by Max Barry

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How to Zitravgradian [Travel Guide | A Lot of Pictures]

OOC: This travel guide is inspired by Astrakhstan's travel guide and might contain real-life pictures from everywhere, not only from Russia and Eastern Europe. Please understand that Zitravgrad is not real-life country and I do what I want (within the realms of reason). Also, if you are the people who don't like long factbooks, don't worry! Just scroll down, look at pictures and you will have general ideas of how to Zitravgradian.

Приветствую, товарищи!
Greetings, comrades.

Introduction -- Precaution

We believe these are the most basic facts, but no... these are where the tourists fail. Every. Single. Time. Dear. Comrades.

1) It's cold.

Delightful snow wonderland... that is our capital Providenska... is much like a gingerbread house sprinkled with icing sugar except that there is too much icing and now please don't eat it. Please be aware that we face the cold for almost half of the year -- mainly from the latter half of autumn to the first half of spring. It snows longer and melts later thanks to nuclear winter. The sunlight is a very, very summer thing.

There are reasons why we dress like this. It's cold... and no having cold in the cold is not fun. Pneumonia? Even less fun...

2) Radioactivity

Not all parts of Zitravgrad are radioactive. This is where people get overly cautious. Most major cities are either lucky enough to escape the nuclear menace and people have already evacuated the red and orange zones (also collectively referred as "the zones" because it is cool). Here is the problem: yellow zones are safe, except when snowstorms happen. A snowstorm can bring radiated particles as far as 50 kilometers from the zones and that's when you start worrying, locking yourselves up in your room or finding any sort of shelter.

But if you are one of those adventurers, you will want to go into the zones. The orange zones are not closed to the public, but strict paper checks happen there before they let you in. Most people who go in there on regular basis... they go to work. There are mines, oil refineries, research stations, military factories, etc. Once you see one of those, you will be told to idi nahui from its area. Please follow the instruction, but otherwise the zones are where you go hunting, sightseeing and admiring wildlife that manage to survive.

If you see this, maybe idi nahui...

3) Police are not your friends, but not really your enemies.

We know... we know... Zitravgradian police are not the friendliest of people.

"Intimidating", "cold", "paranoid" -- these are words foreigners use to describe our police force. But think about it -- weather makes a man. No, not really... Yes... they are cold, unforgiving and pretty tough on people. But this is no reason to be afraid of them or challenge them. Never appear nervous around them, or they might suspect something about you. Feel free to ask them for directions and everything, but no... don't randomly take pictures of them.

You will always see this thing in public, it records both video and audio. Always. But there should be no real panic because it never really goes into private areas,

4) Language Barrier

You are lucky we know enough English to write this. Zitravgrad before 1990's was even more conservative than now, and so few people had second language back in the days. Nowadays, you might see some English signs where they are needed after League of Nations made English the central communication language of the world. This is unfair. So be prepared to speak some basic Russian or even advanced Russian. But there are still chances you will run into someone speaking near-perfect English or even German! (Better yet is that you run into an AI and they happen to speak 200 languages.)

5) Comrade Barrier

It exists. Think about it, comrade. You speak English, we speak Russian. You come in and in the middle of nowhere you call us "comrade". No, this is awkward. We have not much in common apart from belonging to the same species. Please be acquainted with your comrades before you may call them comrades. We mean... you might think it is normal, and you want to blend in. Please use the term sparingly. 1) Use it in Russian 2) Use it with someone who is not complete stranger. 3) Use it when you know and they know you are fellow socialist.

6) Secularism Policy.

Now, this is where many people fail and actually go to jail for it. Secularism Act is a set of laws that control the freedom of religion and worship. Here, you are probably shaking your head. Control and freedom never mix. But this is the bridge between our population, divided by their opinions on religion. So, let's imagine that once you are in old cities like Providenska or Svarevna, then you have probably noticed... Our major religion is Eastern Orthodoxy, and yet churchs and cathedrals appear somewhat quiet. Priests walking on the street are rare sight, and religious garments are not making much scene in Zitravgrad.

Don't talk about religion, especially in the way that it suggests debates. We are not comfortable with talking about a topic that will never end, and it is illegal to attack someone based on religious belief. (Yes, this exists to deal with intolerance issue on both sides. If atheists may not attack believers, then neither can believers attack atheists.) Our culture as of recent is made up by secularism, but also some Orthodox traditions. Someone might observe some kind of fasting on Great Lent, others might not. This is NOT your issue, comrades.

7) Alcohol Regulations.

Stereotype of Slavic people as people who are somehow drunk for five days a week is being debunked. Labor sector needs order and production and we have found that alcohol does not cure post-war trauma. Woah, that's dark... What would the state do? Yes... Regulate the time and place we can get drunk.

