This blog entry about the events of Wednesday, August 04, 2004 was originally posted on August 10, 2004.

DAY 291:  “Breakfast is ready,” Tonya said, wearing an apron from the kitchen.


“It was ready an hour ago.”

“Oh, sorry!” I apologized.  The night before they asked me what time to have breakfast ready by and I told them “nine” — only to sleep in until 9:30.

“It’s okay,” she said with a smile.  I ate the oatmeal, smoked salmon and bliny pancakes with sweet condensed milk.  It was all perfect energy food for my day of walking around the city with the walking tour route as printed in my Lonely Planet guidebook.

“See you later,” Tonya said as I head out the door.

“Paka.  Is that right?” I said, which I remembered from my phrasebook.

“Oh yes.  Paka,” Sasha said.  “Goodbye.”

Hey, perhaps I’m getting the hang of this verbal Russian language thing after all, I thought to myself as I walked down the flight of stairs.

THE MORNING SUN HEAT UP THE MODERN CITY of Yekaterinburg into a pleasantly warm summer day.  I pretty much followed the Lonely Planet walking tour of the town from point to point, stopping at other things along the way that caught my eye.

Starting at the town statue of Lenin standing on a street named after him on the site of a cathedral destroyed during Soviet atheist times, I walked to the Storichesky skver (Historical Square), where the city was founded near the Iset River.  Nearby was a time capsule established in Soviet 1973 to by opened in 2023.  What the Soviets back then wanted to preserve for their (most likely) democratic Yekaterinburgian descendants fifty years later I didn’t know, but I’m betting it didn’t include a police patch from Fanwood, New Jersey.

Past City Hall and the Order of Lenin monument, erected in commemoration of soldiers in World War II, I walked by the regional government building and the statue of Yakov Sverdlov (picture above), the Communist party official from which “Sverdlosk,” Yekaterinburg’s city name from 1924 to 1991 (still used by the railway), came from.  It was he who ordered the murder of Tsar Nicholas II, his wife and five children during the Bolshevik Revolution in 1918.  Across the street was the Opera and Ballet Theater, and down the block from there was the Guide Center tour office where I booked a tour for the next day.

The hundreds of lives lost in Russia’s Afghanistan War from 1979-89 were remembered and honored in the Ploshchad Sovetskoi Armii, with a striking emotional statue of a soldier exhausted from war, amidst the plaques and flowers for fallen comrades.  Up the block I walked through a city park where men were fishing in a pond near the “Yekaterinburg Acropolis.”  The park path led me to the Rastorgoev-Kharitonev Mansion, the rich family estate-turned-after school hangout, and the Ascension Church, which, during Soviet Atheist times, was a natural museum.

Across the street was the shiny new Church of the Blood (finished in 2002), which took away attention from the little wooden Chapel of the Revered Martyr Grand Princess Yelisaveta Fyodorovna and the site of the Romanov’s death, where Yakov Sverdlov’s goons killed the Tsar Nicholas II and his family.  From there it was off to the statue of Russian poet Pushkin — which was next to some interesting graffiti — and eventually to the big City Pond and the souvenir markets selling the standard Russian souvenirs:  the kitschy but classic Matryoshka dolls and old classic Soviet lapel pins.  (If you look closely at the picture, this vendor was also selling a police patch from Fanwood, New Jersey.)

WALKING ALL DAY GOT ME HUNGRY for two things:  internet access and food, and according to my Lonely Planet guide I could satisfy the cravings for both in one place, the Pingvin fast food cafeteria that had some computers.  My book was written in 2000 and in the four years that had past, “Pingvin” ceased to exist; a fast food cafeteria by another name was there but had no computers.  Hungry, I went to the end of the line and tried to decipher the menu, but nothing registered.  Forget it, I thought to myself.  I’m not that hungry yet, let me find internet.

