Russia...Cossack Gopak with my Kitty-Kat

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February 29th 2020
Published: February 29th 2020
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When I started my first job after leaving school, all the men save one, smoked cigarettes...and all of the female staff.

But in those enlightened days...everyone who had a TV knew that cigarettes were cool...and most importantly...they were good for you!

When I left there 9 years later...none of the men smoked...not one...but many of the women still did.

And that was before laws forbidding smoking in many public spaces including restaurants.

'Cos someone let the cat out of the bag...the cigarette companies knew all along...that cigarettes were not good for fact they could ultimately kill you.

In my travels in China...16 provinces so quite extensive...most of the men seemed to I guess Chinese cigarettes are different...or the message had not yet got out that they are not good for you!

Yet in Russia I am pleased to report the populace was enlightened...there is a comprehensive ban on smoking in indoor workplaces, indoor public places, and public transport. The only exception to the ban is for long-distance passenger ships.

I do not recall being engulfed in smoke while eating, drinking, dancing or general carousing.

Which leads me to the subject of carousing...which for the locals meant drinking copious amounts of vodka...morning and night...'cos in Russia everyone is good for you!


I used to go to parties as a youth souped up...'cos we couldn't afford to buy alcohol by the glass...or maybe we were too young to legally do so.

And the drop of choice was vodka...cos we believed girls could not smell it on our breaths...until some wayward lads would technicolour yawn.

Then they'd be no competition..'cos what girl wants to kiss a guy with yawn on his breath?

Years on the Viking Ingvar cruising the rivers in NW Russia...a "sailaway party " mid morning event on the Sundeck as a cheer-up as we were unable to visit Kizhi Island due to fog...lots of 10 crowding around tables...guest Brits, Americans & us 29 Aussies predominately...buffets of caviar, fresh fruits, charcuterie of cured meats, cheeses...did I say caviar?

And to drink for a cultural experience...shot glasses filled with Russian Water...aka vodka...'cos vodka is good for you.

I recalled my youth that vodka ripped my throat...can't recall drinking vodka since...never been a drinker per se...but to be polite we all raised our glasses in unison..."Nostrovia" the toast of choice...straight down...fist clasping then fingers stuttering up my chest before opening my palm in a showy exhale.

But fire on exhale was missing...burning of our throats was missing.

A warm glow of nectar sliding down our throats...all eyes red for a second then replaced by a smile...

rocket fuel with an engaging side

Waiters refilling every glass to the brim then encouraging us to drink down, down, down... refilling our glasses between downs...chatter increasing...some explaining...few complaining.

Then we heard it.

That is Denise & I heard it.

The band was playing our song...and that only meant one thing.

Stand...cast chair aside...march in front of the, two, three...back on one heel...point at Denise...finger beckoning.

Denise stand...cast chair aside...march to, two, three ...rolling my shoulders Ethiopian style as she boogies in...rock on baby...rock on...treating punters & crew to a gopak...Russian Cossack...Aussie-style.

Heels clicking...feet slapping...punters clapping...cameras snapping.


On our heels fingers pointing...fingers beckoning...Aussie feet pattering...until half the Aussies had joined us on the dancefloor for a gopak for the ages.

'Cos in Russia vodka brings out the Cossack in ya...and Gopak is the name for Russian Cossack traditional dancing.

The band got louder...the dancing wilder...t'il we could dance no more.

Afterwards the Brits and Americans saying how much they enjoyed it...shoulda joined us but only one Brit game enough to coulda.

Russians congratulating...

'Cos as they explained...

"Vodka is good for you!"


Reminds me of a beach holiday when our kids were Murramurang in Sthn NSW...giant grey & red kangaroos entering our cabin to wrestle food from us.

The kids went to Kids Club and Denise joined them as parents had been invited.

I rocked up as it was ending...entering a hall where two groups of parents & kids were in mortal combat.

