Season 1
Episode 18: Russia: MisInfoNation – The Banya, Conception Day, and Other Names for Putin

Passport explores the Russia you don’t hear about on the news.

Neil and Andrés sit down with environmental scientist Ekaterina Markelova, PhD to find out the truth about caviar, the Russian Mafia, the complex rituals of Russian baths, and what the rest of the world isn’t thinking about when it thinks about Russia. 

This week on MisInfoNation we talk to Ekaterina Markelova about a mystery wrapped inside a riddle inside an enigma –  Mother Russia! A smart, funny, double PhD with a rather disarming smile, Ekaterina, takes on some of the craziest questions about her home country!

Western views of Russian culture are dominated by drinking, the cold and election hacking right now… But that can’t really be all there is, can it? So this week on Passport we wanted to see just how much of the deep deep Russian stereotypes remain true. Turns out the largest country on earth really does have a lot more to offer than you think it does. 

SAVED PINS

5 of the best things to do and see in all of the vastness of Russia.

  1. GORKY PARK
    Moscow’s iconic park. Perfect for summer strolls along the Moscow River, ice skating in the winter, and incredible contemporary art exhibitions all year long.
  2. BOAT TOURS OF ST. PETERSBURG
    Set sail on a leisurely trip down the city’s canals and rivers. Whether you’re taking in the city’s historic center, or venturing out to the island parks where locals go to relax, it’s one of the best ways to see the “Venice of the North.”
  3. SAMARA CITY
    Classic Russian culture and architecture meets cutting edge science and technology. You can’t miss the views of the Zhiguli Mountains from along the banks of the River Volga.
  4. LAKE BAIKAL
    The world’s deepest lake, where the water is freezing even in Summer.  This is the unspoiled beauty of Russia at its most elemental – no wonder it’s sometimes referred to as the Sacred Sea.
  5. KAMCHATKA
    A volcanic wonderland in Russia’s far east with the highest concentration of active volcanoes on Earth. It’s also great for skiing and snowboarding, but you’ll need to take a Helicopter to the best spots.

CONNECT WITH US!

On Instagram: @passportpodcast

On Facebook: @passportpod

On Twitter: @passportpod

On The Web: frequencymachine.com/passport

Get The Ticket – the Passport newsletter with amazing new stories. 

CONNECT WITH OUR GUESTS!

Ekaterina Markelova: on Instagram

This week’s episode of Passport was written, produced and edited by  Neil Innes and Andrés Bartos.

Huge thanks to Prof. Dr. Ekaterina Markelova for talking to us for the show. 

Go follow her on Instagram @Ekaterina_Markelova_Eco

Our theme music is by the incredible Nick Turner with additional stuff by Lt. Fitzgibbons Men, The Like Thes, The Benign Ones, Condor, Ryan Vernon, Rochelle Rochelle, Off the Menu and Tchaikovsky…

The show is mixed and mastered by Julian Kwasneski.

Our Production Assistant is Eliza Engel

Stacey Book, Dominique Ferrari and Avi Glijansky whip us in the banya each and every week, they also executive produce the show…

Which is hosted by Neil Innes and a man who wants to grow a moustache and legally change his name to Andrei Bartofsky, Andrés Bartos. 

See you in the next place!

 

Banner image:
Moscow, Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash

EPISODE 18 – TRANSCRIPT 

 

ANDRÉS: Hi.

KATE: Hi, sorry.

NEIL: You’re definitely the smiliest Russian I’ve ever met in my life though.

ANDRÉS: Seriously.

KATE: Thank you for the compliment.

[PASSPORT MAIN TITLE]

ANDRÉS: A destination isn’t always a place.

NEIL: Sometimes it’s a new way of seeing things.

I’m Neil Innes

ANDRÉS: And I’m Andrés Bartos.

NEIL: From Frequency Machine, this is Passport.

ANDRÉS: Your ticket to everywhere.

[END MAIN TITLE]

[Song playing]

ANDRÉS: There are things we think we know about places. But history, prejudice, stereotypes, and the viral nature of 24-hour news and social media has made common knowledge about faraway places even more twisted than ever.

NEIL: Today on Passport, we try and clear up some of the outright lies of an entire country by doing what we do best.

Having a chat with someone who actually knows what they’re talking about. And today on MisInfoNation, we’re going to that riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

Russia.

[Song playing]

ANDRÉS: Oh, mother Russia. In the mind’s eye of the world, we only see drunk smoking men in long woolen coats with furry hats, trudging through endlessly snowy streets. We see ice cold beautiful women, caviar, vodka and of course, the KGB.

NEIL: We see drug scandals, the mafia, dogs in space and illustrious horseback riding, bear wrestling, deep sea diving, martial arts monstering leader, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

ANDRÉS: Weirdly we also see a nation of Donald Trump fans after Russia tampered in the 2016 U.S. election race. A bot farm in St. Petersburg promoted Trump rallies all over social media and in an effort to hinder Hillary Clinton, hacked members of her staff.

NEIL: They did more. There is an ongoing investigation into similar hacking tactics for the UK’s Brexit referendum in the same year.

And they may be at it again in the lead up to the 2020 election in November in the United States. According to U.S. and British intelligence agencies, the operations were ordered directly by Putin himself.

ANDRÉS: Needless to say the populist view of a Russia right now is not exactly fun. But outside of the Kremlin, a pension for poisoning the outspoken and some scarily named nuclear missiles, some of us think of incredible beautiful works of art, film and literature and dance… Tolstoy, Dostoyevski, Tchikovksy, Tarkovsky, Rodchenko, Kandinsky, Nureyev.

Darkness, both aside and considered, we are drawn to the largest country on the planet, it’s immense history and it’s immense size. Russia is intimidating to say the least.

NEIL: So to help those work out the mysterious soul of this intense land, we’re talking to our new friend, Ekaterina Markelova.

Born just 600 miles east of Moscow, she’s traveled the world. She knows the preconceptions that come with being Russian. And she’s had to deal with it her whole life. So us two fools are going to put her on the rack one more time.

Armed once again with a series of incredibly stereotypical questions about her homeland from everyone’s favorite unbiased information source, the internet, to find out what’s going on in Russia. So here we go.

But first, what does Kate think we’re going to ask her about?

KATE: The first thing is Vodka, apparently, right?

ANDRÉS: That’s number one. Absolutely.

NEIL: It’s on the list.

KATE: The next one is language like such a big country, apparently a rich language and next one is about food. But please don’t ask me much about that, I don’t cook well.

[Laughter]

ANDRÉS: But do you eat well?

KATE: Yeah I do.

ANDRÉS: Okay, then you’ll be fine.

KATE: Well, the next one is architecture and art in general. And then the next one is Putin.

How often we see our president riding the horse, apparently.

[Laughter]

ANDRÉS: Yes.

