your door.

This entry was posted in Chicago. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>