The guy on stage announcing scores were locked and a tie-break to decide the winner...'a beer scull'...each team called to choose their Champion.

Yep you guessed it...the starry-eyed guy just entering walking to Denise and our two kids had all their team's fingers pointing at him...him pleading he's not a drinker...his kids pleading "Please Dad, Please!"

So I climbed onto the stage as a Reluctant Embarrassee for my team.

Then I heard it.

Absolute screaming and cheering from the other team as their Champion walked on stage.

Gulp...I'm history!!!

A bronzed long-haired youth in boardshorts with the smuggest smile...or was it a smirk of disdain as he looked me up and down?

"Probably has cans of beer for breakfast" I kids' sweet faces and cheers "Come on Dad" all I could hear.

Ping...brain engaged.

I'll drink it like gulp...just let it slide down.

Full schooners of beer handed to us..."Don't spill it...empty glass onto your heads when finished...I'll count you in"...gotta be focused...eyes locked like boxers...come on punk...bring it on!

"Ready Champions...One, Two, Three...Go."

Raise my glass entering another place...thinking of breath...just letting it slide down...empty glass upside down on my head...look up.

My opponent only half-downed...cheers like you've never heard from our side...the long-haired punk dribbling with the most embarrassed look on his are grinners I often say.

And this winner had the biggest smile on his face...and his kids' were bigger still.

For the rest of that holiday...everywhere I went people nodding as I passed...or commenting

"You are the sculling champion. Wouldn't want to take you on."

Shaking my head back on the Russian River Cruise...I'm smashed and they' re filling our glasses for another scull.

How do I get out of this one?


Liar Liar

Had dinner with Dale & Lauren from Austin, Texas discussing the US Health system, folks in the know, married, working in the sector, but different political views.

The joy of travel is not just the places you visit...but the good times spent with those you meet.

So we did not get to Liars Club until 9:20pm, 20 mins late.

Only one table up the front grabbed it and joined by Denise & Simon...just us 3 Aussies (from the naughty kids from the back of the bus) to take on the rest of the World...Table 14 we were named.

Den & I love the long running English TV show "Would I Lie to You?"...hosted by Rob Brydon and stars David Mitchell and Lee Mack as the team captains...telling witty yarns requiring the other team guess whether the story is true or a lie.

Here the Cruise Director, "Sasha from Russia"...the Maitre di, Tim from the Netherlands and Chef, Joaquin from Austria would choose an obscure word and tell an amusing story as to it's derivation or meaning. The tables would then vote which story was true.

When we arrived we had no idea that was how the game was played.

We were late, but not too late as they were voting on the first item as we sat down starting at Table 1...lucky for us Table 14 thus last.

We voted for "Chef"...'cos there was mischief in his eye.

It was Chef's story that was correct...and we were the only table that had voted so.

Table 14 got one point which caused quite a stir.

"How did you know? You weren't even present when the stories were told!" they exclaimed.

We the table up the front immediately leading the Winners Board!

So began an amazing evening.

Naturally we voted for Chef for the next one...and again being the only ones who did so (as it was the least likely to be true)!

Chef declaring as we "were obviously the only ones who loved him"...presented us with a large plate of giant chocolate coated strawberries as a reward.

And that really caused a stir!!!

Chef's explanation was not true for any of the stories that followed but naturally we filled our mouths with giant chocolate coated strawberries and gurgled, "Chef" each time, that brought comments from the front each time.

The last word was "Attacop" and being the last word, the competition between tables was getting very serious.

So Chef told a story of an Hopi Indian chief who had arthritis and could only stick one finger up instead of two when making a 'peace' sign.

So "Attacop" was his one fingered peace sign...(a 'bird' to others).

Naturally as the tables one was voting for Chef.

When it got to Table 14...Simon, Denise & I filled our mouths with giant choc coated strawberries and slowly raised our arms ...

gurgling "Chef" in unison with our hands in one-fingered salutes.

And that really brought the house down.

