According to recent statistics put out by the Ministry of the Interior of the Czech Republic, there are 40,000 Russians residing legally in Prague, as opposed to just 3,000 Americans. This growing Russian expat population has become quite evident in the rise and expansion of stores selling Russian products and services. You´ll find a number of them in Prague 6, where there is a large Russian community, but there are more than 20 Russian shops scattered around town. If you´ve been thinking about exploring something new, here are four recommendations to get you started.
Matrjoški, Dejvická 18:
I highly recommend this cozy and friendly shop for its good prices, wide selection of products, and the fact that the cashier lady is always cheerful. A 2-liter bottle of kvas (a nonalcoholic fermented beverage made from rye bread) can be had for as little as 45 CZK, and the delectable and highly popular sirok (frozen tvaroh with thin chocolate cover) is only 8 CZK—choose from a strawberry or condensed milk (amazing!) filling, or enjoy the classic flavor.
Arbat, Bubenečská 13:
Entering into Arbat is like stumbling upon a secret labyrinth, complete with travel agency, CD and DVD collection (to rent or buy), a currency exchange hanging just above the staircase, traditional glass and wooden crafts downstairs in the corner, and finally, across the way from the crafts, saving the best for last–the mini grocery store. The display case is bursting with excellent Russian (and a few Czech) cakes and pastries, both sweet and savory—like the traditional and delectable pirozok, with chicken, cabbage, mushroom, or pate filling, 20 CZK a piece. If you’re looking for high-quality Russian vodka, this is the place to find it. You can also find Baltika beer, which ranges in degree from a nonalcoholic zero to a party time number nine.
Kalinka, Verdunská 1:
Appropriately located right around the corner from Puškinovo Náměstí in Prague 6, this shop has a selection similar to that of Matrjoški, including a long glass case full of several different types of fish caviars (mid to high-end prices) and a wide variety of smoked fish. The main difference at this shop is that the adjacent room is a small cafe, where you can drink your Cheburashka lemonade or savor the 10 CZK ptichye moloko (literally means bird’s milk) candy with either chocolate, Crčme Brule or original filling.
Shop located in the underpass from the elevator exit of Muzeum metro to tram 11 stop:
Whatever name it might have, this shop serves as a fun and unexpected distraction on the way to or from the Muzeum metro or tram 11. Stand among the tunneled scent of greasy pizza and egg rolls from the neighboring food stalls, and be dazzled by the colorful array of Russian chocolates and candies (the best in the world) gleaming from the small window. Excellent Georgian wine in gorgeous, carved, pink clay bottles can be found here for pretty good prices. The bottle alone is reason enough to buy the wine.
Good, fresh seafood is hard to come by in Prague, not to mention expensive–but don’t worry, the Russians have just the solution: dried and smoked fish. Usually priced between 10 and 30 CZK per 100 grams, you can’t go wrong by experimenting and trying out some dried salmon, smoked herring or whatever else looks interesting. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, pick up a packet of dried, salted lizard fish to snack on with your pivo or share with strangers on long train rides.
Whole, pickled vegetables are extremely popular in Russia, and you’ll find enormous jars full of vibrantly colored tomatoes, onions, peppers, mushrooms and other veggies. Perfect to keep you through a long Russian winter when your vegetable garden is defunct.
Definitely pick up a package of frozen pelmeni (looks kind of like tortellini). You can find pelmeni with fillings of cabbage, mushroom, pork, chicken, beef, potato, or even combination fillings. Simply dump into a pot of boiling water, cook till plump, drain and serve with sour cream—what else?
Ukra is the Russian word for caviar—but the term is used loosely. Aside from the usual black and red fish egg caviar, you also have vegetable caviars, which are actually roasted or cooked vegetable purees. You’re bound to find plenty of vegetable ukra on the shelves beside the jars of vegetable preserves. Eggplant is a tasty one, but you’ll find all sorts of veggie combinations. Great for spreading on some brown bread for a quick and veggie-licious snack.
Have you discovered any Russian treats? Share your favorite shops and items below!