Eating My Way Round The World: Wedding in St Petersburg

Before we were so rudely interrupted by Covid-19, I began a new series of themed posts. We’re taking a break from my usual ‘seven decades of’ pieces and going for something a little different this time. And as food has always been one of my favourite subjects, I thought we’d do a gastronomic trip around the world, as I think back on some of the more memorable meals I’ve eaten during my travels. Last time, we spent Christmas in Jordan; today we’re going to a wedding in St Petersburg.

For today’s meal, we’re leaving Amman and travelling over four and a half thousand kilometres due north to St Petersburg, the second largest and, for many, the most beautiful city in Russia. I visited there many times on business and because my Russian is rudimentary to say the least, I was always accompanied by an interpreter. One in particular, Oksana, became a good friend and visited us in UK. Then in 2001, she got married and we were invited across to Russia for the wedding.

And what a day that was. We started in the wedding palace where the registrar looked like something out of Sleeping Beauty, with her long mauve dress and ceremonial wand. Then we toured the city, having photographs taken at some of the more famous sites, such as the banks of the River Neva and outside the Hermitage Museum. Next, we moved onto the River itself for a boat trip and snacks. After that, we headed for a Russian orthodox cathedral for the religious ceremony. At one point, the poor bride had to be given a chair as she nearly passed out – whether from hunger or over-excitement, we were never sure.

And then, as the night drew in, we repaired to a restaurant for the wedding meal; by which time we were all starving! It was fascinating to see the seating arrangements for this. There was no top table as we would normally see in this country. The parents sat among all the other guests. The happy couple sat at a table for two on a balcony, in full view of everyone. And us? As honoured guests, we and another British couple were placed on a table of our own, together with Oksana’s brother, Aleksi, who did a wonderful job of translating for us.

I don’t remember what we ate that evening, although I do remember the bottles of vodka kept appearing and being emptied late into the night. But the whole experience, the toasts, the raucous teasing of the young couple, and the wonderful way in which four strangers were welcomed into the noisy happy gathering, make this an experience I will always remember.

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By Elizabeth Ducie

Elizabeth Ducie was a successful international manufacturing consultant, when she decided to give it all up and start telling lies for a living instead.

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