Monday, February 11, 2008

The Xenophobe's Guide to Bed'n'Vodka

We've got a friend who's a high-school English teacher. Let's call him Jim. Motivated and passionate as Jim may be, he's also human. He too has his Manic Mondays, when he's tired and moody. But he still has to teach! He can't just slack at his desk and switch to Second Life, no, the show must go on for Jim. What does he do then? Well, he lets his students do the work. He gives them something to read, for example, and then they have to discuss it in class.

The above should give you a clue as to what today's post will be like. To be precise, we are not moody, but we have been too busy to finish our planned post. Although no contract is bounding us, we have to post something, because it's been a while and we've missed you, Dear Readers! So we've decided to give you some homework: a mix of Reading Comprehension, Geography, and Public Relations. But don't you worry! Since you are readers with free will, not students, we've tried to make it intriguing! So here it is.

If you think your country has an image problem and you are East European, you probably have a case. The following are excerpts from travel guides to East European destinations. Some of them are fictitious and were maliciously made up for fun (not by us!), but others came from real tourist guides.

So can you tell fact from fiction? Give it a try! If you classify at least half of the excerpts correctly, or if you can name at least one of our sources, we will click on all the commercials on your website – if any! We'll post the correct answers and our sources later in the week. Some of the material is copyrighted -- please don't rat on us!

The excerpts are numbered for convenience. All locations and names have been replaced with initials.


Where To Stay

1. Claimed to be the first hotel ever to open in D, JP is a beautifully restored chateau right in the heart of the Old Town district. Rooms here are not exactly cheap, but a full breakfast [cereal, toast, eggs, sausage and vodka] is included in the price. The hotel also features one of the oldest working elevators in Europe.

2. The Hotel V in K is another Soviet-style cement behemoth – but it occupies the finest real estate in the city, and has splendid views of the river. Staff members may display shocking indifference until they spot your foreign passport. Book either a “deluxe” or a “semi-deluxe” room in the fourth or tenth floor, which have been renovated to international standards.

3. The VR Hotel is located right on the picturesque main square – a delight for guests but a shame for the square itself which is marred by the hotel's concrete-bunker design. Rooms at the back are described as “Mountain View”, which is only partially misleading, in that they do overlook a mountain of crushed car bodies piled up at a nearby auto wrecker's.

Where To Eat

4. B is a casual eatery, just a few doors up from the Town Hall, popular with locals and visitors alike. Freshness is a feature here, with all meals defrosted on the spot. In summer this relaxed bistro spills over onto the cobbled square outside, where patrons will often break into song or hand-to-hand combat, depending on how much they've drunk.

5. Just off UV in the heart of Old G you'll find the stylish B dining hall. With more than 50 main course meals to choose from, this is not the place to go if you have trouble making up you mind. Fortunately, 48 of the dishes involve pickled herring, so it makes the decision a little easier.

Getting Around

6. Renting a car, though expensive ($100 a day), will maximize your flexibility once there. The roads north of M can be challenging: keep an eye out for aggressive truckers, axle-breaking potholes and – even on the highways – the occasional horse-drawn cart.

7. You can call to book a taxi, take potluck with those at the taxi rants or flag down any passing taxi with a green light. Always check the table of fares, since some have ridiculously high rates (they usually sit outside the hotels or embassies waiting for foreigners). Another trick, which you can't really avoid, is pumping up the bill (literally they have a pump near the pedals which makes the metre go faster). [...] Avoid getting into any arguments with the taxi driver even if you know he is cheating you, or at least be sure to get yourself and your belongings out of the car first before things get nasty.

8. Taxi drivers should be tipped at least 10% unless you are prepared to exit a moving vehicle. It is also not unusual for air passengers to tip their pilot following an incident-free landing.


9. Organized crime in B is not much different from anywhere else in the world and does not generally affect law-abiding citizens. There have, however, in recent years and months been some high profile assassinations of “gangster bosses” and top businessmen, which have taken place in broad daylight in crowded cafes or on main streets in S or in tourist resorts. Although to date no innocent bystanders have been caught up in these shoot-outs, it may just be a question of time. The generally accepted advice is that if you are in a restaurant or cafe and somebody enters surrounded by four bodyguards, it's not a safe place to be!! Generally it is best to avoid establishments frequented by “thick necks” and obviously you don't want to get into any dispute with them over petty things like right of way when driving or waiting their turn in a queue, etc. Be consoled that their days may be numbered!


Jillian said...

I had to look up Xenophobe. Should I even admit that? Ahh well.

OK... my guesses! Now, I haven't been too many places and umm... I've NEVER been very good at Geography.

Am I supposed to say if each numbered item is true or false or just guess the country the subject is located in?

I'll go with true or false for now, let me know if I'm supposed to do more.

1) True.

2) False.

3) False.

4) True.

5) False.

6) True.

7) False.

8) True.

9) False.

One of your sources? "Frommer's"?

Roufa Tav Gosou & Mimi Lass said...

Thank you, Jillian! We won't tell you yet how well you've done, but you're an honorary winner because you were so fast and resourceful! And you've already learned something!

And yes, the true/false thing is what we were asking for.

Jillian said...

*waits excitedly for results*

Christoff said...

Hey there,

Came across your site via linkreferral and browsed around a bit. Very cool site! Keep it up!

Christoff Gouws

fwidman said...

1. true
2. false
3. false
4. false
5. true
7 true
8. true
9. false

That was fun :)

Roufa Tav Gosou & Mimi Lass said...

Thanks, christoff, you've got some good jokes there.

fwidman, thank you too! You'll also have to wait a little for the results!

Roufa Tav Gosou & Mimi Lass said...

Time's up!

The correct answers are as follows:

1.F (Vodka for breakfast)
2.T ("shocking indifference")
3.F (car-mountain view)
4.F (fresh frozen food)
5.F (48 variations of pickled herring)
6.T (the occasional horse-drawn cart)
7.T (pumping up the taxi meter)
8.F (tipping the pilot)
9.T (organized crime)

That means that jillian got 3/9 and fwidman got 4/9! Congratulations, not bad! We'll visit you anyway, as you know. Read on:

Nos 2, 6 are from the October 2006 issue of The Atlantic (“Escape to Old Russia”, by Jeffrey Tayler), and in particular the Travel Advisory, available for everyone to read online:

Nos 7, 9 are from “Sofia, the insider's guide”, Summer 2007 edition, distributed in hotels and other places in Sofia (Bulgaria). They also have a website,

The “false” pieces, Nos 1, 3, 4, 5, 8, are from the book “Molvania: A land untouched by modern dentistry”, by JetLag Travel. Do visit their website, for more crazy information and worthy travel destinations, like San Sombrero, Moustachistan, etc. :

Jillian said...

LOL... only 3?! I demand a recount!

Not really.

That was fun and thanks for the resources as well.

And congrats Frank!