Array ( [total] => 6 [pageSize] => 24 [page] => 0 [results] => Array ( [5259] => Array ( [iID] => 5259 [tTitle] => Transnistria, the little country that isn't [tSlug] => transnistria-the-little-country-that-isnt [iTime] => 1310940000 [iUpdate] => 1310940000 [tDescription] => It's amazing that a Chisinau and Vladivostok, some 7500 kilometers apart, as the crow flies, were once part of the same country. Chisinau has a decidedly more European, if eastern feel to it than Vladivostok, but the nearby Tiraspol could just as easily be any larger city anywhere in Siberia. The government building is still called house of the Soviet, a few Lenin statues still stand and the hammer and sickle can be seen all over the place, including in the country's flag. When the Soviet Union broke up, the Moldovan region east of the Dniester, Nistra, river had quite a few Russians living there, mostly related to the Soviets' strong military presence. The Transnistrians fought to stay independent, afraid that the new country, with its strong ties to the region of Moldavia across the border in Romania, would seek to reunite with it's western neighbor. So far, Moldova is still Moldova, on the edge of the European union and supposedly the poorest country in Europe, though that's hard to tell from the many cafes and restaurants lining the city's streets. But, the breakaway province also believes it's a country, even though it's only recognized as such by two other entities, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and they are not even countries themselves. I found Tiraspol nice and friendly enough, if very small and quiet. It's easy to walk to the edge of town and, while walking, I bumped into several of the locals with whom i shared my bus into the country. And it seems the Transnistrian officials are no longer hassling tourists. Up to a few years ago, crossing into the wannabe country would be frought with difficulties and the need of paying multiple bribes. Now, a successful policy change made crossing a total breeze. To the extent where it's almost meaningless. On the Ukrainian side, the guards briefly looked at our passports, there is freedom of travel between the two republics. Later, leaving Moldovia, on the Romanian side, the Moldovans checked the passports and tapped every part of the bus with a screwdriver, but did not check the luggage, while the Romanians didn't check the bus, but did check the luggage in the hold, very briefly, but did not check the luggage which remained in the bus. A Moldovan family on the bus was extremely fidgety until after the Moldovan checkpoint. It reminded me of a crossing from Lithuania to Poland by bus a good number of years ago, where nearly everyone was smuggling stuff, taped to their person. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2444 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1099 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1461977826 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 22 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 46.8367 [fLongitude] => 29.6109 [tLocation] => Monument to Suvorov [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20110718 ) [816] => Array ( [iID] => 816 [tTitle] => Moving to Khabarovsk [tSlug] => moving-to-khabarovsk [iTime] => 931989600 [iUpdate] => 931989600 [tDescription] => It is amazing how often your passport is checked when traveling through the country. When buying a train ticket, when boarding a train, sometimes on a train, when buying a plane ticket, when entering an airport, when checking in for a flight, when checking in your baggage, when going through customs (if you can call it customs for an inland flight), when entering the plane, etc. I took the train to Khabarovsk The train ride to Khabarovsk at times takes you as close as 20km from the Chinese border. In the past, when security was more of a hot issue than it is now, the Trans-Siberia express would traverse this part of its trajectory with blinded windows, to avoid people from snooping. I shared my cabin with a lady with gorgeous legs but a (as I only noticed when developing my photos) very ugly face and an old man with almost only golden teeth. The girl spoke English, so for a change, I had an actual conversation on the train. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 3034 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 838 [iOldID] => 1190 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462198138 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 0 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 43.1401 [fLongitude] => 131.908 [tLocation] => Train station [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 19990715 ) [815] => Array ( [iID] => 815 [tTitle] => Beer in Vladivostok [tSlug] => beer-in-vladivostok [iTime] => 931903200 [iUpdate] => 931903200 [tDescription] => I had had a bad night's sleep. It was very hot and I had to kill over 20 mosquitoes before I had enough time between killing each two to have a chance of falling asleep before it was time to kill the next one. After picking up the train ticket to Khabarovsk, I wanted to take the ferry to the other side of the bay. It being a total chaos on the piers, I opted for some Chinese food instead. A very small Chinese girl was selling bags of mushrooms, fish, peppers, etc on oil and sour at very high prices. Misjudging the cost, I ordered too much and I had enough to eat for the next two days. Picking up the train ticket wasn't an easy task this time. Finding where I could by them (in the renovated train station) wasn't too hard. Finding the right line to stand in and communicating to the ticket lady what I needed, was. After waiting a long time and trying for what seemed a longer time to explain what I needed, a man jumped in, offering to help me. I asked if he spoke English, 'Of course', he replied. He started talking with the ticket lady, and I started to make clear, to him, what I needed. However, he didn't seem to notice I was talking to him. After some time, he looked up at me, startled, as I asked if he understood English. 'uhh... no!' he replied. I bumped into Kostia again. This time close to the hotel. I had a feeling it wasn't totally a by chance meeting, since again he was carrying something for me. This time, a 1942 book about Vladivostok. In Russian of course. Being tired because of my short night, I headed off to the Krishna cafe again for a bite to eat and a lazy afternoon. It being busy inside, I shared a table with An. A girl from Russia who was studying medicine in New York and was hoping on finding a steady job in the States after finishing her studies. She was going to fly back to New York the next day. Via Moscow. She told me it was two hours longer to fly via Moscow, but also half price as compared to going in the other direction immediately. In the evening, this time, I didn't meet Kostia. I did meet two Russian sailors (one of whom was called Viktor) with whom I spend most of the evening. Talking about Russia, beer, women, foreigners and all the stuff where young people talk about. It was a funny meeting, since they both weren't really interested in me buying beer for them (a first!) but far more interested in talking with me about whatever there was to talk about. (As so many Russians I now had met, Viktor was of the opinion that everyone 'official', from Boris Nicolajevich down, is a thief.) Eventually, the sailors went to some bar. I went to the hotel, dead tired. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 5593 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 837 [iOldID] => 1189 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462203020 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 3 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 43.1125 [fLongitude] => 131.879 [tLocation] => Hotel Vladivostok [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 19990714 ) [814] => Array ( [iID] => 814 [tTitle] => Not so old friends [tSlug] => not-so-old-friends [iTime] => 931816800 [iUpdate] => 931816800 [tDescription] => One of the few places in Russia to have one, I was able to visit a vegetarian restaurant the next day. Run by several Hare Krishna's, the food was very enjoyable and I finally was able to decrease my backlog of vegetables. The woman behind the counter spoke nothing but Russian and although, by now, I had picked up enough Russian to be able to order food in a restaurant (at least I thought), she had no problem to misunderstand me completely, continuously. I finally resorted to pointing to someone's plate to make it clear what I wanted to eat. That person, a woman, also Hare Krishna, had no idea what I wanted either and invited me to share her food with her. I finally was saved by two Indian guys, one of which spoke Russian and English, who explained my wishes to the waiting woman. I was saved, I was about to eat! The Indians came from Moscow. One of them had only recently moved to Russia (from New Delhi) and was to set up some sales office in Vladivostok. The other (the one who helped me out) managed a sales office in Moscow, actually selling Procter & Gamble products throughout Russia. He had flown, from Moscow to Vladivostok, for not more than $75! Much less as what I had paid for half that distance! Walking back to the hotel, I met 'Andre'; an interpreter and guide at the hotel who thought about going to Japan and making loads of money there. He spoke some four languages of which Japanese was his first language after Russian and was surprised, every time, at how much money he could make when working for the Japanese. Telling me the story of his life in less than 10 minutes, I learned about his corrupt brother, his history as a drug dealer and user, the Russian mafia (Mr. Yeltsin being one of them), Vladivostok and his idea that it would take one generation