Here is the most abstract law ever to happen in history of Slavic nations. You can only purchase alcohol from 3pm - 12pm, in shops and supermarkets. (Say, this is about time people leave work.) Restaurants and cafes on the other hand are allowed to sell alcohol from 3pm up until they close. (10pm under winter curfew and 2am in normal situation.) And, you are not allowed to drink in "public". Definition of "public" in this law means "on the streets". Feel free to drink in bars restaurants, or even parks or metro stations (we do not recommend, however), but not at the tram stops on the streets. Also, we don't recommend passing out drunk in public either...

Yes, comrade. You are pretty set for a journey to Zitravgrad now!

Part 1 -- Providenska and Basic Information

So for some reasons unknown to yourselves, you have bought tickets to one of those "Eastern Bloc" nations. You are probably drunk on our vodka, or you are probably seeking thrills or you happen to like onion domes -- we don't really know. But welcome! You are heading to the United Socialist States of Zitravgrad.

You got on plane, slept for some while and once you wake up -- you will probably see this. THIS is how Providenska, our capital, looks like from plane during winter days.

And now you probably thinking: "What kind of snowy wasteland is this?"

Errr... so you didn't read this travel guide before you bought the ticket.


So, let's say that you have accepted your fate and you are now thinking: "Screw that. I'm going to spend my holidays here." Then, we welcome you again. For those who wonder: "Can we land on other cities that are not Providenska?" The answer is: "Not by plane, but by ship and train." Providenska International Airport is the only airport that is international. If you come by ship, you embark at the Karanyskii Port. If you come by train, you go through Kasgalamov before you get to Providenska. Details about those come later.

Now that you find yourself in the airport (pictures not allowed at the immigration checkpoints), you must be thinking about accommodation or that it is cold outside. We don't know what you think.

Well, sometimes you might encounter the airport's security. Our searches are pretty intense. But please do not be nervous. You can also ask them questions, such as where to get the taxi, where the restroom is, or anything you are wondering about. (Security dogs are not for petting, regrettably.)

You get outside and see a whole lot of yellow Providenska taxis and probably think: "What kind of socialist country has this massive amount of taxis" Eh? The one that makes its own cars, comrades! You get in taxi, and they ask in Russian: "Куда ты идешь?" ("Where are you going?") And you are probably confused because you don't speak Russian, like, at all. You say: "По английски пожалуйста." ("English, please.") If you are lucky, the driver will reply to you in English. If you are not lucky, he/she will whip out their phone and turn on some kind of abstract translation app and ask you to speak to it for the rest of your journey.

If you have booked your hotel, tell your driver its name and prepare for the start of your journey in Zitravgrad. But if you have not? We're not sure how you passed the immigrant checkpoints without presenting your itinerary. Perhaps you booked this trip on hangover... Tell your driver: "Providenska Transport Center!", and you will be dropped of at this massive neo-classical building which is apparently a train station.

Here is an abstract concept of Providenska and most cities in Zitravgrad: Transport centers are a thing, but we have no real building for them. You just get dropped off there by your taxi/bus/tram/metro/train and discover that all their stations are within 100 metres of one another! This might result in traffic jam thicker than our grandmothers' strawberry jam... however.

Let's assume you are looking for hotels. We have tourist maps, flyers and brochures at every corner of the abstract transport station. Small ones are free, big and detailed ones not so much. But generally, you will see our lists of recommended hotels, restaurants, attractions and... police stations for some reasons.

Perhaps you might have pretty decent fund, if then "Astoria" is probably for you. It is not cheap, but not expensive either! This is state capitalist economy, so we are not saying luxury is not a thing!

Or you can go for modern, affordable accommodation, we also have some for you. Most of the hotels are run by private owners, but they are overseen by the state to keep the prices and quality according to our standard. But we suppose reading reviews is good for you, too.

Well, now that you have found a place to sleep at night. It is time to go out and have a bite and a tour of our capital! The best ways to travel around Providenska are metro and trams (and sometimes taxis).

Trams are around pretty often and practically replaced city buses. They come every ten minutes and there are timetables at every station. Trams are quite good for travelling short distances and seeing the city, since they are somewhat slow in comparison to taxi and metro. But the most used form of transportation is still our dear Providenska Metro.

So you are probably expecting metro to be... well... like every subway you have experienced. Some trains running underground, nothing interesting. No. You go down the escalators and notice it is faster than any escalator you have been on and it is descending onto the depth deeper than most subway stations are.

Welcome to Providenska Metro -- it is deep here and very, very grand. Built in 1853 by the Imperial Bureau of Transportation back in the days of Imperial Zitravia, the metro is famous for being lavishly decorated and too prepared for evacuation in case of wartime. We restored most of them in 2009 and they remain as lavish as ever. If you notice, there are escalators and elevators going even further down. Those will lead to our underground city. There is not much to do there -- electricity and plumbing stations, sewage management and underground farms probably inhabited by more machines than people with most of the utilities managed by machines and a few humans.

