• July 02, 2012

Maropeng, the official visitor’s centre to the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage site, has taken on providing a home-away-from-home experience for a Russian contingent who is staying at the four-star Maropeng Boutique Hotel while completing work on a local project.

“It’s important to understand these delegates are not here as tourists but rather to work as you and I from Monday to Sunday. This means that they are not here on leisure with the freedom to travel and experience South Africa as any other tourist would, instead the hotel will function as their home whilst they complete their work. With this mind we have tried to ensure that we can provide for and assist with anything that will make their stay more comfortable and bring a bit of familiarity to their working day,” says Tony Rubin, Managing Director of Maropeng.

To aid with communication and bridge the cultural gap, Maropeng brought in fellow Russian, Svetlana Fouché, the wife of on-site Maintenance Manager, Mark Fouché, to assist. For the past two months, in conjunction with the Hotel Manager, Food & Beverage Manager and the Head Chef, Svetlana has been responsible for compiling a daily menu for the delegates ensuring a variety of ethnic Russian meals are served while still including a number of South African dishes, allowing them a taste of traditional local cuisine.

“Svetlana has been instrumental in transferring her knowledge and skills of Russian cuisine to our kitchen staff who have all embraced the opportunity to learn new recipes and the techniques required to make some of the ethnic Russian meals,” says Rubin. “Hotel staff have also taken it upon themselves to take note of their specific preferences - such as that they prefer soup which has identifiable pieces rather than the typical western pureed soups and that rye bread is preferred to brown or white bread. Russians typically have soup every day, so soups such as Borsht, Yellow Pea soup, Soljanka soup, Fish soup and Rassolnik with Barley soup have been made on a daily basis.”

Russians also typically eat a salad with every main meal so Rubin says a number of salads such as Olivier salad, beetroot salad and a number of traditional rural salads, consisting of greens, nuts, raisins, olive oil and or mayonnaise, are made throughout the week. “The delegates have also shown interest in game meat so occasionally game meat is ordered in especially for them. Pork has also been in great demand. In the first week they arrived, we arranged for the group to go to The Carnivore Restaurant which was thoroughly enjoyed by all. They really enjoy a typical South African braai but simply do not like our Pap no matter how we serve it!” adds Rubin.

One particular hurdle Maropeng initially struggled  to overcome was being able to provide the delegates with Smetana, a type of sour cream which is a National dish in Russia and eaten with a number of different dishes. “We tried Double thick Greek yoghurt and local variants of sour cream but none could compete with Russian Smetana. Fortunately Svetlana could make Sauerkraut which, even though was not Smetana brought big smiles and applause when it was put on the table for them.”

Maropeng has also arranged transportation for the delegates to and from work Mondays to Saturdays. “This was difficult because they are working in a remote location which means the driver of the vehicle cannot simply pick them up and drop them off and then return later to collect them. The driver stays with them until the work day has ended because the distance makes it uneconomical to go anywhere else,” comments Rubin.

But it is not all just work for the Russian visitors as on Sundays they have taken the opportunity to explore some of the local sites and attractions. “We have arranged excursions to popular venues such as the Lion and Rhino Park, Hartbeespoort Dam, Sandton City, The Crocodile Farm and Sun City to name a few. It is truly a privilege being able to share our fantastic country and culture with our visitors and at the same time be able to experience and learn so much of their fascinating culture and traditions,” concludes Rubin.


blog comments powered by Disqus