By Hannah Chapman
Hannah Chapman is majoring in Russian Studies at Stetson University. She spent spring semester, 2009 studying abroad with The School of Russian and Asian Studies in Moscow on the Translate Abroad Program. She hopes to eventually go into international business or government work.
One of the best things about Moscow is the ubiquitous rynok, or marketplace. While Western-style supermarkets are now proliferate, many Muscovites continue to do their everyday shopping at their neighborhood rynok. Nearly all districts have at least one that sells everything from fresh breads and meats, dairy products, fruits and vegetables, flowers, and sometimes even clothing, dvds, and electronics (bootleg and legitimate).
As a history buff, you will undoubtedly want to visit the antiques market at Izmailovo. Listed in most guide books as a great place to find souvenirs and collectibles, this gem is still often overlooked by tourists as it is well outside the city center. Keep in mind, however, that nearly anything older than fifty years (or that looks like it is) will require government documentation of the object if you want to take it home. Also, purchasing, selling, and/or exporting military medals is illegal in Russia and you may be stopped (and even arrested) at the border if you are caught with them. Even if you don’t buy anything, though, just going to the market to see the wares and talk with the vendors can teach you a lot about history and how Russians view it.
Most go to Izmailovo just for souvineers or the antiques that are mostly further back. However, just below that is the “real” Izmailovo, frequented by locals. This should also be of interest to you to find out how a vast swath of modern Russians do their shopping. These “lower depths” of Izmailovo are a labyrinth of vendors selling a wide array of items. Visitors to this part of Izmailovo see a side of Moscow not found in the glossy pages of guidebooks. Young men pulling carts full of strawberries or DVD players run past unsuspecting visitors. Visitors get the chance to feel the grit and grime of the city, to see a diversity not often seen by tourists. In some parts of the market, you can find many of the major nationalities and languages of the former Soviet Union in one place. Little alleys open into small restaurants where no one speaks either English or Russian, only their native language, customers order by pointing, and where animals roam freely and cooks sit at the tables preparing your food right in front of your eyes. These are the parts that truly make Izmailovo worth a trip – or several. *Editorial note: at the time of publication, the rynok portion of Ismailovsky has been closed while the government investigates illegal goods which may have been there. The antiques section is still open.*
Another rynok is Gorbushka, which specializes in electronics, electrical appliances, CDs, and DVDs. It started as a loose collection of outdoor vendors in the chaotic perestroika years and later became a formal business after moving into an an abandoned factory space. Some vendors will negotiate, but most will not. Many will take requests – if you want Family Guy, Season 5 in English, just ask around and eventually you will find someone who will offer to have it in stock on a set day next week. Here you’ll find some of the cheapest electronics in the city, although still relatively pricey by US standards.
One last large rynok to mention is Danilovskiy, which is great for fresh fruits and vegetables – and again for seeing and hearing the numerous nationalities of the former USSR which still have a presence in modern Russia.
Details: All rynoks are different. Nearly all are free to enter. One exception is the souvenir section at Izmailovo which costs a nominal ten rubles (about thirty cents) to enter. Opening and closing hours also differ, with most of those outdoors open from mid-morning until sundown, and those that are indoors open later. Food rynoks generally have the largest selection during the weekends. It’s never too difficult to find a market, but some of the bigger ones may be advertised in various guidebooks and newspapers or found online. Your best bet is to ask a local to point you in the right direction. Warning: some products here are knock-offs, pirated, and/or not under a warranty that will work in America – or even Russia. Photography is generally permitted.
Directions: Garbushka – (Google Map) From Metro Багратионовская (Bagrationvskaya), basically just follow the crowd taking a right out of the station and towards the large, concrete building draped in advertisements. It is visible from the station as you exit.Garbushka has a website as well. Ismailovsky – (Google Map) At Измайловская (Izmaylovskaya), again, just follow the crowd. The main banner leading to a pathway lined with venders selling things from their hands is visible from the metro exit. To find the lower sections, use the main entrance. To find the souvenirs, turn left at the main entrance and walk to the side entrance (flanked by wooden spires). Danilovskiy – (Google Map) From Metro Tulskaya, once out of the metro, face the street and turn right. The large building that looks a bit like a concrete circus tent will be visible on the left. Use the underpass to get there.