Subscribe via RSS Feed

Russian Recap

October 18, 2015 0 Comments

Bishkek, capital of Kirgizia, which is what the Times World Atlas calls it, though all the signs say Kyrgezstan. But what would the locals know?

We’re at a hotel, sorting a few things in readiness for a visa application for Uzbekistan. So, here is a few notes on the past.


You know we went into Russia, East Siberia. It was a short visit, only 12 days, which for us oldies is a lightning trip. Many beautiful things happened along that journey, and I’ll see if I can recite a few!

1: Within 60km from Mongolia in Russia, we stopped in a little town for food. We didn’t get a chance to eat during the border crossings, Mongolia through Russia, so we were starving. Anyway, as is my way, I asked a young and pretty girl where we could get some food. She grabbed us, turned herself around and took us to a lovely, smart, clean little cafe, where the old lady served baked chicken with a side of barley grain, then a coffee. Beautiful.

2: Bitumen roads! And the Russians are well organised in their maintenance – lots of good asphalt.

3: Clean! The roadside is spotless for the main routes. As well, there are zip tied garbage bags along the roadside, where workers clean up. And they must be pretty vigilant, as the bags were full, but spread a long way apart.

4: The Altai Valley highway is a gorgeous, smooth road, running alongside the Altai Mountain range. Snow-capped, these mountains are 3500-4000m asl and rise some 3000m above the surrounding ground, once you get down the valley a bit. When you stop at a site of interest, it is easy to strike a yarn with some domestic tourists.

Byisk Fair

Making friends in at the Fair in Byisk

5: Russian people have a good sense of humour. They are generally more cautious than Australians, but to me they have a sharper wit. They are hospitable and generous and fairly courteous drivers. Once you have their trust, they will do anything for you. They are confident about their country, don’t like America, but think Australia is a great place with good people. Everyone asked speaks very highly of Putin, in contrast to Australian political public opinions about their leaders.

6: The food is gourmet and reasonably priced. Plates of food are served with a flourish and the meal is a design or work of art. Fresh, clean, variable and tasty. Coffee is good, a lot of the wine is from South America, plus Georgia. Lynn has taken a shine to the Georgian reds!

7: At Biysk, and for that matter the other cities, streets are clean, people talk in comfortable groups, clothes are bright and of good quality and we didn’t see a sign of daylight street threat or crime.

8: We stayed in a little town called Toryn, population. 1000. People led us to the (only) accommodation – little hotel rooms above a bakery and shop. We walked down the street, around the cows, to have tea in a little diner, then back to the hotel for a game of cards. Bloody freezing! Anyway, after a while, the lady of the hotel came upstairs with two fresh loaves of high top, brown, multi grain bread! Just out of the oven. Free!

9: Went through a town called Novo-something. We stopped at a Ford dealer, looking for some serious parts for Barry’s car – front torsion rods. Anyway, it was too long a wait, but then a young guy named Andre came over and offered to help. He’s a member of a 4wd club in Kemerovo, 200km north, and offered to show us his workshop!

We followed him and on the way we stopped for dinner. We were his guests and he asked the waitress Helga for some of their specialties. What a wonderful meal. Then got to Kemerovo, find the workshop, which was the “Barn Find”, I spoke of before.

Those introductions done, and leaving Barry’s car at the workshop, we went to a hotel he chose for us and escorted us on a conducted tour of the highlights of Kemerovo, just to make sure we got a feel for the area. Then at the hotel, he did our introductions, etc. He is a manager for a Volvo earth moving machinery service firm and they are in good hands with a man like that in charge.

10: The workshop where Barry’s car was being repaired had all manner of men wandering around. I found two just finishing working on an outboard motor and showed them where the driver’s door hinges were worn or needed adjusting. Anyway, two shakes later the door was off and they were scurrying around the shed. Sure enough, a not inconsiderable time later, the door was back on, adjusted, with a top and bottom hinge replacement, using old but not worn stock items. They wouldn’t take payment, the main guy just put his hand on his heart and sort of grunted a nice grunt. Anyway, we pulled some beer out of the fridge and everyone was happy.

11: Tomsck, North 56°. A uni student spent half the day with us, showing us the sights of this lovely town.

12: Moshkovo – a sort of truck roadhouse restaurant, hotel, maybe brothel. The chef was using an outside bbq fire to cook meat for everyone’s dinner. I asked him if he could cook a leg of lamb we had bought in Mongolia. He was delighted and worked with the girls to get it “just right”. Bloody hell, it was nought degrees or less outside. Anyway, he or the owner would take no payment.

While in the same place, a man came up to me and said, “welcome to Russia, and here, take this as a souvenir”. He put in my hand a silver coin as big as a 50 cent piece, but heavy, dated 1736!

While we only spent a small time in such a big country, my perspective of it has changed forever. I hope you can feel some of the warmth I got from these people.

Filed in: Diary

About the Author:

Leave a Reply