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The Costumer's Manifesto: Russian Stories: Finding the Right Fur '''Russian Stories'''
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Gostiny Dvor THE ULTIMATE MALL CRAWL This is an article I wrote in 1995, intended for the St. Petersburg Press (Russia), which was not published. '''FORGET THE MALL OF THE AMERICAS; THE ULTIMATE MALL CRAWL IS HERE IN PETERSBURG'''
  
FINDING THE RIGHT FUR (St. Petersburg, 1995)
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[[File:RussiaB&wGostinydvor.jpg]]
  
So, you've noticed it's cold here in Russia.Real cold.All of a sudden those funny little Russian fur hats aren't looking so funny anymore.You were ready to support animal rights back when you were safely enshrined in a climate-controlled office in Miami, but now you catch yourself looking enviously at those fur coated women at your bus stop, and wondering "Can I afford one?"The answer is yes.
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Gostiny Dvor, woefully mistranslated in guide books as "Big Department Store," is the most undervalued tourist attraction in the city of St.Petersburg. Unlike it's Moscow cousin G.U.M., many foreign visitors will never visit it, or have even heard of it. Petersburgers too, underrate it's charms, often preferring to shop at the more Westernized and compact Passage across the street. This has nothing to do with prices or selection (Gostiny is superior in both) but to Gostiny's tendency to much resemble the Hermitage in Summer: ie, it's hot, it's crowded, and it takes at least half a day to walk through the whole place and find what you're looking for without a tour guide. That is to say it's a shopping mall.
  
COSTS:There is a fur coat and hat out there in nearly everyone's price range.The cheapest coats/hats are made of the cheapest furs, or are made of "scrap furs", the trimmings of large pelts.Scrap includes fur from the head, legs, and belly of the animal which is then stitched together in a pattern, often far more interesting and exotic looking than a coat made from the main body.However, scrap is thinner skinned, and more inclined to tear.Coats using body fur are stronger, and so, more expensive.Body fur may be in solid pieces or "ventilated", ie, thinned by regular insertion of strips of leather.Solid furs are most expensive.Prices for coats range from 400T for a short rabbit or gopher coat, to 10,000T for a high quality long sable, fox or mink.Hats can go from 75T for Persian lamb to 440T for silver fox.
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You see, the exact translation of "Gostiny Dvor" is "Guest Yard." It was originally a 1703 fenced in outdoor market that rented out spaces to shopkeepers, known as a "guest yard" in the language of the time. In 1735 the yard was replaced by a huge enclosed building that also rented out space to various shopkeepers, in 1785, it in turn was replaced with an even bigger building, the present structure. It's basically an enclosed shopping mall of the 18th Century.
  
"KROLEEK"/RABBIT:The cheapest fur, is one of the softest.Rabbit rates low as a garment fur, because it isn't very warm, and sheds more than any other fur.Gostiny Dvor's Fur Dept. has exotically dyed jackets in pink, purple and green for 400T, and good quality full length coats for 850T.
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In 1917 the Soviet government tried, in vain, to turn it into a "big department store," problem was, supplying goods to the store wasn't really successful. Former tourists and present residents remember Gostiny as a big, understocked barn just a few short years ago. All that has changed. Many new "guest" shops, both Russian and foreign have moved in, and the stocks of the departments still run by the department store administration have moved up to overflowing. New stores move in all the time, departments switch their locations, and the present life of Gostiny Dvor is one of shop-till-you-drop excitement and confusion. Confirmed shopaholics and
  
"ENOTOVEEDNAYA"/RACOON-LIKE DOG:Long, somewhat rough feeling, fur, in a wide range of natural colors.Hides are thick, making for a heavy, long lasting coat, but fur is brittle, and over two seasons it will shed enough to look very bad.Coat prices range from 750T-850T at most stores.
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[[ManifestoTravelGostiny#Mall-rats|mall-rats ]]know that shopping is not meant to be easy, it's meant to be challenging, interesting, and full of surprises, like a treasure hunt. Malls are not rated on how easy it is to get in and out of them in a hurry, but on how long one can spend an interesting time in them. A good mall needs to have interesting and unusual stuff to buy, low prices, and a good cheap fast food place to sit and eat in. On that basis, Gostiny is a "10." Gostiny isn't one of those identical cookie-cutter malls with a Gap, a Macy's, a Victoria's Secret, each selling identical goods to all the other Gaps, Macy's, etc. at every other mall. Gostiny couldn't be less cookie-cutter if it tried.
  