Table 6 winning on the points board received a plate of choc coated strawberries to share among 8.

Chef declared we "rocked".

Who were the true winners?

We were still laughing about it an hour later...our mouths filled with giant chocolate coated strawberries gurgling,

'Wasn't that a hoot...wasn't that fun."

The joy of travel is not just the places you visit...but the good times spent with those you meet.

Relax & Enjoy,

Dancing Dave

Additional photos below
Photos: 63, Displayed: 28


29th February 2020

Not a drinker?
Hi Dave, love the kitty cat - now that is wall art. Also enjoyed the true/false story and "chef". As for you not being a drinker I'd say that was "false"...
29th February 2020

Not a drinker?
Great to hear from the Yeti, Andy. I was 'johnny on the spot' when the woman fell in front of Kitty-kat. In a medical sense an occasional drinker can be termed a "not a drinker" and as I enjoy a beer and having discovered G&Ts travelling up the Niger River in a leaky boat, non regularity I proffer can qualify. But as Chopper Reid the notorious criminal who claimed to have murdered five people for which he was never charged and was immortalised by his best selling book and the film "Chopper" starring Eric Bana used to say with a toothless grin, "Don't let facts get in the way of a good story"! Enjoyed your comment.
29th February 2020

"Gopak is the name for Russian Cossack traditional dancing" Hopak (Ukrainian: гопа́к, IPA: [ɦoˈpɑk]) is a Ukrainian folk dance originating as a male dance among the Zaporozhian Cossacks also read this
29th February 2020

Gopak & Hopak
This has made my day...great to hear from you Alexander. I thought of you while writing this blog and your advice on the social dilemma in Russia of vodka to excess. I will not forget. Thanks for the links on Gopak & Hopak. Oh if I could have shown my gopak skills from my youth on the sundeck. The first LP I ever bought was a Cossack folk music record. I was one of the leads in a Russian Imperial Dance Company and my show-off was on my haunches doing kicking with arms folded. But on our cruise I dared not do so for fear of injury...or not being able to get up! Keep in touch my friend.
29th February 2020

So you got your name Dancing Dave in Murramurang with your kids cheering you on!?
On our cruise to Alaska, one evening the entertainment was the show "Hairspray" with music from the '50's. Unfortunately, I was sitting near the front and a caste member pulled me up on stage to dance the Twist. I am no dancer, but somehow I acquired the name. When walking around on deck or in port, other passengers would point at me and say "There's the dancer!" How embarrassing...I could have used some vodka! I'm enjoying tales of your enculturation...
29th February 2020

So you got your name Dancing Dave in Murramurang with your kids cheering you on!?
So you are also known as 'the dancer', Bob. I can picture it now!!! Those unexpected moments of notoriety or fame are priceless. Reminds me of the time I was picked out of 200 to dance with the belly dancer in the desert in Dubai...and I was not even in the front row!!! They gave me a blowup photo to remember it by. Great memories that make one smile. Thanks for commenting.
1st March 2020
St Petersburg

On drinking in former USSR
I once visited Georgia, former USSR, and was invited for breakfast with a family. I was given a large shot of vodka with the breakfast. While I was slowly drinking that the host drank 5 of them and then went to work. I have also visited Azerbaijan. That's a Muslim country where the attitude towards alcohol is "The Quran forbids us to drink wine. So we drink vodka instead" /Ake
2nd March 2020
St Petersburg

On drinking in former USSR
Great comment Ake. Can't drink wine so OK to drink vodka! Maybe that's why the band at Ennde was so enthused to drink Malian gin with us! I think it was you that told me of the ferry from Finland that was a morning vodka dance fest. The sail-away party I describe has to be the only time I've imbibed in the morning...and many drank a lot more than me. 'If ya can't beat 'em join 'em' certainly made for a memorable day!
1st March 2020

One Good Story Leads to Another...
Great stories! One of the best things about traveling is the people you meet along the way! Dancing with strangers can also be fun...!
2nd March 2020

