After getting off the train, my traveling companion and I hid out for the night in the Soviet-era medical school dormitory when one of her college buddies was living. That lasted a day before the babuski found us and packed us off to the dumpy bus station hotel downtown. It was the kind of place a former B-list Russian celebrity OD’s, but had reasonably priced laundry service, so all-in-all not a bad deal.
After a day of logistics, we decided we needed to get our Siberian vacation off to a rocking start - so we went to the
The next day we headed off to summer camp. In 1983, Nikita Bencharov was an all-Russia table tennis champion. In 1988, he visited a friend (who still hangs around the dining hall) on
(2) White Caviar. On the jeep trip to the north cape of the island, we stopped for an omul soup picnic. I arrived to lunch late because I had wandered off looking for seals, so I thought I got the dregs of the soup. But there in my bowl I had something that looked like a little round white tic-tac. Inquiring from the group of Russian tourists at the table, I discovered that I had lucked into white caviar, or boiled inquiring from the group of Russian tourists at the table, I discovered that I had lucked into white caviar, or boiled omul eye. (Name came about during Soviet times when real caviar was scarce in central
(3) Yak Vodka. We went to a performance of traditional Buryat (local Mongolian-ish ethnic minority) folk music. The performance had the general feeling of a poorly staged middle school talent show, but there were highlights, including the late 90-something year old (somewhat senile) matriarch of the family telling us all to pass her pipe and go the hell away. And then there was the local vodka. It tasted like a cross between vodka and Tibetan yak butter tea. I don’t particularly like either one, but the combination made my teeth shudder.
(4) Swimming. So the legend of
Then it was time to drift back home. The only other bit of excitement was the S7 Airlines flight. They used to be Siberian Airlines but had three crashes in less than a year. Putin made them sell all the broken ones and pick a new name. But other than being 2 hours late, the trip was uneventful.