"KARAKOOL"/PERSIAN LAMB:Distinctively curled short fur in grey, brown or black, this fur is the least harmed by being caught in the rain.While it is heavy and not as warm as many other furs, it is the longest wearing fur except for mink.Dom Mod's main store has coats for 1350T-3700T, and Na Gorkovskoy has hats at 75T.
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Where else can you find 15 varieties of accordion? How about seven sizes of home xylophone, AND a concert version? Russian made machines for detecting forged American dollars? LEGAL, not pirated, videotapes of The Bugs Bunny Road Runner Movie, and Lost in Siberia? A bicycle that converts to a 3-wheeled delivery wagon? A home ping-pong kit with paddles, net and balls? Watches commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of V-E day? A remote control toy Red Army tank? A child's disco light set with a central control panel? Sparklers and fountain fireworks, year round? A wind up metal chicken that pecks as it hops? Rhinestone tiaras? Gopher fur coats? Three types of jewelry vise? Slide mounts for 3-D photos? Ladies floral enameled watches, with matching earrings? Brass Romanov eagle buttons? Castanets and maracas? The place is like an old Sears Catalog on drugs.
  
"NUTRIA"/NUTRIA:Nutrias are small beaver like creatures whose fur in the West is made into high grade hat felt.Here in Russia, they are made into long shiny "wet look" coats, often in patterned two tone designs.Fur is natural brown, grey, & beige, and spotted or dyed black, and is mildly water resistant.Dom Mod sells coats from 1800T-3000T.
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And besides all this, for folks spending more than a few days here, Gostiny packs in all the good cheap necessities of life in Russia: fleece shoe liners, sparkers for gas stoves, egg carriers, babushka shopping carts, water filters, felt boots with fleece lining, bright children's galoshes, US/Russian phone/fax converters, hot plates, big canvas back packs, and, for your feet after all the walking it takes to find them, a callus file.
  
"BOBR"/BEAVER:Normally, a slightly "wet look" fur, with long shiny guard hairs, and soft fluffy short hairs beneath.Beaver is sometimes clipped of the guard hairs, and sold in a fluffy shorthair version, usually dyed black.Beaver, while odd looking, is one of the warmest furs, and in the un-clipped versions, is mildly water resistant.Beaver also sheds very little.Na Gorkovskoy has hats for 187T.
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Unlike the smaller Passage and DLT, having lots of foreign stores in the building has not pushed out the majority of good Russian stuff. In fact, departments like art and office supplies which formerly were annoyingly scattered all through the building, are moving together, consolidating their supplies, and saving space. A few items that were here a few years ago have gone: Ugly painted china heads to hang on your wall, Chairman Mao hats, busts of Lenin and Nicholas II, and the whole department that transferred photos onto baked enamel so you could put your picture on your tombstone. But generally, Gostiny has so much floor space that Littlewood's and a dozen other stores, were all added without displacing much that was worth saving.
  
