After a 75 minute bus ride from Gus Khrustalni to Vladimir, I had 1.5 hours to walk around the historic town before my 2-hr train ride back to Moscow. I went looking for coffee and passed a colorful cafe with big windows that probably opened a year or two ago at most. Paintings were on the wall...it was a place you might find in NYC. As I sat down, I saw a young woman in a NYC shirt with pinkish-rimmed glasses. She had been reading, but was getting ready to leave and I walked over to chat about her studies and dreams. Zhenya said she was finishing her university degree and, after much thought, had finally realized what she wanted to do in life...at least in the mid-term: 'I want to draw, to create something intellectual.' She hoped to continue her studies either in Moscow or abroad, where she felt educational demands and job opportunities would be better than in her native Vladimir. Considering her artistic interests, it was not surprising to find her at home in such a cafe. Notice the artwork on the wall behind her.
As I planned a trip to Kursk in central Russia, I did a search on Instagram to find interesting spots to photograph and saw a few photos of a hip-looking cafe. It was still in process of being built, due to open today. I popped by and found one of the owners - Dmitry - busy working on the final touches. He said he had wanted to open a cafe for some time and was looking for the right idea. He and his friend came up with making it a coffee + donut shop and trained to learn to make donuts. He is so confident there is demand for such a place in Kursk and surrounding areas - and I agree with that assessment post my visit to the town - that he is working on opening a 2nd one and may franchise it. He is not worried about the ruble - people will trend down he says from spending money in expensive restaurants to more affordable spots like cafes.
I was getting cold while walking around Voronezh, so when I saw a coffee sign, I popped in to warm up. The coffee stand was in the back corner of a florist shop and Mikhail was serving up the java. He said he got into making coffee when the young owner of a local coffee stand took time off to travel around the world and needed someone to stand in. Mikhail said he enjoyed making coffee that he took up the job in the florist shop when the traveling owner returned. Mikhail, who meets regularly with other protestant followers to discuss religion, said he hopes to open his own coffee shop some day not only for fellow believers, "but for everyone." Besides religion and coffee, his other passion is motorcycles. He hopes to assemble is own bike someday and showed me a photo of one that he liked.
The best-tasting coffee I have ever drunk was in Ethiopia, so I was keen to try the Ethiopian restaurant near the international university in Moscow. I didn't find Ethiopian coffee there, but did find Fitsum, a native of the East African country. He helps run the restaurant, having first arrived in Moscow several years ago on a scholarship. He says he misses his mom and the warm Ethiopian weather. He is seated in front of a world map on a wall near the entrance. Ethiopia is just above his right shoulder.