All of my grandparents had already passed away when I was born. As a consequence, I wasn’t able to experience what loss might feel like throughout my childhood. While some may say that this is a privilege, I would argue that experiencing loss at a time and place where you have the ability to process your feelings and grief may be preferable.
Unfortunately I was not afforded that privilege.
Therefore my first experience of loss was earth-shattering. Not because it happened, because these things happen without consultation or mercy, but because it was so unexpected. Had I known a tragedy of scale would await me when I moved to Rostock, I might have taken a different path; or at least stocked up on Semechki.
Now I know what you might be thinking: Can you really compare the loss of a loved one to the loss of your favorite snack? Listen….you don’t know the pain until you’ve experienced it.
But lets start form the beginning: what are those delectable and mysterious „Semecki“ I am talking about?
To me they are comfort in its purest form.
If any of your close ones used to smoke during your childhood, you will recognize the feeling of nostalgia and comfort that hits you once the smoke of a cigarette burning enters your nostrils. Semechki are similar in a sense; once you hear the clack clack clack of the outer shell being broken by teeth, I just calm down. One might say they are a snackish equivalent to biting your nails, which I, as a certified nervous kid™, did a lot. Don`t get me wrong, I still bite my nails, I have simply upgraded to being a nervous adult (still working on that trademark).
But to answer the question in a less metaphorical sense: Semechki are sunflower seeds that are sold in the shell, which you have to crack open yourself. They are also every Russian`s favorite snack, past time and emotional crutch. If you’d force a Russian to either give up Semechki or Vodka, there is no guarantee for what might happen, thats how powerful they are.
Now imagine how I felt once I realized how hard it was to find some good Semechki in this city.
Granted, I did move to Rostock after having lived my entire life in Hamburg, so I guess my expectations were too high, but for some reason I expected Rostock to have more than one Russian Supermarket (the infamous MIX-MARK)
The biggest tragedy of it being that its located in the seventh circle of hell they call Lütten Klein . I don’t have time to visit that place! Do I look like a gay poet writing a travel-log while visiting literal hell?
While I actually might consider traveling all nine circles of hell for some good Semechki, a brave soldier (my mom) has already traveled far and wide to find an alternative. If you are Russian or simply like Russian food and are disappointed by the lack of accessible Russian supermarkets and quality products, let me share my wisdom with you and show you how I was able to overcome my loss.
Lara ́s City Magasin is a beacon of hope for everyone who doesn’t live in Lütten Klein. It`s a very small place, and when I say small, I mean real small. Think of your childhood bedroom (this metaphor does not apply if you’re a rich kid and thus breed a own ) and cut it in half, that should be about right. It`s located at Doberaner Platz and not hard to find because of its obvious Soviet aesthetic. The owner, Lara, goes to church with my mom, which blossomed into friendship that has evolved to sending each other facebook memes via WhatsApp.
Lara sells different brands of Semechki. Now I know we all want the good stuff in the red and green packaging with the bird:
Unfortunately, I was not able to find them at Laras place. Instead, I highly recommend the ones that are called “Monarch“ in a sleek black packaging:
If you speak Russian Lara will be happy to help you! If you don’t she will still help you because she’s a nice person (and wants your money).
Hopefully, you have learned something from my trauma; do not go gently into that good night, comrades. What seems like the darkness of the abyss today, might just be the beautiful outer shell of a sunflower seed, tomorrow. Rage, rage against the dying of the light!