Don’t you just love vending machines? I mean, what’s better than being able to put some coins or notes of whatever your currency is into a slot, and the product of your choice falls out in the vicinity of your feet?
Apparently the first ‘modern’ vending machines were found in London in the 1880s and contained postcards.
I guess one of my first memories of vending machines would be those glass boxes on a stand which contained coloured gum, or bouncy rubber balls, or plastic rings and other cheap stuff for kids.
Something like this…
Or at the post office, which dispensed 1 and 2 cent stamps (yes, I’m old).
There are vending machines everywhere these days. I guess the most common ones are for drinks like Coca Cola, Sprite, water etc., and snacks like chocolate, Kit-Kats, crisps (chips) and other junky type food.
But they’re not only for junk food. You can also get sandwiches and fruit bars and other more healthy options from vending machines.
Or public transport tickets. Parking tickets. Or in some toilets you can find machines which sell you condoms and tampons. In a public toilet in Germany there was a machine which sold sex toys. I kid you not. I did take a photo but I won’t put it here, I’ll leave it to your imagination (or not).
Hot drinks, soup, fresh orange juice. The list is endless. It seems that you can get almost anything from a vending machine these days.
I don’t know what vending machines are like in your country, but here in Russia there are many different kinds. And even after 11 years here I’m still surprised about what I see in vending machines.
Let’s have a look at some of them.
I’m sad to say that these have almost disappeared now, but when I first came to Moscow in 2007 they were quite common in metro stations. Plenty of choice of reading material for your commute to work in the metro. And they were popular, everybody read in the metro. Now they just play games or look at social networks on their phones.
In the Soviet Union, they had drink machines from which you could buy carbonated water, with or without syrup flavourings. The only thing was that there were no paper or plastic cups. There was a glass. That was used by everyone. Apparently you cleaned it by turning the glass upside down and putting it in a special place before you used it.
I can’t imagine that going down too well these days.
In a town called Tula, we found a small market which had some old drink machines rotting away beside a small shop which sold small pies and bread products. There were a couple of working machines, so Olivier decided to try one of them.
Here are the old ones, which were just behind the one Olivier bought his drink from.
There are modern versions of this now, with paper or plastic cups so no concerns about germs for the squirmish.
Here’s one, also in Tula, where the man at the table was selling plastic cups for the people to use for the drink machines. It was a hot day and he was doing a roaring trade.
And finally, one new drink machine, in the style of the old ones, but much more hygienic.
OK, let’s move on now.
When you think of food vending machines, you probably think of snack food, chocolates. But in Russia, we have caviar and pelmini.
And Pelmini, which is a kind of dumpling with meat inside. It’s a traditional Russian food which is often bought frozen from the supermarket and cooked at home, and is a favourite among students because it’s relatively cheap.
And finally in the food category, we have Space Food. We found this at the airport, although it didn’t seem to be a very popular choice amongst the travellers that particular day.
Let’s look at some of the ones that I couldn’t categorise. Like contact lenses. In Australia, you have to have a prescription to buy contact lenses. It’s a pain, having to make an appointment at the optometrist, and then buying your lenses in the shop at inflated prices. Not so in Russia, no prescription needed. And you don’t even have to go into a shop.
And then there’s this rather practical one. It contains all kinds of women’s products for your convenience. Including a pregnancy test.
And here are some handyman stuff like glue, and batteries. I can’t see what else is in here but I’m sure I’ll need something from this one one day.
Oh look, here’s some socks. That’s good, because I forgot to get some when I was at the shop earlier.
If you prefer something a little more feminine, how about some pantyhose? Note the pin-up pictures decorating the machine.
And last, but certainly not least, the one I was most surprised to see. The patriot box. These are t-shirts. Complete with an image of the President. Class.
So, as you can see, you can get almost everything you need from a vending machine in Russia.
What’s it like where you live? Let me know in the comments if you’ve seen any interesting vending machines lately.