NEIL: There’s definitely some Putin love in there, for sure.

ANDRÉS: Number, number four.

KATE: Yeah, the next one is beauty of Russian girls. What is the secret? And then the next one is sauna or a Russian banya.

ANDRÉS: Hey.

NEIL: Yup.

ANDRÉS: Where we’re in right now, basically.

NEIL: Yeah. Welcome to our bayna.

KATE: That’s so true.

ANDRÉS: Yeah. We’re sorry.

KATE: And the next one is social experiment of communism.

And the last one, I should probably not say loudly, but you may wonder if I am a spy or a secret version of KGB.

[Laughter]

NEIL: Even if we get through tonight, we’re probably not going to survive this.

ANDRÉS: Potentially.

NEIL: She looks like a dangerous lady.

ANDRÉS: Definitely. Perfect spy, really.

KATE: I cannot answer really this question.

[Laughter]

ANDRÉS: So, Ekaterina Markelova, if that is in fact your name.

KATE: Oh my God, that’s true.

NEIL: Well done.

ANDRÉS: Thanks. I’ve been practicing.

NEIL: I’ve been practicing all morning and I was still chicken to do it.

Kate has lived all over the world. She’s an author and an authority on nuclear waste management, but her actual title is kind of wonderful. Andrés doesn’t know this yet, but Kate is a double doctor.

She has two PhDs.

ANDRÉS: It does not surprise me in the least.

NEIL: She’s a doctor of universe, what’s the exact title?

ANDRÉS: Excuse me?

KATE: Well, yeah, that’s a PhD of earth, environment and universe.

ANDRÉS: What?

KATE: So yeah, if you have a question about your destiny, feel free to ask.

ANDRÉS: I have so many questions about my destiny.

[Song playing]

ANDRÉS: She grew up 13 hours drive from Moscow, which Kate still considers a neighborhood of the city.

KATE: Well, it’s a lovely story because I’m from a very small town, which is called Dimitrovgrad. And it is located just one thousand kilometers east from Moscow.

ANDRÉS: Just a thousand.

KATE: Which is considered just near.

NEIL: Very close

ANDRÉS: So, a suburb of Moscow.

KATE: Yeah.

And this is a very small town and it was known for its green trees. So it’s used to call it like seating the trees.

ANDRÉS: Really?

NEIL: Oh, nice.

KATE: Yeah, so like, whenever I need to go to school or music school, I had to go through the forest.

ANDRÉS: Amazing.

NEIL: Wow, Russian fairytale.

KATE: Yeah, exactly. But it was a little bit dangerous. So my friends, they were telling like never go through the forest to the school because it might be like full of alcoholics.

[Laughter]

ANDRÉS: I thought she was going to say bears.

NEIL: Yeah, wolves.

ANDRÉS: Just drunk.

NEIL: Old Russian men.

ANDRÉS: Just alcoholics.

NEIL: Her destiny was kind of ordained by the town she grew up in. It was dominated by something we all think about when we think about Russia.

KATE: Uh, we are based by nuclear power plant.

ANDRÉS: Ahh.

KATE: Yeah, that’s why we have good vegetables, smart girls.

[Laughter]

NEIL: So, types of vegetables, you find nowhere else in the world.

KATE: Well, the size of them.

ANDRÉS: You have a nuclear power plant that dominates the whole town.

KATE: Well, it’s like most of the people work there. And in turn, my family worked there and it’s not really even power plant it’s research institute. So you could find things you would never find in the world.

ANDRÉS: What do you mean?

KATE: Like different types of reactors and different research activities and patterns for like, for example, treating the cancer.

ANDRÉS: Okay.

KATE: Yeah, because nowadays you use radionuclides for treating cancer.

ANDRÉS: Of course.

NEIL: And you can produce them only in my hometown.

ANDRÉS: Get out.

KATE: Yeah.

NEIL: Whoa.

ANDRÉS: Was it because of the power plant that you decided to become a scientist?

KATE: Well exactly. It’s just, we are surrounded by these nuclear activities, but no one in the city really knows what is right activity, how dangerous is it, or so I wanted to become an environmentalist to basically protect environment from the nuclear industry. And as long as they were studying the nuclear science, it turned out that it’s the most environmental friendly source of energy.

ANDRÉS: That’s what you discovered.

KATE: Yeah, that was a big surprise because I started fighting against it.

And now I’m working for the nuclear radioactive storage and it’s like a big scientific advantage for humanity nowadays.

ANDRÉS: Wow. That’s a wild, wild job. Got it.

Katya, Ekaterina, Katy, Kathy, Kate… She goes by many names as does the most famous Russian.

NEIL: Do you know that your illustrious president has many nicknames?

ANDRÉS: Are we on Putin already? What nicknames does the Putin have?

NEIL: I’m going to, I’m going to try and read some out. Okurok?

KATE: Okurok. Oh, that’s the cigarette leftovers.

ANDRÉS: Like ash?

NEIL: Cigarette butt.

KATE: Butt, yeah.

ANDRÉS: Cigarette butt? Wait, they call Putin cigarette butt?

KATE: I never heard of it.

NEIL: Balodka.

KATE: Balodka.

KATE: Well, that’s his real name, Vladimir, and that’s, if you would call a boy like

ANDRÉS: Juanito.

KATE: Yeah exactly, like a little boy, Balodka.

ANDRÉS: Aw, Balodka.

NEIL: Pukin?

KATE: Pukin?

[Laughter]

ANDRÉS: That would mean a lot.

KATE: That’s terrible, it’s like a play off the words of farting and his last name.

ANDRÉS: The fart. Wait, what’s the word for fart?

KATE: Pook

ANDRÉS: Pook

NEIL: Pook

ANDRÉS: Oh, that’s so sweet.

NEIL: Pooking.

ANDRÉS: A little pook.

NEIL: These are my two favorites. Putler

ANDRÉS: Putler?

KATE: Putler, oh my god. Apparently, you know what is it.

ANDRÉS: We’re seeing a stencil of Putin as Hitler.

NEIL: And Kim Jong Pu.

ANDRÉS: Aw Kim Jong Pu, that’s cute.

KATE: I’ve never heard any of this.

NEIL: And, um, they also call him

[Censor beeps]

KATE: You are going to ruin my career.

[Song playing]

NEIL: Sorry, Kate, I did beep it.

Russia and opulence go hand in hand. There are more billionaires in Moscow than any other city in Europe. There are 163,176 millionaires in the country. 26% of these people are cash rich. Volts and volts of actual cold hard benjamins.

The highest level in the world. It’s more than twice the numbers in Europe and almost three times that of the United States. So do Russians just swan about all day scuffing caviar?

You guys have caviar on everything.

KATE: Well, we start on the breakfast and then just keep going. No, of course we don’t.