There happened to be a concert there during Midwinter last year, however.

And once you have resurfaced from the depth of metro stations, this is Providenska.

University of Providenska

Karanidov Square and St. Vasily Cathedral

Karanidov Kremlin (and the Chairman's Office is in the Kremlin Palace, with green roof.)

Accurate depiction of Providenska's traffic

So much to see, comrades! But so little time... so here we introduce you to a brief list of main attractions.

Ekaterina Palace

Svalinen Park and Museum

Cathedral of Assumption

Museum of Literature of Zitravia

Providenska Museum of Modern Art

By this point, you are probably saying: "Those are just a bunch of old buildings." Well, that is true. People don't come to museums everyday... they go shopping, see ballets and, most importantly, drinking!

If you are a fan of opera, ballet, orchestra and traditional folk music, we have at least three performances a week in Zarominov Theatre, overseen by Zhenyakirov Institute. The theatre was built in 1809, by the Zarominov family, before being bought by the state during the First War of the World in 1910's.

Nightlife in Providenska and most Zitravgradian cities rely on season -- we have curfews in winter thanks to cold, dark nights, but summer brings upon the country longer time in the sun, up to 8pm.

Summer means some state-run businesses will extend their closing time from the usual 9pm to midnight. For example, Millya is Providenska's largest shopping mall and a popular spot for weekend's activities -- not only shopping and dining but also ice-skating, live music and more. (Please be noted that shopping malls are state-run and there tend to be tight security around.)

Near the Kremlin, there is also the Karanidov Square, which is empty for most of the year. But if you happen to land during our public holidays or festivals, Karanidov Square will generally hold a market fair and a public performance -- usually live music, modern or patriotic.

And the last attraction before we finish our introduction to Providenska -- Speransky TV Tower. Now owned by ZGTV (Ministry of Media and Communication), it is one of the must-see attractions in Providenska simply by being the tallest tower in Zitravgrad at the height of 612 meters.

The attraction here is the observatory, built at Floor 100, the highest floor of the building. From here, you would see the view so far that you could see the Baldreatic Sea. Talking about the view on Baldreatic Sea, we will cover this on later articles.

Part 2 -- What to Eat?

So, think about this. You have walked through half of Providenska (or any city you are visiting), and now you are probably stopping by one of these indoor parks. More often than not, you might come to discover that new generation of parks in Zitravgrad are small parks built in greenhouses or glass domes, so that parks are still parks in winter and not a patch of snow.

But we get it! That is not your concern. You are hungry and maybe it has escaped your mind that we are not one of those impoverished failed communist states, because you don't see that many restaurants on the streets. We have food, comrades! It's just that people like to cook at home more than eating out. But do we recommend that you eat at the mall? Not quite. It is more expensive but less authentic. By now, you should have a map of the city in your hands or digital map on your smartphone and you should have some ideas of where to eat.

Out on the streets again, aren't you? Zitravgradian food is slow food, so kiosks and food vendors are rare (but still exist for the fortunate). Your mission here is to read the signs -- restaurants do not tend to have large panels of glass windows. If it says "Ресторан", then there it is! It's read "res-to-ran", not "pec-to-pah". Don't be a debil! Now, there are two kinds of restaurants you would normally see: fast food-esque ones and classic ones. But as said, the fortunate ones run into kiosks that sell chebureki.

Basically fried dumplings with meat, but one is never enough.

This picture is from Cafe Dima from the Novotysky Street, one of the classic restaurants run by private owners and overseen by the state. They serve more than Zitravgradian cuisine, but what's the point of flying across the world to eat something you can eat at your hometown!?

And here is the fast food styled restaurant in which you might feel more at ease and will not rip anyone's wallet. (OOC: No, I'm not advertising for Teremok, I swear. But blin, their food looks nice.) State-run, quality-controlled and affordable, it doesn't get any better than this!

Now you sit down... at either style of restaurant you prefer or happen to find. You are now probably thinking to yourselves: "What on earth are people eating here?" Our answer is: "You have to try it out!"

This is blini... well... thin pancakes. But what makes it more special than your pancakes? We have many fillings to choose for our pancakes. Maybe you like jam, maybe sour cream and cavier (warning: not for end of month), maybe honey, maybe condensed milk or maybe even cheese and ham wrapped in the pancakes. But if you happen to overhear someone saying "Oy, blin.", they are not necessary talking about pancakes.

Or do you like soup? Well, we do! Eat it warm in winter, eat it cold in summer. Borsch is one of those classic soups that are made in every house and home -- and perhaps the most iconic dish of the region thanks to its deep red color. It is not going to kill you. We're sure beetroots don't kill you unless you got one from the zones...

