Travelling without words

While thousands of people across the globe were sat in front of their phones battling it out on Draw Something, my husband and I were huddled in the basement of a hip Moscow bar taking part in the game for real.

Earlier, we’d been wined and dined (replace the wine with vodka) in a rustic restaurant set on a quaint cobbled courtyard off Bond Street’s Russian rival, Stoleshnikov Lane,  as Hubby thrashed out the fine details of a promising business deal with three friendly Russian businessmen.

Thankfully, the fact that our ability to speak Russian was limited to four words – hello, goodbye, thank you and cheers – and two of them could speak little more English in return didn’t matter because Russian Number Three spoke it fluently and was able to spend the meal acting as translator.

After soaking up the Russian hospitality and polishing off a delicious meal and bottle of ice-cold vodka, we said our goodbyes and asked if they could recommend a nearby bar where we could kick-back and enjoy a few cocktails on our last night.

More than happy to help, we were told there was a great place around the corner that they’d escort us to – an offer that was snapped up after spending several days aimlessly exploring the city’s expanse of streets.

As we stopped outside what seemed to be a fairly modest affair but in true Russian style turned out to be quite the opposite inside, Russian Number Three told us Fillip was going to spend the evening entertaining us.

As super as this offer sounded there was one slight problem: that little thing called a language barrier. “This is going to be an interesting night,” I thought to myself as we sunk into the plush cream sofa, passing each other a smile delivered with a hint of unease at how the night was going to pan out.

After five minutes of playing the usual useless game of pretending shouting a word slowly magically makes it comprehensible, we resorted to a combination of the good old game usually reserved for Christmas Day, charades, and the latest game to take the app market by storm, Draw Something.   

Armed with a pen and a stack of paper serviettes, we spent the next three hours happily discussing politics, economics, wages, living standards and geography. OK, so it was aided by alcohol but we ended up having one of those memorable nights you just know you’re going to carry with you forever.

A bit like the time we spent night after night in Turkey drinking vodka with a group of Russians despite not being able to exchange a single word, or the evening spent sitting on a street in Barcelona discussing Catalonia’s fight for independence over several bottles of beer with politics students whose English was marginally better than our non-existent Spanish.

In fact, a common thread in most of our travels has been breaking down those language barriers using every means possible, and in almost every case it’s proved possible. So here’s to language barriers and the fact you don’t always need words.  

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3 thoughts on “Travelling without words

  1. Ah, sounds like what happens when you have a hearing issue. I love language. Trying to speak different ones is always better for a drink, especially when you might have missed the gender of the word and so totally misunderstood that it’s best to scrub out that comment and start again. Great fun

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