[Laughter]

ANDRÉS: Food might not be the thing you think about when you think about Russia. Personally, I have this image of a vodka bottle and a sad boiled potato, but we hit Kate with a food round anyway.

NEIL: What is it? Have you tried it? Is it good?

KATE: Okay.

ANDRÉS: Borscht.

KATE: Oh, Borscht

ANDRÉS: Yeah.

KATE: I have it here every day.

ANDRÉS: Okay.

KATE: It’s a soup and it’s made of beetroot.

ANDRÉS: Yeah. She looks at her notes.

[Laughter]

KATE: Yeah. That’s the key ingredient because that makes the soup red. If you have sour cream, you’re really lucky.

ANDRÉS: Alright, number two.

NEIL: Shchi.

ANDRÉS: Excuse me?

KATE: Again, please.

[Laughter]

ANDRÉS: I just looked at the word.

KATE: Is it a soup?

NEIL: Shchi.

ANDRÉS: Shchi.

KATE: Shchi. Well, it’s another soup, and it’s exactly the same, just without the beetroot.

[Laughter]

ANDRÉS: That’s sad.

NEIL: Green borscht.

KATE: Kind of.

ANDRÉS: Number three, Solyanka.

KATE: Is some kind of soup, it’s a lot of salted things, like pickles.

ANDRÉS: Oh, do you like it?

KATE: I love them.

NEIL: Ukha.

KATE: Ukha. Oh, that’s my favorite.

ANDRÉS: Really?

KATE: Yeah, that’s what my dad used to make. It’s a soup of course and it’s made of fish. And since my father is the fishermen, he would like go with his friends for fishing. And when they got the fish, they would make Uhka right in the place on the beach. Yeah, so they have this tradition to put the shot of vodka into the soup.

And I think the, it comes from the old ages. Uh, to sterilize the food because you’re taking the water from the river and it’s like sterilizing.

ANDRÉS: Sterilize, yeah. To feel like it’s properly Russian.

KATE: Yeah and maybe in France, they cook with wine. So in Russia we cook with Vodka.

[Laughter]

KATE: Once, he forgot me on the boat.

ANDRÉS: What? What do you mean?

KATE: Well, I was young, so I don’t exactly know how many hours.

ANDRÉS: How many hours? Were you scared?

KATE: No, I’m not that one.

ANDRÉS: You’re fine.

KATE: In Russia we are like, barely get scared.

ANDRÉS: Are you telling me Russians are fearless?

KATE: Probably.

ANDRÉS: Woah.

NEIL: Wow.

ANDRÉS: Look at that smile. She just scared the shit out of me, she just scared the living shit out of me.

NEIL: With her little fan. Just fanning her silly, I could tear you in half. You don’t even know.

[Laughter]

ANDRÉS: Um, alright. I think it’s my turn.

NEIL: Yes.

ANDRÉS: Piroshki.

KATE: Piroshki.

ANDRÉS: Piroshki.

KATE: It’s like dumplings, but fried.

ANDRÉS: Okay, that sounds delicious.

KATE: Yeah, you can make many different fillings like, um, cherry filled or like with meat or with onions, for example, onions and eggs, my favorite.

ANDRÉS: Really?

KATE: Yeah.

ANDRÉS: Blini.

KATE: Blini.

ANDRÉS: Blini.

KATE: Is pancakes and that’s what I can do, actually.

ANDRÉS: That’s the one dish.

KATE: Yeah, exactly. And my husband, he loves them.

ANDRÉS: Yeah?

KATE: It’s like super hard to make, actually, it takes I don’t know, two, three hours to make them and just two, three minutes to eat them.

ANDRÉS: Wow.

KATE: Yeah and you could put caviar of course, on pancakes, but what we love is condensed milk. It’s like really sweet.

ANDRÉS: So why is it that this is the dish you know how to make? Is this something that like, your mom taught you how to make, your grandmother?

KATE: Yeah, apparently, that’s the thing, when you come to a different family for a holiday, they would make a pancake and you would always compare like, oh my mom does it differently. And like, I prefer my mom’s way. So I learned how to make it to like really proud of my mom and like to keep this culture.

ANDRÉS: Was it something that she was making all the time or is it special occasions?

KATE: No, I would say it’s a special and everyone would make these pancakes to celebrate the end of the winter and we burned the big, big handmade, like doll.

NEIL: Wait, what?

ANDRÉS: Wait you do like burning man?

KATE: Yeah, exactly. In the city center of every city.

ANDRÉS: What?

KATE: Yeah, so for example, my mom and her friends, they would go to the forest to celebrate this holiday and they would make this a doll by themselves.

And my mom, she would dress it and make a, like,

ANDRÉS: like a face,

KATE: like a face, yeah. And then they would burn it and sing a song and drink vodka.

ANDRÉS: I love, the crazy thing that always happens with food is that you discover this other stuff.

NEIL: Yeah, all kinds of weird things start coming out.

ANDRÉS: I love it.

NEIL: It’s like, yeah, we eat that, we eat that on the day where we burn the giant man.

[Laughter]

[Song playing]

NEIL: Alcohol consumption in Russia remains some of the highest in the world. A study from Oxford University in 2014 estimated that Russian men drink an average of 20 liters of vodka per year. It has dropped. Russia is sobering slowly. But the nation’s drink is vodka and there are so many rules. Just hold on.

Number one. When you have a bottle, it must be drunk until it’s gone. Number two, one should not put a glass with alcohol back on the table. Number three, vodka is poured to everybody sitting. Number four. One should not make a long interruption between first and second shots. Number five, the late comer must drink a full glass.

Number six, leaving guests must drink one last glass, the so called na pososhok. As a rule, every portion of spirit is accompanied by a touch of glasses and a toast. Number eight, it is not allowed to fill a glass being held in the air. Number nine. It is considered bad luck to make a toast with an empty glass.

Number 10, it is considered bad luck to put an empty bottle on the table when it’s finished. They go on the floor.

ANDRÉS: We’ve been skirting this issue for long enough.

NEIL: Vodka.

KATE: Oh yeah.

[Laughter]

KATE: Well probably I’m not the proper Russian. I tried it too late. I think I was like about 25 years old.

ANDRÉS: What?

KATE: Yeah.

NEIL: The first time you tried vodka?

ANDRÉS: How did you avoid vodka until you were 25?

KATE: Well probably it’s this thing for like older guys and like nowadays we prefer cocktails.

ANDRÉS: Look at her, fancy.

[Laughter]

ANDRÉS: So, so are you telling me the first time you tried it, you’re like, meh.

KATE: Oh, it was disgusting. It’s so strong. And it’s so disgusting.

ANDRÉS: Do you still, to this day, think vodka is disgusting?

KATE: I don’t remember if I tried it again, but

ANDRÉS: You only tried it once!

NEIL: My goodness.

KATE: Probably.

ANDRÉS: Is it, is it, the stereotype is two old men in a bar, bottle of vodka and just shots.