"PESETZ"/POLAR FOX:White to silver fur, long, soft, thick and full, but not as thick as red or silver fox.This fur is often dyed exotic colors, scrap pieced or otherwise altered to render it into highly unusual variations.Prices follow the quality of the variations, for instance, one of Gostiny Dvor's commission shops has a multi-colored patchwork jacket for only 750T, and Dom Mod has a high quality center cut coat for 4200T.
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Foreign goods shops have made food shopping here in Petersburg a bit nicer, sensibly stocking Danish cookies, French Champagne and California Raisins. Pam Cooking Spray now graces Gostiny's shelves, along with frozen pizzas, Chef Boy-ar-dee Spaghetti and Meat Balls and the best Russian cakes, pastries and chocolate truffles. You can sip chilled fountain Cokes, or lick Adriano's Ice cream as you shop, and when you can't possibly stand walking anymore, go to Cafe Express, a Russian fast food restaurant taking up the whole upstairs back balcony. On Summer days you can watch the world go by in the street below as you sit eating half a rotisserie chicken and Coke. In winter, canvas tenting keeps the cafe warm, and, summer or winter, a jazz duo plays as you eat. It seems pointless to eat anyplace else downtown.
  
"REEIS"/LYNX:Long, soft, thick fur, similar in appearance to fox, but having a pattern of beige & gold & spots, that is distinctively beautiful.Also somewhat stronger and less inclined to shed.Intermittently available, Na Gorkovskoy has one for only 2062T.
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And then there are the Consignment "Shops" that fit behind little counters. When first they came, people were annoyed at their moving out some of the old goods at the counters, since the consignment shops mainly sold a lot of frivolous foreign made purses and cosmetics that seemed expensive and useless...but then something happened: COMPETITION! Shopping is now much more interesting because each "shop" sets it's own prices. You can see a top of the line Raccoon coat at one counter for 4940T, and then, ten paces further, another will have the identical coat for 2870T! Their price wars bring out a shopper's hunting instincts, as well as drive prices more into range of affordability. And because of competition, the things these places stock keep getting more interesting: Bubble gum flavored mouthwash, black vinyl dominatrix boots, Ginseng extract, and pink dyed fox coats, just to name a few.
  
"LEESEETSA"/RED FOX:Very long, soft, thick looking, fluffy fur, in natural orange-red, often scrap pieced.The most impressive looking of furs, because of it's length, color, thickness, warmth and light weight, it is not considered the best fur, because of it's moderate shedding, and semi-weak hide.Because quality varies so much from coat to coat, prices can go for as little as 2500Tfor a scrap coat up to 10,000T.
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But the best bargains are still the Russian goods. Toys in particular are the kind of good value interactive toys that those of us Westerners 30 and over grew up with: Erector sets, Magic trick sets, working toy sewing machines, a fancy microscope set with all the accessories, wood architectural blocks, embroidery sets with hoop, floss, patterns, and a child size needle and thimble, metal dump trucks and cranes that lift with a crank, wood burning tools, and a kit for making a 35mm camera. All these toys encourage active, rather than passive use, and teach children while they play.
  
"CHERNOBYRKA"-SILVER FOX:Same as above, but in dark brown or black with long silvery guard hairs.Usually a bit more expensive than red fox.Na Gorkovskoy sells hats for 323T-437T.
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Art and photo supplies are bargains as well. Zenit cameras are basically copies of 1950-60's Leicas, the best manual 35mm cameras ever made. Zenits that sell for $150-250 in the States, sell for $40-75 at Gostiny. The Lomo is a good quality fixed focus 35mm snapshot camera that costs about as much as a disposable. Exotic camera filters that fit most western SLR lenses are under $3, and there are sideways mirror attachments available for secretly shooting babushkas in the park. Art supplies include things you've never heard of before, like Honey Water Colors, a unusual gouache that uses honey in the mix, and "Sauce," sticks of black and white pigment that you use like combination pastel and watercolor. You can find a huge set of pastels in their own wooden box, solid lead sketching pencils by Stabilo, and even dry pigments by the box.
  
"LEEZEETZ"/CROSS BRED POLAR AND SILVER FOX:Same as above, but with silver grey fur with dark guard hairs.Hats at Dom Mod sell for 350T, as compared to only 200T for red fox.
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Gostiny is also a good place to get services done. There is Polaroid's instant passport photos if you lose your passport and need copies in a hurry. There is Fuji to process your snapshots in an hour. There are drop off booths for watch repair and engraving, and a box office selling tickets to all the shows and concerts in the city.
  