for Russia to change. Remarkably, in front of the hotel, an old-skool 'beetle' with German license plates was parked. Again!? In the evening, I bumped into Kostia again. He very much came across as the classic 'troubled youth'. We talked a bit and I received a gift from him! A cassette from the German band 'Enigma'. When talking, a girl came up to us, asking for the time. I showed her my watch (analog), making it clear that it was Moscow time. She didn't seem to be able to tell the time from it but she took my interest with the white rat that was sitting on her shoulder. I asked if I could hold it for a couple of seconds. I could and I took it. When it started gnawing at my fingers though, I accidentally dropped the damn rat! [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2875 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 837 [iOldID] => 1188 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462232233 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 13 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 43.1125 [fLongitude] => 131.879 [tLocation] => Hotel Vladivostok [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 19990713 ) [813] => Array ( [iID] => 813 [tTitle] => Vladivostok is the other side of the world [tSlug] => vladivostok-is-the-other-side-of-the-world [iTime] => 931730400 [iUpdate] => 931730400 [tDescription] => Getting off the bus again, walking back to waiting room, one of the girls and the soldier where walking behind me. I asked why I couldn't just wait with the other people traveling to Vladivostok. (I first believed I was the only one traveling there, but the same soldier told me earlier I wasn't.) "It is Russian tradition, our way of saying goodbye to foreigners", the soldier said, seemingly dead serious. I expected this guy to grab a club or knife at any moment and smash my face in or rip my throat open. Surprisingly, this didn't happen... Some time later, I finally got on the plane (the same one that had brought me to Irkutsk), and I was actually put on the plane before all other (Russian) passengers. From the convenient window seat I had chosen, I could see all of them running towards the plane when their gate (on the tarmac) had been opened, trying to be the first on the plane. We took off just before sunrise. When the sun came up, we where just over Baikal, which gave an unparalleled view of one of the worlds largest lakes. I had no problem anymore with us leaving much later than planned. Before disembarking from the plane, all passengers' passports where thoroughly checked by a group of soldiers. *My* soldier had to go through my papers four times before he finally let me move on. It was already past 9 o'clock and the sun was shining happily over the parking lot of Vladivostok's ugly airport. I had learned that the airport was some 40km away from the city center and that busses only irregularly made the journey. Halfway. As in Irkutsk, immediately many people asked if I needed a cab. I finally agreed with the owner of a small bus that I would pay some $4 for the ride to town (instead of the $18 he asked), unless a city bus would come to pick me up within half an hour. The driver managed to find two other customers and, after no bus had shown up (and probably only minutes before it would have), we left for downtown. On the parking lot of the airport, I concluded that here, people had to be driving on the other side of the road, since all steering wheels where on the wrong side of each car. It took me some time before I realized that that was because about 95% of the cars where imported from Japan. Now, they still drive on the right side, but they just happen to have the steering wheel on the right side as well. Vladivostok is a very lively city and it immediately reminded me of a Mediterranean city, with the warm weather, the hills next to the sea and the many brick buildings everywhere. The major difference being the lack of Spaniards, Italians or Greeks and the surplus of Japanese, Chinese and Taiwanese. I had a hard time finding a hotel. Almost all where full and only the third one, the hotel Vladivostok, had a fairly cheap room for me, after I declined the expensive rooms in the hotel several times. The hostess first told me no cheap rooms where available anymore, but when I made it clear that I was not going to pay much more than $12 and was about to go to a cheap hostel on the outskirts of town, she accidentally "discovered" that there was still a cheap room available. Later, I learned that the cheap hostel I was about to go to didn't exist anymore, so I was saved by the bell! The hotel was a strange combination of old and new; the entrance looked like any other modern Best Western, Ibis or Novotel, even advertising sauna, a hairdresser and having a small art shop in the foyer. The floor I was staying on had your standard Russian floor lady with drab, 70s style carpeting, wallpaper and