NEIL: Shot for shot.

ANDRÉS: Boom, boom, boom.

KATE: All stereotype.

ANDRÉS: So it’s done.

KATE: Yeah, probably.

ANDRÉS: Wow.

NEIL: It’s strange isn’t it? We’re finding this kind of a lot with MisInfoNation by doing this thing, that our generation, maybe the generation slightly younger than us is kind of almost purposely trying to trounce all of these like, myths that they’ve had enough of.

ANDRÉS: But do you think that it’s people trying to break the myths or it’s just the fact that we’re mixing more.

KATE: Well, I think you’re right. It’s part of globalization and before it was really closed country, so we would never have anything else other than vodka, but now it’s like more open and we are getting now more drinks and like it’s easier to get and cheaper to buy.

[Song playing]

NEIL: So we’ve picked the happiest, least vodka drinking Russian on the face of the earth. MisInfoNation, destroying stereotypes once again. So let’s go to a little known drink, a drink called Kvass.

KATE: Kvass. I love it.

NEIL: What is it?

KATE: It’s a drink, um, made of bread.

ANDRÉS: Did you just say bread?

KATE: Yeah, exactly.

[Laughter]

NEIL: I love how she’s like, yep, that should be enough information for you.

KATE: Made of bread and yeast.

ANDRÉS: Oh.

NEIL: And what does it taste like?

ANDRÉS: Yeah.

KATE: Oh it’s like little bit, kind of a kombucha taste if you ever tried this kombucha.

ANDRÉS: Oh wow, that sounds really good actually.

KATE: Yeah, but it’s better.

NEIL: Really?

KATE: Yeah, it’s so good.

ANDRÉS: Kombucha burn.

[Laughter]

ANDRÉS: Get out of the way Korea.

[Laughter]

KATE: And it’s also healthier. Bread actually has to be really dried.

ANDRÉS: Wait, wait. The bread is sitting in liquid?

KATE: Yeah, exactly.

NEIL: Oh, and then you kind of like wring it out, like an old shirt.

ANDRÉS: Like a sock.

KATE: Just you filtrate it through the textile. Normally we use modal, it’s like type of textile.

ANDRÉS: Right.

KATE: And then it’s just good to go and it’s a little bit sparkling with CO2.

ANDRÉS: When you, when you describe it, it sounds really good.

But if somebody said to me, here, try this. This is an old, like an old piece of bread that we’ve…

KATE: Oh, I’ll tell you more. We are making soup out of it.

ANDRÉS: What?

KATE: Yeah, it’s called okroshka. So if you have the Russian salad without the mayonnaise, you put this drink and that’s the soup. It’s like summer soup, which is cold and make you refresh.

ANDRÉS: Oh like your gazpacho.

KATE: Ah.

[Laughter]

[Song playing]

NEIL: Who doesn’t love a good steam? In the Nordics saunas are top of the list of stereotypes, but in Russia, well, in Russia, they sauna like lunatics. The banya is the most hard-core sauna in the world.

KATE: Yeah, it is.

[Laughter]

ANDRÉS: Have you done it?

KATE: Oh, of course.

ANDRÉS: All right. What’s it called?

KATE: Banya

ANDRÉS: Banya.

KATE: Yeah.

NEIL: And it’s like hot

KATE: Normally above 100 degrees Celsius.

ANDRÉS: What?

KATE: 110 is like cool.

ANDRÉS: Celsius.

KATE: Yeah.

ANDRÉS: That sounds dangerous.

NEIL: Yeah.

KATE: Well, we are Russians.

[Laughter]

[Song playing]

ANDRÉS: 110 degrees Celsius. That’s 230 degrees Fahrenheit.

Describe the situation.

NEIL: So it’s like summer cottage, outdoors.

ANDRÉS: Out in the countryside.

KATE: Yeah, that’s how I would explain it because for example, my husband’s parents, they have a house in a village and then they have a separate house, which is like small house for banya.

ANDRÉS: Yeah.

KATE: So it’s like two story building for like different rooms for like different temperatures room.

ANDRÉS: What?

KATE: One room you would chill out and watch a TV,

ANDRÉS: What?

KATE: And drink a beer. And then the next room, it’s like a little bit hotter. You can like wash your body and like use the shampoo and then the next one is the hottest one.

NEIL: So you have to like progress through it.

KATE: Yeah, because we do repetitions and there is a kind of procedure you follow and it’s like, first you go to the heating room and you’re sweating, but you’re not doing like anything special. You’re just waiting for the first drops.

ANDRÉS: For sweat.

KATE: Yeah. And then you are good too get out.

ANDRÉS: Okay.

KATE: You’re going either to jump into the snow or into the lake or into the swimming pool.

ANDRÉS: Right.

KATE: And then you’re ready to go to come back to the second session. And at the second phase, some people already start fighting with the like branches.

ANDRÉS: She’s doing a gesture. It looks like she’s hitting something.

NEIL: A whipping gesture.

ANDRÉS: You hit yourself with branches?

KATE: Well, it’s not yourself, it’s your friend who is hitting you.

ANDRÉS: You hit your friend?

KATE: Yeah, exactly.

[Laughter]

ANDRÉS: Or your friend is hitting you.

KATE: Yeah.

ANDRÉS: But like just like a tree branch?

KATE: Yeah. It should be dry.

ANDRÉS: Ow, sounds terrible.

KATE: No, but before you would, uh, like wet it in the hot water, so it would make, become soft.

ANDRÉS: Okay.

NEIL: So it hurts more.

KATE: And then a friend or your husband would take the branch made of birches or oak.

ANDRÉS: Okay, birch or oak.

KATE: Yeah and then he, he starts hitting you and it feels like the massage.

ANDRÉS: Yeah. I mean, it feels good?

KATE: Gentle massage.

[Laughter]

ANDRÉS: I was going to say, this does not sound gentle at all.

NEIL: This is just a light gentile Russian massage.

KATE: Sometimes you scream, but it’s a scream of happiness.

[Laughter]

KATE: Yeah and then actually it’s a hard work. Because can you imagine, like you’re laying down and like accepting massage, but the guy he’s actually doing exercises. And it’s super hot.

ANDRÉS: Yeah.

KATE: And the circulation of air, it makes like the huge hurricane of hot.

NEIL: Oh right, yeah, it heats the air.

KATE: Yeah.

NEIL: Yeah.

KATE: Hot air like heating your body and the head of this guy. So you’re, you used to have these funny hats in the bayna to protect brains.

[Laughter]

KATE: It’s like not to be overheated.

ANDRÉS: Oh my god.

NEIL: So your brain doesn’t cook in your own head.

KATE: Exactly

NEIL: Andrés is just covering his whole face.

ANDRÉS: I mean, this is another level and the little hat, like what does it look like, this little hat?

KATE: It’s not that little.

