Episode #1 – How the f* did this happen?

Episode #1 – How the f* did this happen?

May 23, 2018 0 By Gigi Green

Hi! This in the first episode of my podcast about Russia in which I’m gonna tell you who I am, where I’m from, why Russia and how the fuck did it actually happen 🙂

Here are the LINKS!

Wiki about Saratov
Wiki about Engels
Wiki about the Volga River
Wiki about Ukek
And 2018 FIFA World Cup Schedule

And here is the transcript! And there are some photos in the end of the post

How the fuck did this happen and why Russia? Why? 🙂

Hi! My name is Gigi Green and you’re listening to the first episode of Journeys with Gigi. This is my new travel podcast about Russia. Why Russia? Well, the thing is I am Russian (I wonder if you can tell?), I was born here and I still live here. I also am a part of that ethnic group (because – surprise! – not everyone who lives here is actually Russian. We are multicultural too). Not that you’d need to be Russian to know stuff about the country, I just happen to be one. And I more or less know what I’m talking about. Most of the time.

What am I going to talk about?

Sometimes I’m going to talk about my travels through Russia. But I don’t travel all the time… yet… So I’m going to talk… well, about anything and everything that’s related to this country. Such as our history here and there, some traditions and important holidays. Probably sports, nature, education and everyday life. I definitely am going to talk about our culture because I’m a semi-professional film critic and I’ve got tons of sh…stuff to say about Russian films, tv, internet and all that jazz.
Also I’ve studied literature at the university way more than you’d think a journalist would need and boy, do I have things to say about it!
I might talk about current events and politics if they get on my nerves too much. Actually when it comes to that, it’s important to stress that I’m not an expert.
All opinions expressed are mine and are not official. And also they may change ‘cause I’m human.

But generally I think I’ll talk about whatever the heck strikes my fancy… about Russia. At least for the moment.


Important warning #1: there probably will be swearing on this podcast! English is not my native language so for some strange reason swearing in it feels more like fun than using any really bad words. That’s why sometimes it just… happens. And if you’ll be good listeners one day I’ll talk about Russian swear words!

Important warning #2: I’m not a native speaker of English so I will make mistakes. I apologize in advance if they offend you and you are welcome to correct me. Also my accent might change depending on what tv show I’m currently watching. Because my language learning process just works like that.

So who am I and how the heck did this happen?

My actual name is not Gigi. My full name is Galina. But I don’t like it when people call me that. Because it gives me that “you’ve done something wrong and your mum is calling you by your full name to give you a lecture”- kind of feeling. And the short form of my name is difficult to pronounce for English-speaking folks because it has a sound “я” in it. So it’s Галя. And I wanna cringe every time it’s mispronounced. But my last name translates as Green. So I thought, I’d just use my initials, because together they actually form a name, it resembles mine and everyone can pronounce it.

How did the podcast happen?

I’ve got a bunch of amazing English-speaking friends from the Location Indie community. It’s a site where you can find support, advice and friends who understand you if your goal is to become location independent or a digital nomad or whatever you wanna call it. And that’s my dream for the moment. Actually, if you interested, you should check it out, it’s locationindie.com. So we were having our weekly mastermind meeting, and it was my turn to talk about my week. I was telling them about my latest trip, and I was waving my hands, making funny faces and using too many superlatives like I occasionally do. And they just said: You should start a podcast. And I was just… struck. I mean, they are awesome, they know what they are talking about. Maybe I should create a podcast. And… I did. So, in case you’ve ever wondered, how and why people do these things. Well, that’s how and why in my case.

Where I’m from precisely?

I’m from Saratov. That’s pronounced SarAtov. It’s a city in the South East of the European part of Russia. To find it in your Google maps you (could click here, if you’re reading a transcript or) could/should/might find the Mediterranean Sea, up and to the right of it will be the Black Sea, and a bit more to the east is the Caspian Sea (Yeah, like Prince Caspian from Narnia). And there’s a huge river that flows into it from the north. That would be the Volga. And my city is third up from the sea.

I’m actually kinda proud that I live on the Volga (like I somehow achieved it or something). Which I didn’t, I just was born here. But I do really like that river, ‘cause it’s gorgeous. It’s the longest river in Europe, it’s a valley river and It’s quite slow and… well, grand. Especially in the places like where I live where there are artificial water reservoirs between two dams. And near Saratov the Volga almost 3 kilometers wide, that’s almost 2 miles. And it’s even wider up and down the river. We even used to have the longest bridge in Europe, but that was in 1965, when it was built. And a lot of stuff happened since then. I’m sure you’ve noticed 😀

By the way, in 2018 FIFA World cup will be held in the European part of Russia. And some of the matches will be played in cities along the Volga: Kazan, Samara, Volgograd, Nizniy Novgorod and Saransk. And some teams will train here in Saratov.