everything. Then, the TV in my room was able to decode PAL, NTSC and SECAM, had several sports channels, a music channel and numerous Chinese broadcasts... I was happy though, to have a view over the bay of Vladivostok from my hotel window. Different but similar For a busy and apparently international city as Vladivostok, it is remarkable that no international fast food places exist. There is a magic burger that is so popular with the locals, that you have to wait in line for several minutes before you can actually order anything from the drab menu of food-items they serve. Don't get me wrong, the waiting isn't Russian style, its like a McDonalds on its busiest hours. But why these people where actually standing in line was a complete mystery to me when I sampled the food itself. I had some Hawaiian burger (buns, meat, pineapple), stale fries and a Pepsi. The Pepsi was okay, the rest was plain terrible. I was baffled to see so many people eat all they had with joy on their faces! And to think that this place had been there for numerous years already (the Planet already recommended not going there). How could this "thing" survive? I had to cool off with some good ice-cream in a good ice parlor. Although Russians like cakes and ice-cream a lot, it's not as if very good ice-cream is served in Russia. One exception is this one place in Vladivostok. Many choices, very good cakes and pastries and, what's equally important, with an outside temperature of about 40 degrees Celsius, they manage to get the temperature inside as low as some 22 degrees. One very nice girl, sitting opposite me at another table, had the nerve to flirt with me for more than an hour. I would have made a move if she wasn't accompanied by another (equally gorgeous) girl and a big baboon. In the evening, when lounging on the beach, a couple asked me for the time. I replied (in English) and minutes later a boy/young man came up to me with a beer. We started talking and Kostia told me he wanted to leave Russia and work abroad. If it was possible for me to give him some good advice. His English wasn't all that good and when he told me he was working in some copy shop, I figured he was lost. Some time later, however, he mentioned he was going to start at a business school somewhere, so the future doesn't have to be all that bad for him after all! We where joined by some friends of his, a young couple of which the girl (21 years) already had a son of 5 and an older man with two German shepherds who couldn't stop talking about Krishna. According to Ira (the girl), I was a 'good man'. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 9366 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 2 [iVoters] => 1 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 837 [iOldID] => 1187 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462185786 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 2 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 43.1125 [fLongitude] => 131.879 [tLocation] => Hotel Vladivostok [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 19990712 ) [811] => Array ( [iID] => 811 [tTitle] => Strange market forces [tSlug] => strange-market-forces [iTime] => 931557600 [iUpdate] => 931557600 [tDescription] => The hotel room had a fridge as well as a bathtub the size of a walnut. The fridge made so much noise that I had a hard time sleeping. My next door neighbor dunking his head against the wall every two minutes or so didn't help either. After a long time of trying and watching what there was to watch on television (mostly porn-related advertisements) I managed to fall asleep. The next morning, I tried to arrange a train ticket to Krasnoyarsk, it supposedly being my next step closer to lake Baikal. I had to change some dollars into Rubles and wanted to try that at the more up market hotel Sibir. They where able to change money, although at a very bad rate, since their regular exchange office was out of service and all they had was a money changer at the casino (it being already ten in the morning). They also could get me train tickets to anywhere in Russia. Them speaking English, it seemed to make arranging my next leg of the journey an easy one. That was, until I had to pay four times as much per kilometer as I had in the before. There was this 'law' that obliged foreigners to pay 4 to 5 times as much for train transport as compared to Russians. It seemed that only in Moscow, when buying the ticket to Nizhni Novgorod had I paid this 'regular' fair. For the other legs of my journey I somehow had managed to pay the Russian's fair. Now, in Novosibirsk, they wanted me to pay the regular foreigner's fair. Having to pay an astounding $40 for a ticket to Krasnoyarsk, in stead of the Russian's $10, I asked what it would cost to fly there instead. The air fair was a mere $18. I decided I would try to get a train ticket at low price from any one of several other ticket