ANDRÉS: It’s a big hat.

KATE: Like, it’s a hat to cover your ears especially and like the hair, because when the hair can really get dry, it can fire on something.

ANDRÉS & NEIL: It can catch fire.

[Laughter]

KATE: Well, if you touch something really hot you’re not supposed to touch.

[Song playing]

NEIL: So, if you’re ever in Russia expect to get naked, wear a felt hat, get beaten by branches by your friends in a room so hot you can cook eggs in it. The benefits of the banya are tried and true. Hot steam cleans the skin, makes it soft and smooth. It helps fight illness. If you want to lose weight, doctors will recommend going to the banya once a week.

There’s a Russian proverb: a day spent in a banya is a day you do not age.

ANDRÉS: We’ll be back after a break with Kate and more chat about Russia, the mafia, conception day, superstitions, and much, much more.

[Song playing]

ANDRÉS: Picture a Russian. Are they smiling? Of course not. The world thinks of Russians as stone cold, hardasses. Is there any truth in this at all? I mean, sitting across from Kate, it’s hard to imagine.

KATE: It is truth like in Moscow, if you would smile a lot, the people say you are silly. It’s like we have a proverb.

Like if you’re a smile, you are silly. But in a small city, like from, in my hometown, uh, you get really like warm and the heartwarming smile when you get into the family.

ANDRÉS: Oh, nice.

KATE: So it looks like we are really cold when we are in the big company or like when we think about the society and everyone I think tries to protect themselves.

Somehow we feel unsecure, so we give these like face, like don’t bullshit me.

ANDRÉS: Right.

KATE: But once you get to the family, it’s like changing everything. Everyone is super welcome and warming and smiling and kissing, and like willing to give you everything they have.

NEIL: If you met somebody on the street,

KATE: they would not smile.

NEIL: If you were to invite someone out for dinner or if you got invited for drinks or something, that person would completely change.

KATE: Yeah. That’s for sure.

NEIL: Yeah?

KATE: Yeah. Yeah. That’s true. Yeah.

ANDRÉS: When you go back to Russia, do you smile less?

KATE: I try to.

ANDRÉS: Wow.

KATE: Yeah, yeah. Because, well, also I used to at the governmental company in Moscow. And if you would smile at work, they would tell that you don’t have enough work to do. That you like have free time to enjoy your life.

ANDRÉS: You’re smiling too much.

KATE: Yeah, exactly.

NEIL: It is true. If you, if you, if you act kind of annoyed all the time, you seem busy.

ANDRÉS: It looks like you’re busy.

[Laughter]

KATE: Yeah. That’s a strange thing. And apparently it was not very natural for myself because like

ANDRÉS: Sitting across from you, I can’t even imagine.

KATE: I didn’t even notice when the change happened to me.

And then when I moved to Germany, I met Mexicans like super smiley people and friends, and they were so happy to make friendship and like, so open to me and they’re like, are you okay?

ANDRÉS: Yeah.

KATE: And I was like, don’t talk to me, I don’t know you, so I was super protective.

ANDRÉS: Right.

KATE: And after a while, when we got closer, we became friends. I started smiling every five seconds and then it hurt.

[Laughter]

KATE: I’m like oh my god, my cheeks didn’t work for the last 10 years.

ANDRÉS: You had to do a little exercise.

KATE: Yeah.

NEIL: Wow, so it’s true.

ANDRÉS: I would drink to, to Mexico.

NEIL: To Mexico.

KATE: To Mexico!

ANDRÉS: Viva Mexico.

NEIL: Viva Mexico.

[Drinking Vodka]

KATE: Nice vodka.

ANDRÉS: Oh we didn’t, yeah I was going to say, wait, wait, wait, how do we toast? We didn’t do this. How do we toast in Russia?

Let’s do one in Russian, uh, to make your wallet fat.

[Kate speaking in Russian]

ANDRÉS: Woah. I will not be able to even do half of that.

NEIL: Ah, that made me so happy.

[Laughter]

NEIL: But I’m not going to show it.

[Laughter]

ANDRÉS: Yeah, Neil, you would fail as a Russian, my friend.

NEIL: I would fail. I have, I have the biggest mouth in the world. Like you can see me coming from a mile away. I can’t like,

ANDRÉS: You’re a smiley man. That’s serious? There’s still a smile in there. You’re still smiling. Now it’s getting bigger.

[Song playing]

NEIL: Russia is about 20% of Earth’s land surface, but it only has 144 million citizens, making it one of the most sparsely settled countries on earth. With a low birth rate and high death rate, the population has been shrinking since the early 1990s.

In 2006, Putin described the falling birth rate in the country as its most serious problem.

How would they fix it?

ANDRÉS: We don’t know if this is true, but there’s a day in Russia where people are encouraged to make a baby.

KATE: Oh my god. I wish I would know about it. I would celebrate it.

[Laughter]

ANDRÉS: And so it was deemed that Procreation Day would be September 12th. Amorous couples who then have a child exactly nine months later on June 12th, Russia’s national day are rewarded by the government for birthing a patriot. They win fridges, cars, televisions, and even money. And people think the Russians are unromantic.

NEIL: Another stereotype we hadn’t really known about until a few weeks ago is that Russians are the most superstitious people in the world. Remember even just sitting, drinking vodka with people has numerous rules about what is permitted and what is not. Bad luck lives in Russia. So we tested Kate with a series of superstitions.

ANDRÉS: If your ears or cheeks are hot.

KATE: Someone is speaking about you.  

ANDRÉS: If your nose itches,

KATE: you want to drink alcohol.

ANDRÉS: If your right hand itches

KATE: Oh, it’s, you’re going to get big money.

ANDRÉS: If you have the hiccups,

KATE: it’s something thinking about you, but in a nice way.

ANDRÉS: Oh, nice.

NEIL: Oh, that’s cool. Man, people think about me a lot.

[Laughter]

ANDRÉS: You have hiccups a lot?

NEIL: Yeah, I do.

ANDRÉS: Yeah?

NEIL: Yeah.

KATE: That’s probably your family or daughter.

NEIL: I have a problem with my diaphragm.

ANDRÉS: If an eyelash falls.

KATE: Oh, you will die soon.

[Laughter]

ANDRÉS: Dark.

KATE: I just made it up.

ANDRÉS: I know. That’s good though. I like that. I like how she said it with a smile.

NEIL: Russian sense of humor.

[Laughter]

ANDRÉS: If a fork or spoon falls on the ground,

KATE: someone will come to visit your house soon.

ANDRÉS: If you eat from a knife,

KATE: Ah, you will be angry person.

NEIL: Amazing.

ANDRÉS: So specific. How do you remember all of this?

KATE: Well apparently it’s a thing, I never thought about it.

[Laughter]

NEIL: You’re, you’re not allowed to whistle in anybody’s house.