"YENOT"/RACCOON:Another long, thick, impressive looking fur, slightly stiffer than fox, and having even greater volume and warmth.Na Gorkovskoy sells coats for 2500T-4000T.
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Gostiny is not a good store to go into in a hurry. It's huge, departments move daily, the "YOU ARE HERE" wall map is inaccurate, and the place is as crowded as Macy's or Harrod's at Christmas all year round. The whole front of the store, facing Nevsky Prospekt has been under reconstruction for years now. The ground floor is broken up into sections that require shoppers to exit and reenter the building at several places. Most confusing is the fact that many departments and counters seem to have been assembled by the insane. One "Souvenir" counter is a case in point: In addition to Matroshkas and shawls, are hair styling gel, butter knives, children's clip on suspenders, plastic lace table cloths, artificial flowers, and a hand painted teacart.
  
"NORKA"/MINK:Short, thick, brown or blonde fur, of almost mathematical regularity.Expensive because of it's light, long wearing hides, that scarcely ever shed.Blonde coats sell for 5700T and brown for 9200T at Dom Mod.
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However, all this is part of the challenge. To experience Gostiny Dvor fully you should take half a day to leisurely stroll down every aisle. Eat lunch in the cafe. Take the most time at the least "modern" looking departments, since they have the cheapest, most interesting goods. Learn at least the one Russian phrase you need to shop: "Ya hatchoo '' eta,'' pajhalsta" (I want ''that'', please.) Smile, point a lot, and be patient. It is a shopping experience worth spending time on.
  
"SOBAL"/SABLE: Similar to mink, but nearly black, and a bit rarer.Long wearing, smooth, mildly water resistant fur of finest quality.Costs comparable to the high end of mink prices.
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==Mall-rats==
  
SHOPPING:When shopping make sure to thoroughly inspect the fur, down to the skin.Coats which have been improperly stored, or which have been made of paper thin hide will tear before the first month is out.Run your hands down the fur to make sure the coat is not prematurely shedding.Know what fur you are buying, and whether it is dyed, pieced, or ventilated.Try it on and take a strong whiff of the fur to make sure it doesn't bother you.Certain people are allergic to certain furs, and certain tanning chemicals.
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are young people in America who enjoy hanging around the local shopping mall as an after school entertainment.  
  
CARING FOR YOUR FUR:Furs, even water resistant furs, should on no account be worn in the rain, washed, or "dry cleaned" in a liquid bath of chemicals.If by some chance your fur gets wet, do not brush or blow dry it.Allow it to dry naturally, and after drying, gently brush it out.In any other climate, take cornmeal, very slightly dampened with a laundry sprayer, and rub it into the fur, then brush off.In cold dry climates you can use dry snow to clean it instead. Fur is best stored over time in a cool dark place with mild humidity and good ventilation.
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This page last edited on
 
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This was another article my editor at The St. Petersburg Press asked me to write in 1995, and which he then didn't run due to an early spring change in weather.
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Revision as of 01:37, 23 January 2014

Gostiny Dvor THE ULTIMATE MALL CRAWL This is an article I wrote in 1995, intended for the St. Petersburg Press (Russia), which was not published. FORGET THE MALL OF THE AMERICAS; THE ULTIMATE MALL CRAWL IS HERE IN PETERSBURG

RussiaB&wGostinydvor.jpg

Gostiny Dvor, woefully mistranslated in guide books as "Big Department Store," is the most undervalued tourist attraction in the city of St.Petersburg. Unlike it's Moscow cousin G.U.M., many foreign visitors will never visit it, or have even heard of it. Petersburgers too, underrate it's charms, often preferring to shop at the more Westernized and compact Passage across the street. This has nothing to do with prices or selection (Gostiny is superior in both) but to Gostiny's tendency to much resemble the Hermitage in Summer: ie, it's hot, it's crowded, and it takes at least half a day to walk through the whole place and find what you're looking for without a tour guide. That is to say it's a shopping mall.

