Explaining Russian Cartoons: Winnie the Pooh

The animated Russian Winnie the Pooh is very different compared to its yellow Disney counterpart. He doesn’t look like a stuffed animal come to life, he’s not smiling and he constantly seems either perplexed or bewildered. But the main characteristics are there – Pooh’s driving force is the goal to find honey by any means, to eat and to go on adventures with friends. These adventures include confidently inviting himself over to said friends’ homes to achieve the aforementioned goal of eating.

Released during the late sixties – early seventies, some characters resemble the well-known Russian actors of that time voicing them, instantly making the cartoons appealing to adults watching with their offspring. Somewhat impressionistic landscape drawing accompanies Winnie and Piglet’s skipping through the forest. Comedy and dry, quotable humor springs from the dialogue and phrases like “I’m just resting” when Pooh gets stuck when exiting a hovel after eating too much or “But honey is a very strange thing” have been decade-long classics.

The donkey’s permanent ingrown depressed state is so raw that its almost inspiring, making every time someone says “good morning” (“dobroe utro” in Russian) to you a wonderful opportunity for some cackling quoting: “Good morning, Pooh bear, if it is, indeed, good.”


My Travel

Tales from a Loyal Foodie

One of the best parts about coming back to Lloret de Mar for years and years every summer was going to our favorite restaurant, Pizzeria Safari, which I have previously mentioned in this blog. Familiar, homey, welcoming, with excellent, wholesome food and Miguel the owner greeting us every time, it was a staple that made the whole vacation experience feel simply right.

You are, of course, prepared for possible changes, and then you are happy and secretly relieved when they don’t happen. How realistic is it to be able to come back to the same great eating place year after year? And so we wandered over to Safari on our first evening in Lloret, fresh off the bus and hungry…only to see differently set tables, a different menu and none of the familiar staff. The meal was good, but not the same, the service somewhat lackluster compared to what one had become accustomed to. My mind was already going through a rapid filmstrip of nostalgic memories and composing an inner goodbye. Things were going to be different this time, I thought. We would have to pick somewhere new to have lunch every day, which wasn’t too bad, this opportunity to check out what other places in Lloret were affordable and offered tasty food.

But, oh, the drama!

Then one of our party did the obvious and brilliant thing, asking one of the new waiters who was very nice to us during our next visit if he knew what the previous owner of Safari was doing now. We couldn’t believe our luck when we heard he had taken over a new restaurant situated right on Lloret’s main promenade. The evening’s quest was clear. After some googling we set off and lo and behold, there it was. Two areas covered with white tent tops right in the middle of the Passeig Verdaguer composed the Ristorante Pizzeria Milano. It was busy and looked inviting. With mounting excitement we checked the menu and everything was right again. All the dishes I remembered were there, and to top of this wonderful rediscovery, Miguel himself came around the corner and joyous greetings were exchanged. After 26 impressive years at the Pizzeria Safari he had expanded and moved to this location right in front of the beach, and the menu’s dessert and cocktail section had also grown, though as he assured us, the cook was still the same.

The next day, after my first bite of their delicious Seven Seas pizza, I knew that I once again wouldn’t budge from my restaurant choice over the remainder of the vacation. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.



Explaining Russian Cartoons: Town Musicians of Bremen 2

Fast forward to 1973 and things have changed! Following the Town Musicians of Bremen hit screens. A sequel made fans all over Russia ecstatic, with new songs that were thankfully just as catchy, new adventures for our beloved heroes AND a whole new look!

Suddenly Troubadour was crush-worthy and every girl watching the cartoon sat up straighter. The more or less pudding-basin haircut on his blonde head changed to a boyband-esque bleached tousled do (though who knows, it might not have been bleached, he might have just been out in the sun a lot with all that traveling around). Sideburns since it was the 70s. His blue eyes were more pronounced, his flared pants got tighter around the rear end (with a cheeky hippie daisy on the back pocket) and his 70s collared shirt succeeded the baggy sweatshirt he had been wearing in his bachelor days. In short, Troubadour acquired some swag. And he was still singing all the time.

The Princess had undoubtedly also been influenced by a few years of life on the road with her new man and his animal band mates (maybe she was the one who picked out his new clothes?). Her hair grew out some more and still managed to look both wild and styled at the same time. The crown was gone, replaced by, of course, a wreath of daisies she had become an expert at making. Her 60s straight-cut mini-dress became yet shorter and figure-hugging, and somewhere along the way she ditched her knee-length boots in favor of running along green fields barefoot (mais oui). Less Pippi Longstocking, more hippie nymph.