What can I tell you about my city apart from where it stands?

Well, officially about 842 000 people live here which is a lot for a Russian city. We’re 16th when it comes to the size of the population in the country. And that’s just the city proper. More people live in the urban area. And also there’s a little matter of Engels.

You see, Saratov stands on the right bank of the river and on the left right opposite it there’s a town called Engels. Like a friend of that guy Marks who wrote the Capital and started of the whole communism thing. We’ve got a bunch of places named after those guys. Incidentally we have a town called Marks too! But I digress. The thing is Saratov and Engels function like a single city. I mean it takes all of 5 minutes to cross the river by bus or by car. So people from Engels often work, study, shop and do all kinds of stuff here in Saratov. And vice versa. I used to go to my therapist’s office there, I love walking there along the river bank, my friend goes there for her yoga classes. And tons of people go there in the summer because the beaches on the left bank are better.

About 2 hundred thousand people live there. So together we’d form a group as large as they would, say, in Stockholm. Though I was surprised to find out that even without Engels we’re bigger that, say, Boston or Seattle or Manchester.

What else?

Now that my attempt to make the place that I live seem more important is over, what else can I tell you?
Well, Saratov was founded around 1590. Though, like with most cushy spots, it was populated before. There was a city of the Golden Horde in 13th-14th centuries called Uvek or Ukek. It’s super close to the modern city limits and that’s an archaeological site.

We have a decent amount of interesting XVIII-XIX century architecture but its condition is not so decent. We won’t look all that incredible compared to some older and… frankly, richer cities in the European part of Russia. But the further East you go, the better Saratov looks. In my opinion, of course. And I haven’t been that far east yet.

Saratov is also a cultural and educational centre (Doesn’t that sound fancy, you guys?) But really, we do have six universities (I’ve graduated from one of those. The Saratov State University), a bunch of institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences, twenty-one research institutes and loads of scientific and technological laboratories. And truly people from different parts of the country come here to study. And I know it’s completely normal. But it was a bit of a revelation for me when I was choosing a university. Because like I had so many options in my city, I never really needed to go anywhere. There are also several museums, theaters and all sorts of cultural stuff.

But people who live here usually don’t think about all this awesome shit. We mostly love to complain about our place. And honestly, we have so many legitimate reasons! We have permanent problem with roads both in and around the city, with litter, with cleaning of the streets, traffic jams… Name a big city issue, and we very likely have it. We are not a rich region because we don’t have a lot of oil. (That’s a rule of thumb to determine how rich a city is in Russia. Lots of oil – rich city, not so much… well, you have to fend for yourselves. Unless you’re Moscow or Saint Petersburg. Then you’re fine regardless). It also doesn’t help that people in our local government are… how do I phrase this nicely? They don’t seem overly interested in taking care of Saratov. And just about every person who lives here (including school children, I shit you not) is absolutely sure that levels of bribery and corruption are through the roof. Because we see the consequences daily.

So, there’s that.

To finish on a brighter note I think I’ll tell you about my favorite place.

It’s a little beach. a bit upstream from the bridge across the Volga, it’s a 10-15 minute walk. And it’s called the City Solarium because officially you mustn’t swim there, the currents of the river are too strong. So you should just like sunbathe and play beach volleyball or football or whatever. Now that’s a rule that most people ignore. Because you can’t just sit near the river during summer and not swim even a little bit. I mean, the average summer temperature here is 33-35 degrees Celsius, that’s 91-97 Fahrenheit. And that’s in shade!

But I like to go there not just in summer. Because during other seasons it’s a very quiet spot. There’s water so close you can touch it, an island just across from the beach, a bit of a cliff on the right, and small cottages behind you on the hill. Boats and yachts sail along it and it’s just very relaxing for me. Also it’s long enough to have a decent walk. Ok, now I made myself want to go there right now! Which… nah, I’ll go there tomorrow.

And that’s all for now, I think

If you like my podcast, subscribe on itunes, stitcher, anchor.fm or wherever you get your podcast fix! And please, leave reviews. You might think everybody says that, but that’s because it really matters! You can find me on instagram at greennily. If you have questions or suggestions, you can write to me at journeyswithgigi@gmail.com  Till next time! Yours, Gigi, from Russia with love. Gawd, I so wanted to say that line! Lol

And this is my favourite place in my city