I went around the area to see if maybe my map had the dot in the wrong place, stopping by the fast food cafeteria each time — still hungry — debating whether or not I should try to order something.  I should try to order something; what’s the big deal?  You can do internet afterwards.  Come on, it’s not rocket science, order some fried chicken!  The smell of fried chicken enticed me and that’s what I craved for.  I looked up “chicken” in my phrasebook and found its section on the menu board.  There were items listed in its section — the third one, “grudka” was what I wanted.  A fried chicken breast.

While the two people ahead of me ordered, I rehearsed the lines in my head.  Kurista grudka.  Kurista grudka.  Okay, I can do this.  I can be the man.  I can order chicken.  Finally it was my turn at the cashier and I messed up immediately.  “Kurudka grurista.”

“Huh?” the woman said.

Suddenly I forgot all words in Russian all together, except for one:  grudka, the word for “breast.”

“Um… grudka.”

“Shto?!”  (“What?!”)


“[Something something],” she said in Russian.


“[Something something something,]” she said in confusion.  She was probably wondering why some Asian-looking pervert was raving about breasts in her fast food restaurant.

“Grudka.  You know, grood-ka.  Grudka!  Grudka de…”  (“De?”  This isn’t Spanish or French, idiot.)  “Grudka.  Um, grudka.”  I looked for a picture to point to but found nothing.  I almost pointed to her own pair on her chest.

“Kurista?” I think she said.

“Da.”  Whew, I remembered that one.

She went over to the fried chicken bin and came back.  “Naga ili grudka?”


“Oh, grudka!”

After all that trouble, my crave was satisfied and I licked that breast clean. 

“RUSSIA IS ONE OF THE FEW COUNTRIES where no one speaks even a little English,” Tonya told me back at the apartment after my day’s adventure.

“Well, it’s me that should know more Russian, not the other way around.”  I told the young Russian couple about my little incident at the fast food place and they laughed their asses off.

That night they showed me where an internet place was across town, and after I did as the locals did and ran some errands with them:  buying a water filter for the faucet and groceries.  Back at the flat, we sat in the enclosed balcony with a view of the neighborhood and hung out doing “homework:”  I wrote in my journal and they read up on Yekaterinburg history since they had to sharpen up for their jobs as city tour guides.  Afterwards we sat in the living room to veg out in front of the tube.  Atop the set were four videos, including “forward and reflected combined-in-one P, o, p, p e, c, m, upside-down L, a, M, n” or “Forrest Gump.” 

“Is this in Russian?” I asked.


“Oh, we have to watch this then.” 

“Sasha’s never seen it.”

“Don’t worry, it’s funny,” I told him.

As soon as it started rolling, I started laughing as soon as the emotionless Russian narrator started reading the opening credits.  “See, told you it was funny.”

And so we watched the modern American classic movie dubbed in Russian (with just two male voices, a woman and a boy for all the parts).  I was hoping I would have learned more Russian vocabulary words by watching it since I knew most of the lines in English by heart already, but at the end of the day, I still only remembered that one I learned in the fast food cafeteria.

Next entry: The Things Between Europeans and Asians

Previous entry: Crashing in Yekaterinburg

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

Comments for “Grudka”

  • So, was the entire sound stripped and then laid back over with the Russian voices over it? I saw LICENSE TO DRIVE with the Corey’s in it (from the 80s) and it was that way - so badly dubbed that I could get the English more than the Russian!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/10  at  08:05 AM

  • And, wonderful pictures, as usual. The Opera house is gorgeous!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/10  at  08:17 AM

  • hey erik how did you set up the homestay?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/10  at  04:59 PM

  • GRUDKA - I think i’ll go get some for lunch…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/10  at  06:33 PM

  • hmm ... I once dated a girl for her nice Grudka .. I mean brains

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/10  at  07:17 PM

  • SCOTT:  The entire train journey, with homestays, arranged by Artour at

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/13  at  05:29 AM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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Crashing in Yekaterinburg


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