You see, the exact translation of "Gostiny Dvor" is "Guest Yard." It was originally a 1703 fenced in outdoor market that rented out spaces to shopkeepers, known as a "guest yard" in the language of the time. In 1735 the yard was replaced by a huge enclosed building that also rented out space to various shopkeepers, in 1785, it in turn was replaced with an even bigger building, the present structure. It's basically an enclosed shopping mall of the 18th Century.

In 1917 the Soviet government tried, in vain, to turn it into a "big department store," problem was, supplying goods to the store wasn't really successful. Former tourists and present residents remember Gostiny as a big, understocked barn just a few short years ago. All that has changed. Many new "guest" shops, both Russian and foreign have moved in, and the stocks of the departments still run by the department store administration have moved up to overflowing. New stores move in all the time, departments switch their locations, and the present life of Gostiny Dvor is one of shop-till-you-drop excitement and confusion. Confirmed shopaholics and

mall-rats know that shopping is not meant to be easy, it's meant to be challenging, interesting, and full of surprises, like a treasure hunt. Malls are not rated on how easy it is to get in and out of them in a hurry, but on how long one can spend an interesting time in them. A good mall needs to have interesting and unusual stuff to buy, low prices, and a good cheap fast food place to sit and eat in. On that basis, Gostiny is a "10." Gostiny isn't one of those identical cookie-cutter malls with a Gap, a Macy's, a Victoria's Secret, each selling identical goods to all the other Gaps, Macy's, etc. at every other mall. Gostiny couldn't be less cookie-cutter if it tried.

Where else can you find 15 varieties of accordion? How about seven sizes of home xylophone, AND a concert version? Russian made machines for detecting forged American dollars? LEGAL, not pirated, videotapes of The Bugs Bunny Road Runner Movie, and Lost in Siberia? A bicycle that converts to a 3-wheeled delivery wagon? A home ping-pong kit with paddles, net and balls? Watches commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of V-E day? A remote control toy Red Army tank? A child's disco light set with a central control panel? Sparklers and fountain fireworks, year round? A wind up metal chicken that pecks as it hops? Rhinestone tiaras? Gopher fur coats? Three types of jewelry vise? Slide mounts for 3-D photos? Ladies floral enameled watches, with matching earrings? Brass Romanov eagle buttons? Castanets and maracas? The place is like an old Sears Catalog on drugs.

And besides all this, for folks spending more than a few days here, Gostiny packs in all the good cheap necessities of life in Russia: fleece shoe liners, sparkers for gas stoves, egg carriers, babushka shopping carts, water filters, felt boots with fleece lining, bright children's galoshes, US/Russian phone/fax converters, hot plates, big canvas back packs, and, for your feet after all the walking it takes to find them, a callus file.

Unlike the smaller Passage and DLT, having lots of foreign stores in the building has not pushed out the majority of good Russian stuff. In fact, departments like art and office supplies which formerly were annoyingly scattered all through the building, are moving together, consolidating their supplies, and saving space. A few items that were here a few years ago have gone: Ugly painted china heads to hang on your wall, Chairman Mao hats, busts of Lenin and Nicholas II, and the whole department that transferred photos onto baked enamel so you could put your picture on your tombstone. But generally, Gostiny has so much floor space that Littlewood's and a dozen other stores, were all added without displacing much that was worth saving.

