26 Jun Milk, honey, bread: Why Zaraysk is a prime example of green travel
We at ExploRussia made it our mission to make travel as sustainable as possible – and promoting regional products is one of the main pillars in that. Not only do you support the local economy by buying regional products, but you also embrace local traditions and culture. That’s why ExploRussia has teamed up with Visit Zaraysk to give you a glimpse of how beautiful and rewarding sustainable travel can be.
Zaraysk is a true heaven for lovers of organic food. Bread baking, beekeeping and livestock farming have been an essential part of life in Zaraysk for the longest time. When traveling experiencing local cuisines is one of the best ways of connecting with a place along with getting acquainted with customs and traditions and Zaraysk is no exception to the rule.
Zaraysk’s territory consists of 90% farmland. The vast meadows and spacious valleys make for a breathtaking view and create the ideal environment for keeping goats, cows and horses. That’s why people here wake up to a breakfast with fresh milk and dairy products every day! There’s lots to discover here, so let’s get started!
The people of Zaraysk love their bread. Can you believe that in such a small town as Zaraysk in the early 20th century there were 7 (!) bakeries (the population at that time was around 8,000 people)?. On Ekaterininskaya street you could always feel the aromatic smell of fresh bread. Bread making tradition has been developing until now – on Krasnoarmeyskaya street (ex. – Ekaterininskaya) you can find Zaraysk bakery. There they offer a great variety of pastries: bread with onion, bacon, brownies, pies with cabbage, poppy seeds and jam, croissants and muffins, pretzels and sochniki.
Have you ever heard about kvass? Kvass is a traditional Russian drink made of bread, malt, flour and sometimes sugar and honey. It’s like a dark beer but only with a small amount of alcohol and the taste soft bread. Kvass is definitely not for everyone, but leaving out on kvass when visiting Russia is a real crime!
At the same time you have to try okroshka (окрошка), a very unusual summer soup. Take fresh vegetables – cucumbers, radishes, potatoes, greenery, also eggs, meat or sausages and cut it into pieces. Then take a cold Zaraysk kvass and pour it to the dish with the salad. There’s no better way of refreshing yourself and having a snack on a hot summer day than a nice bowl of okroshka! The most famous local kvass brand is called “Brazhnik” (“Бражник”) and you can get it in any local shop.
Did you know that merchants in Zaraysk drank up to 8 cups of tea just over the course of a single meeting? Tea here is made of hand-collected local herbs, it will warm you up and captivate you with its natural aroma. As you might have guessed, the true superstar of this tea ceremony is a big Russian samovar. Traditionally the samovar was placed in the center of the table and cups and plates with cakes and crushed sugar were put around it. The head of the family first served himself with a cup of tea, then the guests were poured some tea was poured, in order of seniority. Mint, melissa, Ivan-tea – all these herbs from the fields of Zaraysk will instantly heighten your mood and warm your soul. Having sipped their tea and having negotiated for a couple of hours the merchants then ended the ceremony by signing their contracts.
Zaraysk is a paradise for beekeepers! Honey is produced everywhere and, of course, with love and diligence. Here you can try rapeseed honey, motley grass honey, honeycomb, cream honey with nuts, propolis, ginger and mint. It is widely known that honey has medical properties, and especially in Zaraysk it has been used as a home remedy for ages.
As already mentioned, the district of Zaraysk is packed with vast grasslands. Many people believe that goat milk and other dairy products have an unpleasant smell and taste. But that’s not the case at all! Zaraysk farmers meticulously take care of their goats so that their milk is tasty and as healthy as it gets. You can buy goat milk and curd, for example, in the village of Monogarovo. In Mendyukino there lives a friendly and very hard-working man who keeps a Swiss Alp goat on his farm. He’s famous for making caciotta, a delicious kind of cheese from Central Italy. It’s hard to believe that you can buy this incredibly delicious cheese in this small village near Zaraysk!
Another great place for indulging in fresh milk, curd and sour cream, soft cheese and natural yogurt is a village of the unusual name Spas-Dotashnyy (Спас-Дощатый).
While visiting Zaraysk, stay awake for the night. Imagine – a sunny summer morning, fresh milk and curd with natural honey, fresh bread and buns with a cup of herbal tea. On top of that, an amazing lunch with fresh vegetable soup and a glass of cold kvass will give you a wonderful experience and make sure that you won’t forget Zaraysk so soon. That’s what the rural Russia is all about.
This post was written by Maria Synkova from Zaraysk. She loves her city and gives back to the local community by working for Visit Zaraysk, the local tourist information center. It is so great when locals take initiative to make their city the best tourist destination it could possibly be! Zaraysk takes part in ExploRussia’s Sustainable Tourism Program. You can support them by taking a tour to Zaraysk. To find out more about Zaraysk here is another post that we wrote about it.