Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Ins and Outs at Izmaylovsky Market -- Literally!

The ins:

There are two main places that we know of to eat meals inside Izmaylovsky market. There is a shashlik place that’s easy to find inside the market. The smoke from the grills billow up and make it easy to locate. Shashlik is a form of shish kebab that the meat has been marinated overnight. You can choose from a variety of meat: chicken, beef, pork, and salmon.

The meal usually comes with a flatbread called lavash, a special sauce for the meat, sliced, raw onions, some form of salad (we had carrots drenched in vinaigrette), pickles, and pickled tomatoes. Yes, Russians love vinegar. In fact, I read that part of the marinade is often vinegar. The chicken and beef shashlik is OK for me, I don’t care for pork myself, but the salmon is to die for! I have such a weakness for salmon! If you don’t mind picking out salmon bones, it tastes wonderful. The one drawback to getting shashlik is that it can be quite expensive, especially if you’re feeding a family. We always like to share among the children to help save money. You can choose to sit at an inside or outside table. However, to get to the inside table you have to climb a steep set of stairs.

The second place that we know of to find a meal is a place that serves rice pilaf with a cabbage salad and lavash. This place is a little more tricky to find, but it’s near the bathrooms (if you can find those). The rice pilaf is a lot more affordable, and they give you a generous amount. I don’t think it’s quite as filling as the shashlik, but you can’t beat the price.

One thing I suggest, no matter where you choose to eat, is to bring your own bottle of water! Most restaurants in Moscow will serve you bottled water, probably because tap water isn’t always the safest or best tasting, but often that is where you can really get gouged with the price of your meal.

The outs:
There’s only one bathroom that we are aware of in the market, and my best advice is to avoid it like the plague, ESPECIALLY if you’re a woman! I try to avoid most public restrooms, if I can help it (even in America), but after eating our shashlik that day, Bruce really needed to go! We were not finished with out outing that day, so we couldn’t just take Bruce home.  It was really tough to finally locate where the bathrooms were and we finally had to ask someone.

Any dirty bathroom is a turn-off, but the one at Izmaylovsky market is more than just dirty and smelly. The first slap in the face is that you have to pay to even get in. Of course, it doesn’t cost much, but it’s the principle of the thing. Next, AND THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT, there is no toilet paper inside the stall. You have to pick up a handful at the window where you pay. I didn’t realize this until it was too late, so it was lucky that I had a Kleenex in my purse.

Hand-and-hand with Bruce, walking to a stall and trying to avoid touching any of the walls, we pushed open the stall door to find, not a toilet, but a hole in the floor. Uh...  I stayed at the doorway of the stall in shock for few moments. Then, we entered and locked the door.

I critically studied the stall and I knew that no memory could retain the entirety of its grossness, so I pulled out my camera. Was I allowed to take a picture? I didn’t know, but it took two pictures and quickly stashed my camera back in my purse. Moments later, there was a knock at the door of our stall. Oh no, I was about to be yelled at by a babushka! I slowly open the stall to only find a woman who had left an item hanging in our stall. Phew!

Finally, Bruce took care of his business. Then, I decided that I should use the hole in the floor, if nothing more than for the experience. I mean, how often do you get to squat over a hole to take care of business? I’m not a survival camper, so a hole in the forest floor would never-ever happen. Plus, I did need to go and that was, honestly, the only reason I decided to try it.

I just have to say that this definitely made the list of the worst, most disgusting experiences of my life! *shiver* I should have just held it!  The bathroom walls seemed to have a grey hue over everything, the place smelled of urine, and the surrounding area of the hole was permanently discolored and had wet, dirty footprints. At least over a hole in the forest floor you’re not stepping in spriklage (my new, made-up word for the day) of one or more women’s urine, and plus, in the great outdoors the breeze removes any smells.

The wastebasket behind the toilet was actually for the toilet paper. It seems a lot of Russians throw away their toilet paper rather than flushing it. I’m not sure if it’s out of habit from the old, really thick toilet paper and plumbing that might not be able to handle it. It’s not always that way, in fact it's usually not, but I’m sure having it in the wastebasket didn’t help the smell.

After our disturbing bathroom experience, Bruce and I rushed to the sink and did a double hand washing with a thick, sudsy lather of soap. I didn’t feel like there was such thing as over-kill or being obsessive compulsive at that moment.

If you’re ever at Izmaylovsky market and you DO need to use the restroom, but are not too terribly enthused about braving a hole in the floor (or using your empty water bottle), Jon and I discovered that there are normal bathrooms over at The Kremlin at Izmaylova -- the beautiful, intricate buildings next to the market.


  1. So fun to read your blog today. I love Salmon, but have a hard time choosing to buy it when I am out, because I only like it cooked in certain ways.

    Hyrum and I had a similar experience, but I have to tell you it was more gross. We were at the Jimeta Modern market, where we often get vegetables and meat. It was a long visit, because I was getting our meat for the next couple of weeks. (I don't like taking the time to get it very often). We were waiting for a man to cut up our meat and Hyrum told me that he needed to go potty. He assured me that he needed to try to poo, so we went to use the bathroom that they provide there. (usually I have he pee by the wall). This was our first experience. We found the building with only a little trouble. And older man was at the entrance taking money and giving out small pitchers of water. No toilet paper, so I glad that ultimately there was no poo involved. The bathroom stall was a little like the one you pictured only I felt that I was in a cave. It was all in gray cement floor to ceiling and I give Hyrum real potty points for actually using it. There was not garbage can and when we got out there was not soap at the sinks. The hole did not have a flushing mechanism either. Hope he doesn't have to do that again, but we are going to have to practice squating I think. Eeek.

  2. I never ever used public bathrooms in Russia (that I can remember) but that was before I had kids. I have to say, I'm impressed this one at least had soap. I'm glad Bruce was able to do his business. So frustrating when you pay for the privilege of having them pee and then they won't do it...

  3. Derrill this time for real (last time was Joy):

    I'm impressed you were there this long without seeing these. Germans wouldn't use something like that, but Italians thought it quite normal. I don't need to add that it's quite normal here in Nigeria and in Ethiopia.

    The thing that gets me in Nigeria is cleaning themselves with water. I thought I was prepared for it, but when I was in a bathroom flooded with water, I knew what it had been used to clean and freaked out and what was seeping into my socks. It's also very odd to walk into the bathroom and find someone with their foot in the sink.

  4. The food actually sounds so good! Vinegar, well used, can make such a delicious difference. (I don't know, do you feel it is well used in Russian cooking?) I have plenty of recipes that contain just a tablespoon of vinegar as the *secret* ingredient. It really makes a world of difference.

    And may I say, I'm just so proud of you using the floor toilet. That is the spirit of adventure!