offices scattered around town, mostly since the next plane to Krasnoyarsk wouldn't leave for a number of days. Getting a low-fare train ticket, however, turned out to be very difficult if not impossible. Some of the offices where closed, and when I found the one that was able to sell me the right ticket, I had to wait an hour to find out it didn't sell any tickets to foreigners (although the waiting wasn't all useless since I had a nice talk with a very beautiful ballerina before I was kicked out). I had to get my ticket at the train station. There, they wanted me to charge the earlier mentioned $40. I decided I was going to fly. Although the air fair to Krasnoyarsk was low, planes only left once a week. Since the last one had left the day before, I needed to figure out another destination, since I didn't want to be stuck in Novisibirsk (however nice) for a whole week. Considering Ulan Ude, Irkutsk, Severobaikalsk and other stops along the way, I finally decided that, if I was going to fly anyway, I might as well fly all the way to Vladivostok. Luckily, the hotel Sibir also was able to get me a plane ticket. I wasn't completely happy with flying in Russia. Mainly because I didn't want to leave my luggage with anyone at the airport (especially security) besides myself. I started to ask a question to the lady who was helping me on the subject of luggage. I said "I have been told...", but I couldn't even finish my sentence. She immediately cut in: "Don't believe 'em!". "But should I believe you?" I enquired with a small grin. "Of course." she said. So I believed her. She said I could take a fairly sized bag with me on the plane but should leave anything over the top to be transported as regular luggage. The size of my backpack could not be described as fairly sized. The ticket to Vladivostok was also very reasonably priced and I would already fly the very next day. The fact that the ticket was arranged in only minutes put the smile back on my face when I left the hotel again, in the blazing Siberian sun. The outside temperature was about 45 degrees, Celsius, 35 in the shade, so the smile came in handy. I decided to let the folks back home know of my change of plans, I went to the local telephone office. An Irishman in Novosibirsk Still with the smile on my face, I tried to arrange a call back to the Netherlands. Phoning abroad is something of an art in Russia. Depending on the city, you can either call from your hotel, or you need to go to an International phone and telegraph office, where you can place a call to a foreign country. You give the country and phone number of the person you want to speak to, to someone at a desk (behind a glass window) and then you wait. After some time (when your number's up and when 'they' have made contact) there's an announcement saying to which phone box you have to hurry. There, your call is waiting and you can accept the call by picking up the phone that's inside the booth. Sometimes, since you can't call from such a booth anyway, the phone is nothing but a horn on a thing that looks like a phone but has no touchtone or dial whatsoever on it. So I was in this communication center, asking the (nice) lady at the counter whether she spoke either English, Dutch, French, German or Hungarian. She didn't. She did speak Italian. Of course, I don't, but just then a friendly Irishman (aren't they always) appeared out of nowhere and helped me out. John had been in Novosibirsk for about half a year and had arrived in December when the temperature was at a heart warming -45 degrees Celsius. We went for a drink in one of the Pizza places. John, by circumstance, had come to Novosibirsk to teach English but was now working at some humanitarian organization doing Internet research. He had found a girlfriend here (or a girlfriend had found him) and was enjoying his time immensely, picking up some Russian in the process (probably to help stray cats such as myself in phoning home). Having just bought a plane ticket, I was already short on cash. So again, I had to exchange some dollars. I didn't want to get fooled by the casino at the Sibir once more, so I asked John where I would have the best bet in changing at a good rate. He said he knew a couple of people that would be able to change money and indeed, after some time, someone entered the pizza joint where we where having some Pepsi, who John knew could exchange cash. We agreed an amount and some moments later, he came back with the Rubles. I wanted to change $200. He came back with the right amount all right, all in 50Ruble notes. That's about 100 notes all together. Great. John and I agreed to meet again in the evening, in one of the pizza places that doubled as a Jazz club at night. Next, I was off to see a bit more of Novosibirsk. One of the things I had to see up close, here in Novosibirsk, was the river Ob. So that's where I went. A huge waterway (but then again, which waterway