KATE: Oh, that’s true. Because you will stay without money

ANDRÉS: Because you’re whistling?

KATE: Yeah.

NEIL: Wow. And it’s just a done thing. Like if you whistle in someone’s house…

KATE: Yeah it’s like noo. They will run out.

ANDRÉS: If you find yourself standing between people with the same name?

KATE: Of course, you make a wish.

ANDRÉS: What do you mean, really?

KATE: Of course.  

NEIL: You make a wish?

KATE: Yeah you never lose this option.

ANDRÉS: Really?

KATE: Yeah.

ANDRÉS: So you’re, you’re, you’re sitting down, you turn, hey, what’s your name?

KATE: Everyone would tell you like, oh, look at you, you’re sitting in between.

ANDRÉS: You’re between Ivan and Ivan.

KATE: Yeah like even if you don’t notice by yourself, everyone will tell you.

NEIL: I guess it would happen quite a lot in Russia as well. Cause there’s a lot of similar names.

KATE: Well it happens I would say almost every party. Yeah. We just make great wishes.

[Laughter]

[Song playing]

ANDRÉS: Six on our list of course, is the Russian mafia. The don of world crime bosses has to be Semion Mogilevich. A small, 300-pound chain smoker who’s been on the FBI’s top 10 since 2009. Authorities from multiple countries are after him for 40 criminal offenses from racketeering to wire fraud, conspiracy, money-laundering and of course, murder for hire.

He remains a free man in Russia, almost certainly thanks to protection from friends in high places. It’s rumored that everyone in Russia knows someone in the mob.

So at least one member of your family is in the Russian mafia.

KATE: Of course.

[Laughter]

ANDRÉS: Doesn’t even skip a beat.

KATE: No joke.

ANDRÉS: Are you serious?

KATE: Yeah.

ANDRÉS: You’re scaring me.

KATE: Yeah.

ANDRÉS: A little bit.

[Laughter]

ANDRÉS: There’s a smile.

NEIL: Who was in it, who was it in your family?

KATE: No, that’s the thing I’m not allowed to tell.

[Laughter]

NEIL: If you don’t know who it is then it’s you, right?

KATE: Maybe it’s not a thing every day, but sometimes you really like suspect people.

NEIL: I am just simple vodka salesman.

[Laughter]

NEIL: I’m pretty certain, for the record, Kate is not in the mafia.

[Song playing]

NEIL: Russia’s dark side is certainly propagated and pushed in the mainstream media. Even though homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia in 1993, the law still considers public promotion of it a crime.

Violations lead to fines up to $7,000. A real red hot button topic in the country right now is the 2006 gay propaganda law, fully enforced in 2013.

The government used the protection of children as an excuse to silence any public discourse about LGBT issues.

The law denies kids their right to information about sexual diversity. Activists took the government to the European Court of Human Rights to argue and in 2017, the court’s decision thankfully was to rule against Russia.

They said the country had failed to demonstrate how freedom of expression affect traditional families and that the European Court would not endorse the homophobic policies.

Sadly, the propaganda law seems to remain. Just last month Yekaterina Lakhova, head of the Women’s Union of Russia, urged President Putin to ban a rainbow color ice cream. She said, and I quote, I don’t like the rainbow just as I don’t like the swastika. So Russia, why so homophobic?

It’s illegal to be gay in Russia.

KATE: I’m afraid that’s true. I’m not sure about the law, but it’s so close to become a real law, even if it’s not yet there. Yeah.

NEIL: Do you think it’s gonna go that way?

KATE: Yeah, I’m pretty sure the last, like accidents were happening, it’s all about against this.

NEIL: Personally, how does that make you kind of feel about Russia?

KATE: Well, it’s just, I don’t know. It’s out of date. I don’t know. Like if people don’t accept other people, probably they don’t accept themselves. And maybe it’s like the thing, which is inside of the person who is rejecting this.

ANDRÉS: Right.

KATE: And I think by accepting others, you’re like wider and wiser person.

ANDRÉS: That’s very nicely put.

Well, while we’re on the subject of hate,

NEIL: Russia hates the United States of America.

KATE: No, that’s not true. And I don’t think we have like big, strong stereotypes about the like country-wise, because I think Russians are so different by themselves. So we don’t treat other countries like stereotypes. Well, the States are huge, right?

And they host so many different states and people are different in the states.

NEIL: Yeah.

KATE: So I don’t think people judge like Americans, they would say like this person, that person.

NEIL: Yeah. It’s almost like every state has a, has its kind of quintessential person.

ANDRÉS: Sure. The Russia and the United States were, you know, competing The Cold War, all of this stuff, that there was this kind of culture of competition.

KATE: But like the society is very different from politics.

NEIL: Yeah.

KATE: And we don’t really, I don’t know those people who would say negative about other countries.

NEIL: There you go.

ANDRÉS: Nice.

NEIL: Go to Russia.

[Song playing]

ANDRÉS: Online there’s one thing which nearly always tops the Russian stereotype list. We’ve seen the footage, we’ve all grimaced, laughed, hidden our eyes, flinched and been moved in the incredibly strange world of Russia dash cam footage.

Does your car have a dash cam?

KATE: What is it?

ANDRÉS: Those cameras that you put in the back.

KATE: Oh yes, of course, c’mon, you have to record the entire life of the car.

[Laughter]

NEIL: Where does this come from? Is it like, is it a safety thing? Is it like a litigious thing? Is it

KATE: Well, unfortunately I think it comes from the fact that justice is not always there. So like if someone is richer, they are going to win. Unless you have this video recording.

ANDRÉS: I mean, for, for us outside of Russia, it has given us some of the most incredible footage that has ever been seen.

KATE: That’s so true.

[Song playing]

ANDRÉS: Googling Russia, a hundred percent of the time will get you this top hit. Russian women are the most beautiful women in the world. The guys oddly never seem to make the list.

Russia girls have an incredible amount of ethnic diversity. It’s easy to forget that Russia stretches a third of the way around the world.

And they are obsessed with appearance. Like really obsessed. Throughout the 1850s, Russia was among the first countries to introduce higher education for women. They’re incredibly well educated, nothing sexier than that.

Are they all beautiful though?

KATE: Yes, we are.

[Laughter]

ANDRÉS: She doesn’t even skip a beat.

KATE: Now being abroad, I just hear it so often.

ANDRÉS: Right?

KATE: But in Russia you would never hear it.

ANDRÉS: No?

KATE: No, like in Russia, you’re average and suddenly you go abroad and you’re a superstar.

ANDRÉS: So when you’re there, nobody has this idea. Nobody, nobody’s thinking about this.

KATE: No, no, no. It’s like even maybe different, like they would say you’re like average, what are you thinking of yourself.

ANDRÉS: Yeah, who do you think you are?

KATE: Yeah, exactly.

