[photos to come]
And so we step off the train.
Law enforcement is
"Hey," said the conductor on the phone to the police in
"What?" came the reply. "Really? Are you sure?"
"Yeah, I'm sure."
"Are you sure they're on the right train?"
"Yes. I checked their tickets myself."
"Do they know what their tickets say?" Asked the police officer.
"It's hard to tell, maybe. But, in either case, they're arriving this afternoon."
"Oh wow, foreigners in
In contrast to what we might have expected from three police officers waiting for us at the platform, our welcoming committee was literally that: welcoming. There was no stoic, our-side-of-the-iron-curtain hostility; instead, what met us was a group of three friendly, smiling (mono-linguistically) chatty men. They seemed intrigued as much as anything as to why a Brit, an Australian, an French-Canadian, a Slovak and some guy from a place they had never heard of would come this far from, well, anywhere, for a holiday. Especially considering that we went past
Every time a foreigner enters a
Had things taken that long in any other country, I might have been inclined to think that something had gone wrong. But this is
Redim emerged at last, bleary eyed, passports in hand, and we finally had the all clear to leave the train station. Mike, the Australian contingent on this trip, had with him directions to the nearest appropriate bus stop, a bus number, and a description of the bus stop at which to disembark. The rest of us followed him.
We got off the bus. There to greet us was Vadim, a local resident and our host for the next three days. We -- we being an extension of the organisational prowess of Mike -- met Vadim on a website called www.couchsurfing.com. The basic manifesto of CouchSurfing is to facilitate a meeting between two types of people: those who are traveling, and would therefore like a couch to sleep on for a night or two, and those who aren't traveling, and would like a complete stranger to sleep on their couch for a night or two. Based on this first impression of the organisation, I joined later that week.
Vadim lead us the short distance to his flat -- like the apotheosis of Russian flats, it was a translationally symmetrical rectangular prism, which appears to have been dropped from the sky at random. The stairwell was equally typical: dark, dank and unadorned concrete. Inside the flat was a different mater. It seemed to have been recent redecorated, with something a real-estate agent might call "easy flow" from the front door, around the corner into the spacious living room and through into the bachelor-sized kitchen. It turns out that Vadim had recently removed the wall between the front hall-way and the living room to open up what was, deceptively, a Russian-sized flat. I didn't ask the question, but I imagine his answer would have been "What the heck is building consent?"
We showered, changed, and headed out into
The city is not exactly what I would have called
Aesthetically, I was struck by how different
With no major fledgling tourist industry or exponentiating commercial sector as imputes,
We strolled thorough the streets in afternoon twilight. It wasn't as bighting cold as it might have been -- the city is know to have, in the past, reached an amputating -39.4 degrees, but, during our visit it can't have been less than - 15 degrees, and as such we didn't have to take too many not outside breaks.
I have been considering for days the best way to describe
As I have already mentioned,
Later on that day we reached the reason for
Looking out over the bay, only a membrane of ice floating upon it, my impression that this was an example of nature denying its own power began to concede to the impression that this was an it was an industrial port at night. Time for a drink in a bar that's at least 40 degrees warmer.
Our first day in the frozen north is drawing to a close. We spend the next few hours in a bar, drinking vodka and discussing things that none of us would expend the effort to commit to memory, before moving on to a restaurant just up the road. Before we left the bar, though, we met a group of Malysaian students who were studying medicine in
Our day hadn't finished yet. Before turning in for the night, we visited a Banya, or traditional Russian sauna house. But that might best be left for another post. . .