One Good Story Leads to Another...
Thanks Syl. Hard to tell a good story if it is not a memorable one. Mixing with the locals and those you meet along the way is the best way to enjoy any exotic stay.
1st March 2020

Now that's living!
I knew a girl who worked for a Russian company. She said every morning they would all get together and do a shot of vodka to start their day. Good on ya for representing yourself so well and throwing caution into the wind as you gopacked to your heart's delight. And you outsculling the bronzed young lad is clearly the stuff of legends and fables. Good stuff.
2nd March 2020

Now that's living!
I knew a girl...often leads to a good story don't you reckon, Tommy. I once played chess with a genius and to his shock I won. Was I silly enough to let him have a rematch? No way...and he keeps asking!!! Gotta grab your luck while ya got it. Some exploits are hard to repeat. Now that's the stuff of the wise...and the stuff of legends!
7th March 2020

I seem to recall that the strawberries were heavily infused with alcohol
Hi Dave and Denise, I do enjoy your blogs, I seem to recall that the strawberries were heavily infused with alcohol. After reading this blog, remembering previous ones, I can picture you on a winter's night, storm howling outside the large windows, large fire with flames dancing, you, your family all snuggled up together on a large comfy sofa and you telling a story....not reading but relating a vivid story as it comes to mind. Thank you for bringing back the memories with both pictures and words
7th March 2020

I seem to recall that the strawberries were heavily infused with alcohol
I don't recall if the strawberries were heavily infused with alcohol, Simon. But I will never forget the mischief on our faces as we planned how to vote for Chef each time and Chef's, Sasha's & Tim's reactions. When you and Denise devised how the three of us would raise our arms in unison then with perfect timing gurgle "Chef" as our arms reached the vertical with our one finger salutes...brilliant. I will never forget the excitement in your face and the joy of spending time together on many occasions on that trip. Pity Liz missed Liars Club but now your exploits are preserved in the ether for her and many others to enjoy.
19th March 2020

sounds like a great time for sure
sorry I hadn't had a chance to check out your post earlier - sounds like a great time for yourselves as well as those that you met! As you say, the travel is about the people you meet - when people ask where we like the best it seems to always be about the people rather than the things we see. You were braver than I in St. Petersburg as didn't get any of in uniform - as in so many places it is interesting to see the number of brides and grooms going around cities having their photos taken - some things are the same in so many places. As always - enjoy the travels and thanks for sharing
19th March 2020

sounds like a great time for sure
Russia has so many minute is the history...another the stunning scenery...another the sumptuous culture in the architecture, music, art for the ages...and then there are the people. This blog was a bit of fun. Next blog I return to the history that captures Russian psyche in so many ways. Thanks for checking it out and commenting.
20th March 2020

Vodka... oh, just one more!
"A warm glow of nectar sliding down our throats...all eyes red for a second then replaced by a smile...". And so another adventure for the Dancing one and Denise.... we have first hand knowledge of dancing into the wee hours and becoming one with the music. Good for you. Living the dream my friend. Oh those lovely chocolate covered strawberries. The journey.. as you say, the good times spent with those you meet. Another great addition to your blog collection. Thanks for taking us along. MJ
21st March 2020

Vodka... oh, just one more!
Always nice to reminisce the dancing into the wee hours in the Queens Lounge with Mr Sipp and Dave & you MJ on our Legendary Blues bigger smiles could ever be seen. And not a drop of vodka required to lubricate the moves!!! many good times can be had when travelling. All you need are like minded people to share them with.
20th March 2020
St Petersburg

You've been invited to another one.
20th March 2020
St Petersburg

St Petersburg
A lively city.
21st March 2020
St Petersburg

St Petersburg
So much to see and do here MJ. Wonder what Peter the Great would think if he could see it now. Once a marshland and it has now become this. His vision exponentially enhanced...gotta wonder!

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