July 18, 2010

Monopoly Money!

Technically, they are Roubles. Russian money. But seriously, folks...it's pretty much like playing monopoly. I mean, you can do the conversions in your head...and go crazy with that, or you can just purchase what you need and be done with it.

I believe the current exchange rate requires something along the lines of dividing the Roubles by 30 to figure out how many U.S. Dollars it is.

Um, yeah.

So you can see how I want to constantly do that while shopping.

Okay, so I do the math on imported items, since they tend to cost quite a bit more than your Russian items. Examples include all of your European imports like Spanish olives and Italian olive oil (holy smokes is that expensive) and things like Peanut Butter (I believe it was nine dollars for a smaller than the small U.S. jar size). Yes of course we buy some of those things because they don't have them in a Russian brand...that I know of anyway.

I would like to tell you here that the canned peas here on Sakhalin? They are WAY better than those at home. Like, wow. As in they actually taste good. We all gobble them up and yum. And the fresh fruit? Mmmmmmm.....

Moving on to the real point of this post, the money.

The photo above shows a five-, two- and one-Rouble coin as well as a fifty- and ten-Kopeck coin.  One Rouble is divided into 100 Kopecks and apparently the one- and five-Kopeck coins exist, but I have yet to come across them.  There also exists a ten-Rouble coin, which I have had (but of course spent) and it looks a lot like the euro coins in that it has a center circle of silver and an outer ring of gold.

The Rouble coins have a two-headed bird on them (I know not which kind nor what it stands for) and the Kopecks have an image of Saint George slaying the dragon.  This is supposedly where the Kopeck got its name, since he is holding a spear and 'kopye' is spear in Russian.

The bills...banknotes...are different from most I've seen because they do not have photos of important people on them.  Instead they show photos of landmarks and statues (granted, some of those are people) throughout the country.  There are bills for five, ten, fifty, one hundred, five hundred, one thousand and five thousand Roubles.  I have never seen the five-Rouble note and I've heard and read that it is not all that common because it has been replaced by the coin.  The other that I have yet to come across is the five thousand-Rouble bill; this is not because I have no need for it (things cost a lot here and thousands of Roubles are a normal expenditure in the grocery store) but simply because it appears that the ATMs do not give them out.

The ten-Rouble note is a brownish-green (or greenish-brown?) color.  The front shows a bridge crossing the Yenisey River in Krasnoyarsk, a major Siberian city.  The river ranks fifth for longest world-wide and comes from the Arctic, which makes me think that I would never want to be in it.  The back side of the bill shows the Krasnoyarsk dam which is the city's major landmark.

The fifty-Rouble bill has a museum theme.  It gets the blue treatment, with a hint of purple thrown in for good measure.  The front displays a sculpture found at the foot of a Rostral Column located at the former Stock Exchange in St. Petersburg.  Apparently those columns were oil-fired navigation beacons in the 1800s.  Imagine that.  The goldish building behind the sculpture is the Petropavlovsk Fortress which was established by Peter the Great and eventually became a jail for political prisoners.  Today?  'Tis a museum, of course.  The back shows the entire Stock Exchange building, also a museum - that of a naval variety.

This red-brown tinted bill shows another sculpture, a horse-drawn chariot of Apollo (god of Arts).  This one is located on the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow   Once again, the back shows the whole building.

I think that this is one of the best-looking bills.  As you can see, it is the five-hundred-Rouble note and it is done in violet with a hint of blue.  The front pays homage to Peter the Great with an image of a monument built in his honor as well as that of the sea terminal in Arkhangelsk (in the north) complete with sailing ship.  Since he ordered the creation of a state shipyard there in 1693, this is appropriate.  The back does not follow suit like the last two bills; it shows the Solovestky Monastery founded in the 15th century.  It used to be a major spiritual center and pilgrimage destination and is now a World Heritage site and museum.  It once served as a prison camp.  Today, it is more peaceful with a few monks living there.

This one is also rather nice to look at.  One-Thousand-Roubles is a blue-green that reminds me of tropical waters.  The front displays a monument to Yaroslav the Wise...a guy I've not heard of.  He founded the city of Yaroslavl (imagine that) located 250 km from Moscow.  He apparently reigned for quite some time and managed to turn Russia into a cultural and military power in the 11th century.  You can see a chapel of the city's Kremlin behind him and the reverse side shows his Church of St. John the Precursor.

The five-thousand-Rouble note (sorry for the lack of photo) is an orange-ish red color and pays homage to Nikilay Muravyov-Amursky.  He was a Russian statesman and diplomat in the 19th century.  He played a major role in the expansion of the Russian Empire towards the Pacific Rim.  The monument to him is located in Khabarovsk, a major city in the Russian Far-East...so as close to where we are as you can get via the moolah I suppose.  The reverse shows the bridge in the same city that carries the Trans-Siberian Railway across the Amur River.

So there you have it, a lesson of sorts in Russian money and a bit of history as well.  I have some South Korean dinero and will eventually have some Japanese as well methinks, so perhaps we can compare and contrast.  Hope I didn't bore you!

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