Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Trip to Russia

Finally, back to reality…
I have just returned after ten days in Russia, after 17 years of absence. We (me, mom and sister) went to visit grandma, grandpa and uncle, who came from Moscow, in Urusu.
So first of all, couple of words about Urusu. It is a small village in Tatarstan, about 800km from Moscow, 600km from Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan, and the same distance from Samara, and about 300km from Ufa, the capital of neighbour Bashkiria. According to taxi driver, there are approximately 14,000 people live in Urusu.
Get the picture?
To get there, I had to fly to Moscow, wait 12 hours for connection flight to Ufa, then 6 hours by train to nearby major city Oktabrsk and finally 20-30 minutes by bus which goes once in a while. Did I mention dogs ride and walking in the fields for about an hour? We cheated a bit and took taxi from Ufa directly to Urusu which cost us about £25 (more then average monthly salary in Russia).
Although people in Russia (at least in Urusu) are friendly and will try to help you (even when most of them doesn’t know a word in English), the border control was as unfriendly as it gets. My passport was examined by the officer for more then 30 minutes and I was body searched. Probably too many European and US (a.k.a. enemies) stamps in my passports…
Mom and sister been there couple of years ago, but I haven’t seen grandma and grandpa (and Urusu) for more then 17 years, since I was 8 or 9. The city undergo drastic change (more about it later), but the grandma and grandpa look the same. Grandma sees a bit worse and grandpa hears a bit less (OK, so he barely hears at all), but they are as active as I remember them. Everyday, they were awake much earlier that we were and worked with us in the fields as hard as all.
For a week that we have been there, we worked in the field from early morning till evening: rooting weed, preparing ground for winter, cleaning and paining pipes, cutting branches and trees, and about everything else need to be done before the winter. After working for more then 4-5 years in the office, this was a ‘nice’ change. At first, my body ached like hell, but after couple of days I enjoyed physical work, fresh air (something you don’t get in London) and plain but tasty country food which was potatoes (fried or boiled), fresh milk, dark (brown) bread and a lot of fresh vegetables (some of them straight from the field).
The city (still registered as village) celebrated 60 years just before we arrived, so many buildings were freshly pained and streets repaved and cleaned. There were many new shops opened during 17 years, but the biggest surprise was the amount of young people in there. I was expecting to have dying city on the outskirts of Russia, with mostly old and retired people, but it is alive and kicking. There are couple of coffee places, bowling and dance clubs, and… musk. Apparently, after fall of Soviet Union, Tatar people remembered that they are originally Muslims. But, although of progress and modernism of the city, there are still goats, chickens, dogs and ducks roaming the outskirts…
OK, I don’t work for “Lost Guide to Russia”, so enough of that. Check out the photo album at http://picasaweb.google.com/john.markh/20070930TripToRussia

Enjoy,
John.

P.S.: You do understand that I would appreciate your comments, don’t you?

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

nice blog! However, few things that you forgot to mention. First and the most important one is how AWESOME your sister is and that she is the cutest thing in the whole world :-)

Other things....well...they don't really important....

Anonymous said...

You also forgot to mention how "funny" your sister is...
;)

Hugh said...

Very interesting pics, it mainly looks like the outer regions of Riga.
It must be fun to get back to nature and work the fields after sitting 9-5 in your office. :P

The wasp sting looks terrible, I got bitten by one a couple of weeks ago, but yours looked much worse!