ANDRÉS: Right.

NEIL: Six-foot-tall like perfect looking girl. You’re like, look at this girl next door.

KATE: Yeah exactly, yeah I think it’s like a competitive type thing.

ANDRÉS: Really?

KATE: Inside of Russia we are like competitive. So we are trying to become like more beautiful, more stronger, more I don’t know, having a better face or body. And then suddenly when we go out, it’s too much, we are two good.

[Laughter]

NEIL: Russian women, very appearance obsessed.

KATE: It’s huge, when I was a kid, it was like during my school times, I would never go out even to like buy milk without makeup or like wearing heels or wearing a dress.

NEIL: When you were in school?

KATE: Yeah, it was so huge. I would be so embarrassed and especially if like some people would see me and they would tell later, like she was like, not prepared, her hair was not done.

But now it’s changing. I’m so glad to see.

ANDRÉS: Oh really?

KATE: Yeah. Now, right now it’s like a new trend. So like, we are trying to accept natural beauty without makeups and yeah, it’s getting easier.

ANDRÉS: You can go outside in like flip-flops.

KATE: Not yet.

[Laughter]

NEIL: Step by step.

KATE: That’s too much.

NEIL: There you go, that one’s true.

ANDRÉS: Yeah, pretty much.

[Song playing]

NEIL: Okay, speed round. Russian customs, true or false.

ANDRÉS: Never turn down a drink.

KATE: True.

ANDRÉS: Never tell a yo mama joke.

KATE: That’s true.

NEIL: Yeah.

ANDRÉS: Never argue with a babushka.

KATE: That’s so true. She’s always right.

[Laughter]

ANDRÉS: You heard it here first. Babushka always right.

NEIL: Babushka wins.

ANDRÉS: If you’re going to somebody’s house, never show up without a gift.

KATE: That’s true. Yeah. It could be flowers or a bottle of wine, or even a chocolate.

NEIL: If you are going to bring flowers, never bring an even number.

KATE: Yeah. That’s so true.

ANDRÉS: What?

KATE: Yeah. Even numbers for some, when someone is dead.

ANDRÉS: For funerals?

NEIL: Superstitions.

ANDRÉS: You only bring even number of flowers to a funeral. And if I go to a funeral with an odd number of flowers, that’s also bad?

KATE: But I’m not sure if someone would count on the funerals, but at birthday they will count.

ANDRÉS & NEIL: They’ll count?

KATE: Yeah. That’s for sure.

ANDRÉS: Oh my god.

KATE: Yeah, that’s for sure. 

NEIL: Like you’re wishing me dead, get out of my house.

KATE: Exactly.

NEIL: And you’d whistle on the way out. Just to mess with them.

KATE: Oh my god, that’s the worst.

[Laughter]

ANDRÉS: Don’t criticize Russia.

KATE: I would say yes. It’s just being polite to the place where you were born.

ANDRÉS: Okay.

NEIL: That’s fair enough.

[Song playing]

ANDRÉS: Although you might have reds in your head, when you think about Russia, it was only really a communist country from 1922 to 1991. So why does the world still think of communism in the former USSR?

All Russians are communists.

KATE: I don’t know how to answer. Well, it depends on the age probably.

[Laughter]

ANDRÉS: That’s a very good answer. That’s a very good answer.

NEIL: 65?

KATE: Yeah, I would call they have the spirit.

ANDRÉS: They’ve got the spirit of communism in them.

KATE: Yeah, yeah, like they truly believe in it and the success. Yeah so, but now it’s changed.

ANDRÉS: Right. And now everybody loves Putin.

KATE: It’s so true.

NEIL: She’s really good at laughing silently.

ANDRÉS: I know she’s giggling with malice.

NEIL: We call that Putin laugh. When you’re laughing, but nobody can hear.

ANDRÉS: She’s laughing. I can see like devil horns coming out.

[Laughter]

KATE: I’m not laughing.

[Laughter]

NEIL: Kate wears her Russian soul with a smile and a laugh always. Outsiders view Russia with trepidation. But in reality, the lack of smiling is down to a workplace loophole. They don’t all drink vodka. They’re not all homophobic. In a nation so huge, their view of themselves is more diverse than you could possibly imagine.

ANDRÉS: Russia is one of these places that everybody kind of has an idea in their head and, but at the same time it seems mysterious, right?

KATE: Yeah. I think it has signatures of both Europe and Asia, but it has something special about itself.

ANDRÉS: Yeah.

KATE: So you can always say, oh, he or she’s Russian.

ANDRÉS: Yeah.

KATE: But something also in the like eyes in the way we behave in society and it’s not really easy to explain what is it special about us. It’s something you cannot describe, but you feel.

NEIL: How correct do you think the world is about Russia then?

KATE: Um, I would say like, 70% is correct.

ANDRÉS: Wow.

KATE: But it depends also like on the source, because one source, we can see both beautiful Russian culture, architecture, music, and a different side, it’s all about nicknames.

ANDRÉS: Yeah.

KATE: So I mean there are like always truth and gossips but yeah, in average it’s all right.  

ANDRÉS: I mean, it is true that we completely avoided the incredible culture of Russia. The literature, the music.

KATE: Yeah and from the scientific point of view it’s like such a historian heritage.

ANDRÉS: Sure.

NEIL: You’re proud of all of that stuff.

KATE: Well, yeah, especially of science because I maybe a little bit know more about science than on art in general. And then also it was a surprise for me that I went abroad to get a degree in biogeochemistry. And only when I grew data, I found out that it was a Russian scientist, Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky, who actually created this field of science.

And he wrote a manuscript, which is still valuable. And like nowadays we are trying to solve the problem of climate change, but actually everything is already written. So for me, it’s a big treasure. And, um, it’s a heritage that I think we need to like awake, reborn.

He was actually one of the first who discovered radioactivity. And on one side is the thing that is killing people. And on the other side it’s the radionuclide that are treating cancer.

ANDRÉS: Yeah.

KATE: So like there are always pros and cons and I think it’s just the conscious choice of humanity, how you will use this source of knowledge. And we have this knowledge. So now I think it’s a step for humanity to make a decision.

NEIL: I think that’s how people should think about Russia as well. You know all of the bad stuff, but you also know there’s a lot of good stuff.

[Laughter]

NEIL: You just got to choose which, which path, choose your path.

ANDRÉS: Choose your Reddit thread. Are you proud of being Russian?

KATE: Of course. Come on.

ANDRÉS: Why?

KATE: I don’t know. I feel like I can do everything.

It’s like the matter only to make a wish and everything might come true is just, I don’t know how to explain. It’s just being Russian. I think that I can do everything. I don’t feel limits and the only limit is in my head. So whenever I make a wish, I decide that there are no limits and I can achieve everything in my life.

And so far it’s going really good.

ANDRÉS: I was going to say, having met you, I think that’s true.

