If you read Maria’s blog post about our latest trip, you know that I recently flew to Kamchatka, over the Bering Strait to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy. Then on to Irkutsk, Kaliningrad, Amsterdam, and various spots in Deutschland before catching a direct flight back from Frankfurt. I really enjoyed Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy. The main town on the Kamchatka Peninsula is a really cool place in the world, and it’s only a short 4.5-hour flight from Anchorage. The town is surrounded by large volcanoes, and the place really has a feel of Alaska to it, even though it’s on a different continent, and everything is in Russian in the Cyrillic alphabet. The public transportation is both cheap and convenient with busses arriving every 10 minutes.
One of the things I love about Russia is the relaxed laws about the sale of alcoholic beverages. Pазливное (razlivnoye), or draft beer is readily available all over Russia. The draft beer place will fill you a to-go plastic bottle of пиво (pivo), or beer in English, or you can have them pour it into a glass for you to drink on premise. That’s right, you can drink beer in public in Russia as if it’s a soft drink. Since they fill the plastic bottle first, that eliminates short pours and also limits the waste that happens at a growler bar in the States. I always cringe when I see a bartender just pouring beer foam down the drain. There is a lot of beer that gets thrown away that way. Is this why growlers are often $18? In Russia every cafe, and store, even the mini markets have an alcohol section. It’s way cheaper than here in the States, assuming you don’t buy some ungodly expensive imported something. Russian beer is about $.50 to $1 per half liter, and there isn’t a deposit as Russians are not really into recycling. The quality is somewhere between a decent Mexican lager and a rot gut malt liquor, depending what you order. Some of the dark beers, or the unfiltered white beers are actually quite a bit better. What you will not find readily available is any form of good IPA. I didn’t see any of that anywhere on this trip aside from what was marketed as IPA by Amstel (which is actually brewed in St. Petersburg by Baltika, which also produces Heineken and Hoegaarden). Russians also don’t seem to refrigerate stuff as often as I would expect. Most of the beers are served warm, and have some strange off flavor, which I think I have discerned as Diacetyl. Getting the pivo properly chilled seems to improve most of these less than crisp lagers. The one pictured here was purchased on draft at a local snack cafe near the beach in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy. It was cold and refreshing, and I didn’t notice anything off about it. Maria and I shared a shawarma, some fries, and watched people at the beach and the town square. There were two gentlemen who appeared to be renting two battery operated toy cars to parents and their kids. The Russians are becoming quite the entrepreneurs. The sun was setting and it was a nice evening. We then walked back to our hotel and prepared to leave to Irkutsk and Lake Baikal the following morning.
Cheers to cold beer all over the world!
This original oil painting, and limited-edition prints are available at our Etsy shop RealArtIsBetter.
~ by Maria Benner
We just got back from a month-long trip around the world! We flew East from Anchorage to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy, on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia. Then we flew to Irkutsk. If you’ve ever played Risk, these places probably sound familiar. Next, we flew to Kaliningrad, then Amsterdam, and the final leg was from Frankfurt back to Anchorage. In total we spent 29.5 hours in the air. The reason we went on this epic journey was because my Mom always dreamed of seeing Lake Baikal, the largest fresh water lake in the world, and then we visited family. So here are the 15 most memorable highlights of our trip.
1. Seeing the Pacific Ocean from the other side in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy. The beach had black magnetic sand!
2. Eating delicious red caviar every day in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy.
3. Seems like each town in Russia has at least one magnificent church. They are beautiful!
4. The food in Russia is ridiculously delicious, and very affordable. Meat, bread, potatoes, beets, cucumbers, dumplings, and of course borsch are the main staples of the Russian diet. Look at these huge chebureki (kind of like Indian fry bread with different fillings like meat, or potatoes, jam, cheese, etc.)
5. Riding a train that was pulled by an old Soviet-era steam engine. We rode this train along Lake Baikal just like in the good ol’ days.
6. Seeing the seals that live in Lake Baikal. They are called Nerpa in Russian.
7. Learning about Shamanism, and visiting holy Shamanistic sights on Lake Baikal. People tie ribbons to these posts while making a wish, and when these ribbons blow in the wind, the wishes get sent to the gods.
8. Seeing the beautiful clear, clean blue water of Lake Baikal.
9. Riding around in Russian vans called “Uaziki” around Olkhon Island. These vans have a lot of clearance, and can do some serious off-roading.
