Thursday, August 30, 2007

Mother Volga- Ural.

On our way across the Ural mountains, we discovered that this famous mountain range, isn´t actually a mountain range. It is rather what we call "hei" in norwegian, a big hill up, and then another one to get you down on the other side. However, there are other positive aspects to be considered. The area appears to be a Russian haven for fishing, swimming, hiking, birdwatching and you name it; anything to do with nature and recreation. There are loads of stalls selling air matresses and different water toys and inflatable animals along the road. As everywhere we`ve been in Russia, everyone seems to be selling exactly the same products within one area. So far we have passed "Onion and pumpkin land", "Blueberry and mushroom country", "Realm of smoked fresh water fish", "Appletown", "Honey district", "Stuffed animal road", and now; this "Ural republic of inflatable animals".

Another trademark of Russian commerce is that everything is open 24-7, even including such things as a huge fishmarket in the middle of the forest, located within the before mentioned "Realm of smoked fresh water fish". The fishmarked was part of the "nr. 1 truck stop ever", where we spent a very interesting night. All the fish was studied closely while drinking vodka and beer, and included bass and sturgeon, and loads of other variaties that we couldn`t translate the names of. We especially bonded with one of the tradesmen, Rain, who knew a small amount of German because he had been stationed in Germany as a young man. He also told us about his son Albert, who lived in Magdenburg, whom he hadn`t seen for 15 years, but was very proud of. We shared some beers with Rain, while talking about the military, his son, exchanging hats, and ended up armwresteling before we went to bed. He won, of course, beeing a lumberjack and a champion swimmer.

After the Ural mountains, we arrived at a remote lake where we made hot cheese sandwiches and salad for supper. This turned out to be the last time we used out paraphine oil cooking equipment, as the next morning, it was gone. We had placed it under the bus, naively assuming that we had parked in a remote area where noone would pass by. Unfortunately, we were wrong. After discovering that our kitchen was gone, we went for a comforting swim in the lake nearby. Afterwards, the people living in the house closest to where we parked the bus, came down and invited us for a cup of tea, feeling sorry for us loosing our kitchen. After cleaning up the bus, we went over to their house, and attempted to hold a conversation while the one guy, Slavo, prepared a salad for us to eat. Meanwhile, the other guy, Anatolja; another offiser in the Russian army, told us the story of his sevice in Afghanistan from 1980 to -82, where he had been shot. His war injury kept him from drinking the vodka that we were later offered, or rather given as an "entre" before the tea. According to our two new friends, tea was out of the question before we had downed three rounds of vodka. In Russia it`s rude to sip your vodka, you must wait until everyone is ready, then make a toast, and finally down the whole glas. As a result, we ended up quite cheerful from all the breakfast-vodka, exchanged gifts and photographs, before we left for Chelyabinsk, having temporarily forgotten about our stolen kitchen.

The day after tomorrow, we`ll be in Kazachstan.

From Russia with Love,

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