NEIL: I think that’s true, yeah.

ANDRÉS: It’s determination.

KATE: Yeah, probably.

NEIL: Yeah, it’s like I can be…

ANDRÉS: Yeah.

NEIL: Doctor of the universe. Double doctor of the universe.

[Song playing]

ANDRÉS: Kate is smart, fearless, charming. She’s mystical for a scientist. She flirts with ideas of wishes and destiny, but she, she also knows that if you want to find the good in something, you have to search it out.

Now, maybe this is part of that heavy Russian soul. She loves her country for its art and sciences, for its beauty and its vastness. But she also knows its flaws, its mistakes and its troubles. So with that in mind, we did have one last question.

And on a scale of one to 10, how sexy is Putin?

[Laughter]

ANDRÉS: She’s completely gone silent. She’s just doing hand gestures. She’s trying to escape. She doesn’t want to answer this question.

KATE: Ten.

[Laughter]

ANDRÉS: So our judges here at Passport and Kate counted that 70% of the myths and stereotypes we presented today are true. We couldn’t help but think that the view of Russia might be exaggerated with regards to certain qualities.

NEIL: So after all of our talk about Russia, are we ever going to see you again?

ANDRÉS: Yeah. Is this the last time we’re going to see you?

NEIL: Or is it like the end?

KATE: Well, it depends what you will cut off of this interview.

[Laughter]

ANDRÉS: Maybe the question is, are we going to be okay?

KATE: That’s probably the most correct question.

[Laughter]

[Song playing]

NEIL: Spies, speaking against Putin or the country voter fraud, the KGB, online interference, election hacking, poisoning. Russia has a rep for tampering and I should have been worried.

No word of a lie. After our interview with Kate, the interview you’ve just heard, my laptop, my phone, both my bank cards, stopped working. A coincidence, I’m sure.

 Andrés on the other hand, still has full functionality on all of his devices. It must’ve been something I said. And, um, they also call him…

[Censor beeps]

[Song playing]

ANDRÉS: This has been fascinating.

KATE: Thank you.

ANDRÉS: No, thank you.

NEIL: Thank you very much.

ANDRÉS: I feel, I do feel like, I always feel like it’s a little bit parting the curtain, just a little bit.

NEIL: The iron curtain.

ANDRÉS: The iron curtain’s gone, dude. The doorstop to the iron curtain.

NEIL: The doorstop to the iron curtain has been curtain has been removed once and for all.

ANDRÉS: The iron curtain has opened.

KATE: Thank you for inviting. Now I know more about Russia than I used to.

[Laughter]

ANDRÉS: That’s what we do here at Passport.

[Song playing]

NEIL: This week saved pins are Ekaterina’s top five places in the vast, vast land of Rus.

ANDRÉS: All right, here we go. Number one is Gorky Park. A beautiful park in the Moscow city center. It’s great in summer for a stroll and for the view of the Moscow river. Also, there’s the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art that always has incredible exhibitions.

And in winter, the entire park turns into an ice-skating rink. You’ll be whistling The Scorpions through the whole damn day.

NEIL: Number two. Head to Saint Petersburg and take a boat tour through the city channels and rivers. Kate and her husband took this trip when they were tired and frozen when visiting St. Petersburg in the winter. So, it’s a great lazy option to see the whole city all year round, such as the Fontanka river, Kryukov’s channel, the Moyka river, the Winter channel, and the Neva.  

ANDRÉS: Number three. Samara City.

Kate recommends walking in the old city to see typical Russian culture, which is quite different from the capitals. It’s in the Western part of Russia, about a thousand kilometers away from Moscow. It used to be a closed city, and now it’s famous for space programs and technology. Kate comes back to Samara once a year to teach at the university there.

And the best part of the city is a walk by the River Volga, the biggest in Europe, with the view to the Zhiguli mountains.

NEIL: Number four. Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest lake, has freezing water even in the summer. The culture here is really completely different from the Russia you know, or you think you know. This is the Southern Siberian area near the Mongolian border, 5,000 kilometers away from Moscow.

It represents the unspoiled beauty of Russia and is sometimes referred to as the sacred sea.

ANDRÉS: Number five is Kamchatka. If you continue traveling even further from Moscow, about 6,500 kilometers to the Russian Far East, you will reach the Pacific Ocean and find the Kamchatka Peninsula. You can see Kate’s relatives there who eat caviar every day for breakfast.

It’s a volcanic wonderland with the highest concentration of active volcanoes on earth. It’s super cold, pretty much all the time. So it’s great for mountain skiing and snowboarding, but you will also have to take a helicopter to get to the best spots.

NEIL: That’s it for this week, guys. Thanks for coming to Russia with us next week, we’re off somewhere, a little more safe.

Produce a Harry Stott takes us to Silicon Valley, California to ask some old hippies about having our brains uploaded to the cloud. And we find out how San Francisco counterculture created the richest, most elite city in America, and also where to go for some exclusive Apple merch you can’t get anywhere else.

We’ll see you then.

[Song playing]

This week’s episode of Passport was written, produced and edited by me, Neil Innes and Andrés Bartos.

Huge thanks to Professor Dr. Ekaterina Markelova for talking to us for this show.

Go follow her on Instagram @Ekaterina_Markelova_Eco

We’ll have all of Kate’s details in the show notes if you want to check out some of her writing, her talks, and much much more. She really is a genius.

Our theme music is by the incredible Nick Turner as always with additional stuff by Lt. Fitzgibbons Men, The Like Thes, The Benign Ones, Condor, Ryan Vernon, Rochelle Rochelle, Off the Menu and Tchaikovsky, of course.

Our production assistant is Eliza Engel. Hi Eliza.

The show is mixed and mastered by Julian Kwasneski.

Stacey Book, Dominique Ferrari and Avi Glijanksy whip us in the banya each and every week. They also executive produce the show.

Which is hosted by myself and a man who wants to grow a mustache and legally change his name to Andrei Bartofsky, Andrés Bartos.

We’ll see you in the next place!

Episodes

Episode 38: Australia – Part 2: Asteroids and the Outback

For every Celestial Emu there’s a planet-killing space rock on an inevitable path towards earth. In our season 1 finale, Passport producers Jennifer Carr and Andrés Bartos head back Down Under to talk about asteroids, the scars they leave, and the stories they’ve created.

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Episode 32: India: Love on the Rails

This week, Passport is taking a journey on the Indian Railway. These train cars are a moving microcosm of India, and the inspiration behind some of the country’s greatest love stories – on the Bollywood screen and in real life.

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Episode 29: Passport Goes to the Polls

As the US goes to the polls, Passport goes there too. But not to America. Take a break from the anxiety and divisiveness of the US election with two stories that show the true, positive, power of democracy across the globe.

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© 2018, Frequency Machine Studios.
© 2018, Frequency Machine Studios.