And here is ukha, the soup with fish. Providenska is situated on the shore, so there is no surprise about our population's fascination for tuna, salmon, trout and herring. This one shown here is made of salmon, go give it a try!

Thick, sour and spicy -- solyanka is worth a try as well. You might have it with another main dish, or eat it as the main dish itself. No problem. There are many kinds of solyanka, but mostly there are meat, fish and mushroom solyanka.

But now, you are probably thinking: "Soup? Eh? Maybe no..." Well, that's okay as well.

If you happen to be a fan of grilled food, never miss shashlik! Perfect food for summer days or drinking nights, or even better when you are drinking on summer night! No, no, this is no kebab. No remove, please.

The classic... eaten with pasta or egg noodles. Beef Stroganoff is one of the well-known dishes to the Eastern Bloc even if it originated in the Kozavian Empire. While usually made of beef, other meats can be used as well.

Maybe you would prefer fried food, well kotlet is for you. There are many kinds of kotlet but this is Kiev cutlet. The other kotlet is more like fried meat patties, and you can even make it at home.

And here is the Salad Olivier, the potato salad. Despite being called Salad Olivier, please never ever expect olive in there...

And the last on the savory dishes is pelmeni -- or pierogi if you speak kurwa--- Polish as your first language. It is dumplings filled with meat and topped with sour cream, a typical meal that our mothers or grandmothers literally stock up enough to last for six months...

And now we are officially done with the meal... sometimes we have dessert, but not very often. Dessert is usually reserved for celebrations or special occasions. But of course... we love it when we do. Zitravgradians do enjoy confectionery from the state factories.

Napoleon cake is probably one of the best known desserts when you visit the Eastern Bloc. Flaky and creamy, it is sold not only in bakeries but also in supermarkets.

Zefir is also quite popular. Sweet, fruity meringue-like confection is sold in every store and supermarket as well as souvenir markers. However, pastila (below) feels more like fruity marshmallow and is generally rarer and more expensive.

Below is the medovik (honey cake), with the original recipe created since two centuries ago. It is made of honey and sour cream.

But now we are done with the meal. (There are many more but we cannot fit into this list!) You feel a little thirsty, and perhaps are looking at the menu for drinks that feel a little strange to you. Well, it cannot be helped.

Go grab some bread juice! It tastes like light beer and apple cider mixed together and might require acquired taste. Yes, this is kvass! Soft drink? We don't do that here! No, we do, actually. Get yourselves a bottle of kvass and get drunk on the most Slavic drink ever to exist! You will need five liters to get drunk...

But if you prefer fruit juice more than bread juice, kompot will do. Fruity drink perfect for every weather and always coming with more fruit in your glass. Fruits might vary according to seasons and chances. Or maybe you want something you are more familiar with?

Just have tea because we have given up on convincing you to be adventurous...

Chapter 3 -- Coming Through Train and Ship.

This is the map of our country, albeit a little uncooperative with the international community. So, we will clarify it here. In the south, we are connected with Eisenhurst, Weissenberg and Serezlavia. But in the west, we have a really long coastline starting from 29km south of Providenska to the northernmost of the country. So which way are you coming from?

If you come by train, chances are that you come through the alpine beauty of Weissenberg (and perhaps you will never come here... meh... center-right urod of a neighbor, stealing tourism revenue...) or the hi-tech city of Eisenhurst (this one, we wonder, how any organic survives there). But you would rarely ever pass Serezlavia unless you come from that place or intend to go there. It is a rather tightly-closed communist nation, even tighter and more communist than us. The trans-Auropian trains need to make quite a detour to enter the Union. Or if you happen to come from the East, you are going through Kozavian Empire or Tbilosia. This is fine as well, as the railway system cut during the Revolution is always repaired with (grudging) cooperation from the Empire and us!

Trans-Auropian railway system stretches from Lisbania in the westernmost of the continent and ends at Tamachat in the far east of the Kozavian Empire. It covers over 13,800 km and takes about 25 hours to travel. (OOC: Picture a Lisbon-Vladivostok trip on a train running at about 550kmph.) But you may keep this in mind: No matter which direction you came from, you will be able to pick Providenska as your final destination. But be sure to buy the tickets and acquire an entry permit in advance -- we have border checkpoints which you will have to pass.

Inside the country, you will also find that our train system is quite intense. Trans-Zitravgrad railway system connects all the nine zones together (and generally avoids the wasteland zones.) This will make your trips between zones much easier, and it is generally cheaper than coaches and driving your own cars.

Or if you are feeling a little fancy and have a little (or a lot) of spare money. Then, you might fancy coming to Providenska by a cruise ship. At the eastern end of the Baldreatic Sea, Karanyskii Port will be the first sight of Providenska you can see from a ship.

Look at this brilliant onion dome. Itís not Providenska or Zitravgrad without onion domes.