Cult of the Coat Check -- Regardless of what time of year you travel, you are sure to face this peculiarly Russian form of hospitality. All museums and theaters (and even many restaurants) will not let you past the foyer unless you take off your outer layers and leave them at the coat check. In the depth of winter this is a welcome way to shed heavy and soggy coats and hats, and it's a service usually free of charge. On a chilly summer day, however, be prepared for a fight if you want to keep your cardigan with you as you wander drafty museum spaces. When you fetch your coats, tips are not expected but are greatly appreciated, even small amounts. You may find that the woman who so sternly disrobed you upon arrival has mended your dangling button.
Funny Feet -- Don't be alarmed if a Russian museum employee stops you at the entrance and makes you put on plastic or felt slippers. Many Russian museums, especially "house museums" or those installed in former palaces, require visitors to cover their shoes to protect wood floors from soggy street shoes. The free slippers (called bakhili) are stored in bins near the coat check, and evoke giggles from most first-time wearers. Tread carefully at first, since some are slippery. Russian visitors don't blink at this practice, since they all keep shoes-free homes, shedding footwear (especially slush-coated winter boots) at the door in favor of house slippers.
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