in Russia isn't huge) with, on several beaches along its shores, thousands of people sunbathing and swimming. Boat wrecks lying on the shores, kids playing in and on them. Older men trying to catch fish for an evening meal and tomorrow's market. Stray dogs trying to wash the hot day off of them. The peace and quiet along the whole shore. In short, a great place to linger. Walking back from the river to the city center, a bus driver asked me to help push the bus and get it going. He couldn't get the ignition started, so he had asked one of the passengers to sit behind the wheel while he himself and I would push the bus, so that it could start. After several tries, we got it going. I also cam across a small chapel that claims to be the geographical center of Russia. I couldn't help but wonder why they put such a very small chapel in such an important place. Grabbing some culture along the way, I also visited an art museum. Here, too, international artists where adorning the walls. Among others, the Dutch painter Ruebens was represented here, as well as the Russian Reirikh (or Roerich). Jazz When night fell, I went to the pizza place and was surprised by four things: the friendliness of everyone in the bar, the quality of the food, the cosines of the bar and the high standards of the jazz that was being played. John came in several minutes after me with his (gorgeous) girlfriend (she looked like Natascha McElhone and we talked about Russia and things you talk about with a foreigner when you meet each other in the middle of nowhere. John knew some of the people in the Jazz band that was playing and after the gig (when already a new band was lining up, also not bad (but not as good as the first band)) two of them sat at our table. One of the guys, Alexei, had actually toured part of Western Europe as well as Turkey with his band, him not being able to stop rambling on about the fantastic things he had seen on his trips to the West. His most fantastic story was on Novosibirsk though. He said that the personal ads of one of the local news papers consisted for 80% of articles of the type: "Wealthy Dutch male is looking for handsome young Russian woman: 18-35, 90-60-90, no kids, for marriage." He stressed that these 80% where all Dutch men. I wondered. John told me a remarkable story. The expat community in Novosibirsk being kinda small (all pizzerias, the Irish pubs and a bakery run by the same American guy), he knew one of the big Honcho's of Coca Cola. Apparently, since the Russian market crash of 1998, Coca Cola has been losing $1million (yes, 1.000.000) a month by staying in Russia. What's more, before the crash, they expected to break even in 2004. Now, they've put back that figure by 50 years! Problem is, they can't just back out. Pepsi would, then, easily rule the whole country and could start making a profit in less than a few months! Interesting stuff. John was the first who suggested the thought to me that Russians consider the time it will take for a change to happen in Russia to be some 25 years. The 'age' of one generation. Professors in university now teaching the free market economy have never experienced it themselves. How can they teach? The parameters that are enforcing the economy to work only seem to work for the select few. How can a whole population be convinced. By law, everyone has to be paid in Rubles, but everyone immediately converts their money to Dollars, to avoid the problems a default might cause. How can this system ever work? The two lovers (John and Julia) left earlier than I did, which rendered me a remarkable view of the second band that was now playing. The drummer looked like a young version of Nick Cave, the lead guitarist was a good imitation of Christopher Walken. The base guitar player was short and fat, constantly jumping around the whole club, with a bad-ass smile on his face, he looked like a converted communist general. The keyboard player seemingly had just crawled out of bed, still wearing his green pajamas and his curly black hair was trailing off in all directions. And then the singer. Half-long greasy hair, which he constantly waved back and forth, and the painful look on his face, which made him look like a cross between Eric Clapton and Jesus Christ. I noticed a nice looking young girl sitting alone some tables away from me and, since I could still manage a couple of hours, figured it wouldn't hurt striking up a conversation with her. I went over to her table, asking if it was okay for me to sit down. She politely said "No.", which caught me a bit off guard. She, noticing that, although I did understand what she had said, I hadn't understood why, she went on to explain: "I'm single", and then nodded with her had as if to say 'therefore you can't sit here'." By no means did I understand it at all, but I figured it was time to take a nap after all. 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