A “ТУРИСТИК” Problem by Hugh Dobbs
I'd like to tell you a bit about our trip to Russia.
First I had to get a виза, which was a story in itself! According to it, my name is
ХЬЮ ДОББС and I come from ИРЛАНДИЯ; my purpose in travelling is ТУРИЗМ
(well, “espionage” wasn't offered as an option), and my invitation is from
ИНТУРИСТ (the Irish tour operator has to work through a Russian operator such as
the well-known Intourist organisation).
[Russian uses the Cyrillic alphabet, which has thirty-two characters (some say 33),
upper and lower case, and several different variant scripts. Unfortunately I can't show
you the variants, as all the fonts I have on this computer which have a Cyrillic subset
at all are basically identical. So I'm just using Times Cyrillic.]
1. Identify as many of the Cyrillic characters used so far as you can. Which ones
cannot be identified yet?
2. С and З seem to correspond with the same letter in English (Latin, Roman)
script. What is the difference between them?
Then we had to get there... Two flights, and three time zones... And before landing,
fill in both sections of a Миграционная карта. I had to fill in my Фамилия and my
given name, Дата of birth (День, Месяц, Год), Sex, Passport number, Номер визы
(ы is a single character), Purpose, Host, and С (from) and До (to) dates of stay...
3. Translate those nine words. What is the difference between виза and визы ?
After a perfunctory swine-flu-check (someone walked the length of the plane, paused,
then walked back) we were finally released and met our temporary guide who saw us
safely on our way by такси from the airport to the hotel in Москва. This took well
over an hour, so it was after midnight by the time we had checked in. My Guest Card
(checked by a security man every single time I headed for the lift) identified me as
“Dobbs H. Великобритания” ... Great! I thought. It had the makings of an
4. What was Great about it? And why should I care?
And so to bed ... or at least to the bathroom, where I found МЫЛО, ГЕЛЬ ДЛЯ
ДУША, ШАМПУНЬ, КОНДИЦИОНЕР, and a ШАПОЧКА ДЛЯ ДУША: shower
gel, shower cap, soap and so on.
5. Which of these items is evidently completely alien to Russian culture?
6. Identify all five items.
7. Т and Ц seem to correspond with the same letter in English (Latin, Roman)
script. What is the difference between them (You may not be certain of the
exact sound corresponding to the second)?
Looking in the hotel folder, I found that the ОТЕЛЬ has a ФИТНЕС ЦЕНТР which
offers ИНДИВИДУАЛЬНЫЕ baths and МАССАЖ (in fact some private operator
had inserted a card with a room number and phone in case one wanted private
8. Why is the letter 'h' in hotel and in Hugh treated differently?
9. Translate the new words...
10.What do you notice about the Cyrillic В ?
In the morning we met our guide and for the next few days we explored the city,
learning to use the МЕТРО (as well as travelling around by car), going in by the door
marked ВХОД and out where it said ВЫХОД В ГОРОД (ГОРОД meaning town)
and not where it said НЕТ ВЫХОДА...
11. What does НЕТ ВХОДА mean? And В? And ВЫ? And ХОД?
12. The exit from the carpark had a sign saying ВЫЕЗД rather than ВЫХОД.
I went shopping, buying ВОДКА and ВОДА and more ВОДА (the latter came with
and without ГАЗ), and a litre of ГРЭЙПФРУТ И ЛИМОН which was much nicer,
and БАНАН, and a block of РОССИЙСКИЙ ШОКОЛАД of some
incomprehensible flavour (ТЕМНЫЙ – I looked it up afterwards and it just means
dark!), which was also good.
13. ... so Russian in this case is spelt with an О not a У ... Translate the other
words (Actually the fruit juice was labelled in a lowercase script which has u
for И and m for Т, so it was a little harder to identify).
And so on to Санкт-Петербург by the night train, where I particularly enjoyed
visiting the Эрмитаж, and the gardens and fountains of Петергоф. Our guide for the
final days was Таня.
14.Four names to translate or transliterate. Note that Peter was strongly influenced
by German culture, and his country house has a German name (the г standing
for a German 'h').
15.What is strange about the spelling of the city?
16. What Russian adjective might describe Peter?
17. What is the difference between а and я (in Таня)?
18. On the motorway I saw a sign saying Съезд. What does this mean? (You can
ignore the 'ъ' here)
On the way home I visited the airport shopping (courtesy of Lenrianta who were
celebrating 20 years there, so there were Irish and Russian flags in their advertising)
and spent my remaining “руб.” on a DVD and a bar of КЛАССИЧЕСКИЙ
ШОКОЛАД (again of unknown flavour but this time I couldn't even be certain of the
spelling – yet another variant script, this time a handwriting one).
19. Etymology of Lenrianta, anyone? It relates the other name of the city to the
Irish airport-services company.
20. руб. is of course...
21. Translate the words on the bar.
22. How many Cyrillic characters can you now be reasonably sure about? I may
not have used all of them and some of the ones I have used are probably not
23. Which ones look exactly like Roman characters but sound quite different?
24. Де файнал проблем ис то гьив де коррект Рошан спеллинь фор де верд
N.B. I do not guarantee I have used the best spelling in 24 – just my best guess.
Note: For many centuries the capital of Russia was Moscow. In 1712 the centre of
government moved to St Petersburg, which had recently been established by Tsar
Peter 1 (Peter the Great) for that purpose. This remained the case for the next three
centuries, until in 1918 Moscow became capital once more. “Питер” went through
several name changes, becoming Petrograd and later Leningrad but eventually
reverting to St Petersburg (or Russian equivalent). An interesting development took
place in 1989 when Aer Rianta, the (capitalist) company operating duty-free shopping
at Dublin Airport, formed a joint venture with the (communist) management at
Pulkovo, the airport serving St Petersburg, to provide similar facilities there. Moscow
and St Petersburg remain rivals, and entered separate teams for the 2009 International
Linguistics Olympiad! Not being in the Euro zone, Russia retains its own currency:
roubles and kopeks, and we had no difficulty in using a (Cirrus) bank card from an
Irish bank there.
HND 08 . 08 . 2009 Г.