Foreign goods shops have made food shopping here in Petersburg a bit nicer, sensibly stocking Danish cookies, French Champagne and California Raisins. Pam Cooking Spray now graces Gostiny's shelves, along with frozen pizzas, Chef Boy-ar-dee Spaghetti and Meat Balls and the best Russian cakes, pastries and chocolate truffles. You can sip chilled fountain Cokes, or lick Adriano's Ice cream as you shop, and when you can't possibly stand walking anymore, go to Cafe Express, a Russian fast food restaurant taking up the whole upstairs back balcony. On Summer days you can watch the world go by in the street below as you sit eating half a rotisserie chicken and Coke. In winter, canvas tenting keeps the cafe warm, and, summer or winter, a jazz duo plays as you eat. It seems pointless to eat anyplace else downtown.

And then there are the Consignment "Shops" that fit behind little counters. When first they came, people were annoyed at their moving out some of the old goods at the counters, since the consignment shops mainly sold a lot of frivolous foreign made purses and cosmetics that seemed expensive and useless...but then something happened: COMPETITION! Shopping is now much more interesting because each "shop" sets it's own prices. You can see a top of the line Raccoon coat at one counter for 4940T, and then, ten paces further, another will have the identical coat for 2870T! Their price wars bring out a shopper's hunting instincts, as well as drive prices more into range of affordability. And because of competition, the things these places stock keep getting more interesting: Bubble gum flavored mouthwash, black vinyl dominatrix boots, Ginseng extract, and pink dyed fox coats, just to name a few.

But the best bargains are still the Russian goods. Toys in particular are the kind of good value interactive toys that those of us Westerners 30 and over grew up with: Erector sets, Magic trick sets, working toy sewing machines, a fancy microscope set with all the accessories, wood architectural blocks, embroidery sets with hoop, floss, patterns, and a child size needle and thimble, metal dump trucks and cranes that lift with a crank, wood burning tools, and a kit for making a 35mm camera. All these toys encourage active, rather than passive use, and teach children while they play.

Art and photo supplies are bargains as well. Zenit cameras are basically copies of 1950-60's Leicas, the best manual 35mm cameras ever made. Zenits that sell for $150-250 in the States, sell for $40-75 at Gostiny. The Lomo is a good quality fixed focus 35mm snapshot camera that costs about as much as a disposable. Exotic camera filters that fit most western SLR lenses are under $3, and there are sideways mirror attachments available for secretly shooting babushkas in the park. Art supplies include things you've never heard of before, like Honey Water Colors, a unusual gouache that uses honey in the mix, and "Sauce," sticks of black and white pigment that you use like combination pastel and watercolor. You can find a huge set of pastels in their own wooden box, solid lead sketching pencils by Stabilo, and even dry pigments by the box.

Gostiny is also a good place to get services done. There is Polaroid's instant passport photos if you lose your passport and need copies in a hurry. There is Fuji to process your snapshots in an hour. There are drop off booths for watch repair and engraving, and a box office selling tickets to all the shows and concerts in the city.

Gostiny is not a good store to go into in a hurry. It's huge, departments move daily, the "YOU ARE HERE" wall map is inaccurate, and the place is as crowded as Macy's or Harrod's at Christmas all year round. The whole front of the store, facing Nevsky Prospekt has been under reconstruction for years now. The ground floor is broken up into sections that require shoppers to exit and reenter the building at several places. Most confusing is the fact that many departments and counters seem to have been assembled by the insane. One "Souvenir" counter is a case in point: In addition to Matroshkas and shawls, are hair styling gel, butter knives, children's clip on suspenders, plastic lace table cloths, artificial flowers, and a hand painted teacart.

However, all this is part of the challenge. To experience Gostiny Dvor fully you should take half a day to leisurely stroll down every aisle. Eat lunch in the cafe. Take the most time at the least "modern" looking departments, since they have the cheapest, most interesting goods. Learn at least the one Russian phrase you need to shop: "Ya hatchoo eta, pajhalsta" (I want that, please.) Smile, point a lot, and be patient. It is a shopping experience worth spending time on.

Mall-rats

are young people in America who enjoy hanging around the local shopping mall as an after school entertainment.

This page last edited on

"The Costumer's Manifesto"
by Tara Maginnis