Freedom, rebellion, romance and constant music accompany our heroes as they continue on their journey around the world. Obstacles are overcome, catchy quotable songs are once again introduced and Troubadour melted hearts everywhere with this most romantic ballad as he and his love were cruelly parted anew. The title of the song, A Ray of Golden Sun obviously refers to the Princess. And her hair. Best part? Troubadour is of course equipped with the right guitar for his performance, and what a performance it is.

As far as sequels go, this one was a big relief. La, la, la la laaaa…



My Travel

The Things We Carry with Us

The wave breaks against my legs as I step in to the water, splashing me past my knees. It feels cold, but I know that’s just a first impression, contrasting with the still warm evening sun on my shoulders. It’s the beach vacation in Lloret de Mar once again and my favourite cove seems to be giving its visitors a hug of sorts with the rocks encircling it on either side. But the waves seem faster and harder as they hurry towards the shore.

It’s funny how quickly memory transports us back to certain incidents in our lives, regardless of how much time has passed since. Something triggers the effect and it’s as real to you as it was then. And while you might need some pushing to confront whatever might have been holding you back, forcing yourself is not the same thing, nor is it a good idea.

The root of my quickened heartbeat in this case stretches back to an evening swim several years ago in the same sea, on a beach not far off. I wasn’t far from the shore and had of course turned my back to the open water behind me. The waves were pleasantly mellow and I would occasionally slope along with the water. I stopped swimming for a second to find the sandy bottom I was sure I could already reach with my toes, and in that moment a wave splashed my face. As I spluttered and blinked furiously to get the salt water out of my eyes, another one splashed me over the head from the side. Disoriented, I tried to scramble out of the water, only to be knocked down at the knees by another wave. Suddenly all I could hear was the repeated rush of the water as the waves broke. My parents grabbed my arms and helped me up.

Another wave splashes against my presently firmly sand-planted legs and I realize two things.

One, I haven’t gone for a proper swim whenever I saw slightly choppier waters on the Mediterranean in years. Two, I need to do it now. I just do. So I wade in, lean forward and start swimming in a quieter moment between waves, ignoring the first cold rush and warming up as my body keeps moving. The waves come and I see them, but I catch the right moment to raise myself along with the water, repeating to myself that I can swim. I make myself breathe calmly, and the sea seems to follow. I let myself occasionally bob like a cork and the waves just rock me along with them. The water is warmer now. When I turn around to swim back to shore, little movement is required and I’m being gently pushed back butt first.

In the shallows I once again plant my feet firmly on the bottom and take wider steps, finding my momentum to master the slight slope upwards from the water towards the shore.

Inhaling and exhaling for an extra few seconds I turn around to look at the most translucent shade of azure I ever saw in sea water, right between the wave crest and the foamy edge, gone almost before you can spot it. Whatever I had carried around with me these past years, I have given it back, and it dissolved, leaving a clear path among the waves.


Explaining Russian Cartoons: The Bremen Town Musicians

It was 1969 and an animated musical Russian retelling of the popular tale by the Brothers Grimm burst on to national screens, successfully singing its way in to the hearts of generations to come.

As a child I discovered a still working record player in the back of a closet, along with a stack of records next to it. Sifting through the colourful cases, my eyes fell on The Bremen Town Musicians. I slid the record on the player, carefully placed the needle on the vinyl and that was it.

With the combination of my Russian roots and this being one of the most beloved animated films ever produced in Russia, I keep feeling like it’s important to try and explain its appeal, even if not everyone can understand the language. ” I love it, dorogaya, you should love it too! Listen to me!” But hopefully they can understand some other things: the brilliant rhyming of the lyrics by Yuri Entin and their seamless interaction with the music by Gennady Gladkov, the immediate appeal of the catchy songs and how easy it is to sing along. The tale of friendship and love, the idyllic concept of traveling around a fictional kingdom, singing for a living, or just singing 24/7, with influences from former fashion and music, rock and roll in particular, permeating the adventures of Troubadour, his animal mates and the Princess.

Oleg Anofriev voiced practically every character in the cartoon and his multi-voiced singing is one of the trademarks of The Bremen Town Musicians. Here’s a vivid example in the song of the bandits, where he’s also singing the part of the female leader.

It’s a happy tale and a cartoon bursting with youth, energy and optimism, as well as humour. In quintessentially Russian fashion, the enduring popularity of The Bremen Town Musicians is cemented by the fact that it became almost completely quotable. Start singing a line from any songs among a group of Russians and chances are they will join in or give you a happy smile in return. The dignified and defiant “Quite ruffled, but not beaten” is another classic quote.

“There is nothing better than traveling the world with your friends/ Tempting arches in castles will never replace our freedom.” Yes, it’s not the same as in Russian, but you get the picture.

Videos from the Classic Cartoon Media YouTube channel.