10. Swimming in Lake Baikal. Sorry, no pictures. There was a banya (Russian sauna) on the beach, so we reserved it for an hour, and got to warm up in the banya, and then dive into the icy cold waters of the lake. We could only tolerate the cold water for 30 seconds max, before running back to the banya.
11. Russian parties, and shashliki (Shish kebab). We went on an overnight trip to a former Soviet summer camp that had been remodeled into a resort, and our new Russian friends brought enough food for a month. The pork was marinaded in mayonnaise and vinegar with onions, and it was delicious!
12. Boat tour on the canals in Amsterdam. In this photo you can see seven tunnels if you look closely.
13. Driving on the Autobahn in Germany at 180kmh (112mph). I only got to drive that fast for about ten seconds before there was a speed limit zone, and after that there was a traffic jam.
14. Riding all over Germany on the amazing trains in first class. When you buy a Eurail Pass, you automatically get first class. I wish America had trains like this.
15. Seeing the incredible painted ceiling at Asam Church Maria de Victoria in Ingolstadt, Germany.
There were many more tremendous moments on this trip, and I wrote down everything that happened every day in my journal. We’re happy to be back home, but that was a trip we will never forget. If you haven’t been to Russia, I highly recommend going.
Let’s take it EZ today with a bottle of Session EZ IPA by Full Sail Brewing Co. in beautiful Hood River, Oregon. I painted the Hood River-White Salmon Bridge, with Mt. Hood in this composition to put a local spin on this painting. Brewed with Citra, Equinox, and Cascade hops, this unfiltered 4.8% ABV brew is just the ticket to avoid the afternoon brew coma. A lazy day in the sun sipping IPA all day can lead to an early evening, unless you stick to low ABV sessionable versions of this highly hopped American style of beer. IPA normally brings the buzz right to your brain, but when it has a lower ABV, it reminds me of a supped up version of light beer. The taste is right, and the body is there thanks to the unfiltered process, but it just doesn’t goat-kick you to the head. DIPA and imperial IPA still have their place, but if you want more than one or two, EZ IPA is your go to! Have the conversation last a bit longer and the afternoon extend ’til twilight with this beverage. Way to go Full Sail, you did it again!
I won’t be releasing new beer paintings for five weeks, because we’ll be traveling in Russia and Europe, and we’re not bringing oil paint, or a laptop. But we will be sampling local beers whenever we find notable breweries and pubs, and we’ll post about our adventures on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds.
This original oil painting, and limited-edition prints are available at our Etsy shop RealArtIsBetter. Domestic shipping is free.
~ by Maria Benner
In 7 days, we’ll be boarding a flight on Yakutia Airlines to fly West across the Bering Sea from Anchorage to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia. The flight is only 4.5 hours, but the time difference is 20 hours. We’ll spend a couple days there checking out volcanoes and hot springs, and then we’ll fly to Irkutsk, the closest large-ish city to Lake Baikal, the largest fresh water lake in the world. We’re taking a multi-day tour to explore Lake Baikal, and its surroundings in famous Siberia. After that we’re flying to Kaliningrad to visit my Aunt, and then traveling to Germany to visit more family. From Germany we’re flying directly back to Anchorage, so essentially, we will have flown around the world by the end of this trip. My Mom is the organizer of the whole trip, and we’re grateful that she’s letting Scott and I tag along.
During the trip Scott won’t be doing much painting, because he’s not bringing oil paint, since it takes a long time to dry, so we’re not going to release new beer paintings every Thirsty Thursday until we return. He is planning on bringing a sketch book, and maybe some water colors. Stay tuned to our Facebook and Instagram feeds to see pictures that we post along the way on this exciting journey.
And we’ll see what we can find out first hand about the whole Russia hacking America’s election business.
Cheers, or as the Russians say, “Za Zdorovie”!
Watch out! You might start experiencing an encounter of the third kind. It could be Kang or Kodos attempting to infiltrate Earth with a stick with a nail in it. Maybe Lrrr is after your human horn, or simply the cork trail will lead you to this open bottle of The Experiment, a sour ale brewed with wild Alaskan blueberries by Anchorage Brewing Company. This iconic-looking beer has been turning heads around Anchorage, and everyone seems to love the decadent sour ale fermented in oak foudres that is hammered with 5 lbs of fruit per every gallon of this supreme malt beverage. Almost more of a country wine than an ale, this beautiful brew is really something to “phone home” about, I assure you. If you haven’t gotten your elongated fingers on a bottle of this, I hope you have something decadent to trade for one, as it will be well worth it! Cheers to blueberries and beer, a wonderful mixture of flavor and color!