Robert Reid Rides the Trans-Siberian Railway travel blog


PLACE: PETROPAVLOSK-KAMCHATSKY

MOUSTACHE TICKER... On probation for one week. See last post... Tatianas snag another one, but Olegs climb a digit too; met-Tats on the trip tally 6, met-Olegs 3... A one-time Sakhalin resident from Bombay emailed to say 'should've gone with Sashas... Sashas would've cleaned up...'

Showing up in Kamchatka -- Russia's up-northeast peninsula dangling 'mini Alaska' packed with bears and volcanoes -- without a group tour can be tricky -- tricky getting out of the airport without scrutiny, tricky finding a (necessary for registration) hotel room the first night, tricky finding your way around an area with little/no public transportation. Very few do. I'm here -- enjoying the 25-degrees F cooler than Khabarovsk -- just before the main tourist season beginning July 15 and happy to get what I can find. One local agent surveyed the problem -- bay cruises, two-day horse trips, three-day raft trips -- all cling to the weekend to get locals with time (and money) to kill. The weekdays hard to arrange anything. 'Tuesday... you will go on drunken cruise with Russian pharmacists.' I agree. He pours a celebratory shot of vodka. 'Have just a little.'

I then meet a Russian pharmacist. A calm small man named OLEG. Petropavlovsk is apparently the place where harmony and coincidence cross paths.

People are very nice here. Yakutsk nice. Lost trying to find my room in a laughably grim block-housing area, a woman nicely advises me to tuck in my shirt, and only then points out my destination 18m away. In one rather silly mall complex called Planeta, a short-haired guy passes me on the steps and asks, 'Are you going to see the new Tom Cruise movie too? War of the Worlds?' He continues before I can respond (no -- I stopped with 'Cocktail: The Documentary'): 'Where are you from?' America, I say. 'America? Ah, very good.' (The first time in Russia I've heard this -- maybe patronizing -- often-heard response in Travel of the World.) Checking rooms at one hotel, a moustached man with thick sweater tied around his neck* showed me 'Mike Tyson's moves' by air-punching the stale lobby air. This is something that will keep me awake perplexed for many years to come.

The key attendant TATIANA at my hotel -- the Edelweis, not pronounced as in the immortal 'Sound of Musika' but 'eedle-vees' -- has lived all of her life in Petropavlovsk, an old but quite Soviet town clinging to hills on the most beautiful setting in Russia. Seen many bears?, asked somewhat jokingly, as Kamchatka is home to more bears per chelovek (person) than anywhere on earth. 'Yes, but only in zoo.' Chto? Never any where else? 'I think they are too dangerous.' Thinking so appears to work as repellent.

Those folks among us who can only breathe whilst looking at a Ronnie James Dio** concert poster would do well to move to the Russian Far East. Turns out, DIO is starting his 'EVENING WITH DIO' tour in Petrofrickskingpavlovsk! I should add that the Sept 9 date in Khabarovsk will be at the THEATRE OF MUSICAL COMEDY. This is not a joke. Khabarovsk is another place where harmony and coincidence meet for tea sips.

By the way CONGRATULATIONS to Jenny Blake and Vivek Wagle of Melbourne, Australia, for winning the Yakutsk knock-knock joke contest (only entry) for:

Knock knock.

Who is it please?

Yakutsk.

Yakutsk who?

Yakutskool and you're in trouble, friend

You win! Print out following:

[VIRTUAL KNOCK-KNOCK JOKESTER RIBBON]***

MORE to come on Kamchatka as more Russian pharmacists are met...

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* There ought to be a name for this style -- tying shirt/sweater around neck. Let's go with 'Vienna style.' Could evolve into slang. Eg, 'a Danube Dingo' would be a dog with a bandana or shirt on; a 'Mozart on the tram' would be a balding man with swooping hair placed hopefully over the fleshy cranium... Mullet over. (Har!)

** I realize I tempt an outright blog-ban with the incessant Dio coverage. But this is hard-edge reporting. I'm not going to glossy up scarred bodies on the battlefield. And it's not my fault that the Far East of Russia, aka the new home of heavy metal, is quite fond of Ronnie James Dio. We all should be as such. See www.ronniejamesdio.com/tour.asp if you disbelieve...

*** No guys, you don't get two ribbons. You gotta share the one. Don't look at me, that's the rules.

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