Shasliva Putin – Welcome to Russia!

Km 6613 – Tsetserleg, Mongolia

 

WEATHER & GENERAL STUFF

We choose the shortest connection between Kazakhstan and Mongolia. Therefore, during our first week we travel through flat, agriculturally influenced regions. Many people say „Shasliva Putin“ to us which doesn’t mean „Long live Putin“ as we thought at first, but something like „Happy trails!“ (Putin = path). We still cycle with very summerly temperatures, which shall change soon.

 

MICHAILOVSKA

  • In a little village named Michailovska we ask Svetlana for water. She accompanies us to the town’s well and a little later she comes back to invite us to her home for food. The strong soup and the vegetable from her own garden give us power. All of the sudden, Jasmin appears. The 20-year old usually lives in Aman, Jordan. Her mother was Svetlana’s neighbour once, but then she met her Jordanian husband during her studies in Russia. Jasmin fluently speaks Arabic, Russian, English and is learning German. „How in the world did you decide to come to Michailovska?“ she asks and we explain that it is on our way to Mongolia. So we are happy about the huge coincidence of the intercultural meeting in this little Russian village.
  • After the meal and the chat it already starts to get dark and we decide to stay in the village for the night. Svetlana would like to invite us to her place, but she already has different plans for the evening. So we end up in front of the village’s school. The neighbours recommend us this place for camping, but shortly after putting up the tent the furious caretaker shows up, whom we can convince of our harmlessness after a while. Suddenly, a little something flies towards us – looking closer we can recognize: a rat which must have fallen from the school’s roof. Alex frightens her off. But this won’t stay the last comical experience for the night. After darkness set in, a car arrives and would like to park where out tent is. This man is even more furious than the caretaker and – as we find out ten minutes later – calls the police. Welcome to Germa…. – uuuh, Russia!? The officer gives himself airs at first, but after a couple of minutes he allows us to camp here for the nigh . We are agited, don’t feel welcome at all and decide to leave early next morning.
  • Even before the alarm clock rings (7h) I wake up by myself. Several people walk past the school, but no one greets or smiles. Serious faces. A feeling of „not being welcome“ spreads inside of me and sets me thinking. Maybe we have already been travelling in the effusive friendly Muslim countries for so long that we are not used to a certain reservedness anymore?
  • Is that how migrants in Germany feel? Not welcome, because many people are indifferent, partly even show bugged or annoyed reactions? I am already sad after a single experience like that, although our journey has almost exclusively been shaped by positive human interactions. How must people in Germany, Russia (or other countries) feel who experience things like that daily? Moreover, they are not voluntarily leaving their home country, like us, but because of neediness. „It’s not possible to imagine how these people feel“ says Alex. For example: migrants in Germany are suffering from psychological illnesses twice as much (source: German Association for Psychiatry)

PETROLAVLOVSKOE

  • We continue cycling – kilometer after kilometer I relax again. After 30 km we arrive in Petrolavloskoe. A village which even has a hotel and a cafe. But we don’t even get that far. At the town’s well Tatiana discovers us – again such a nice lady. She is accompanied by her daughter and her grand daughter, asks a couple questions, but doesn’t hesitate long to invite us over for lunch – how lovely! Immediately I am reconciled with Russia again. For each silly person there is ten good people!

  • Two more grand children appear at home. Tatiana takes my hand, shows us her home, lets us try the cherries in the garden and allows us – how wonderful – to shower! After the delicious food (bread with ham and cheese, salads and milk rice) the chess games are unpacked. At one moment chess was played simultanouesly at the sofa, the table and on the floor. A funny experience: spontaneously playing chess against a Russian granny (more exactly: loose) to then continue cycling after three hours. We are happy about this positive experience and later about our absolutely undisturbed campingspot.

PETROLAVLOVSKOE – GORNO-ALTAISK

  • And we shall live just another experience of human warmth during our last camping night before Gorno-Altaisk. At a lawn full of wild flowers in the middle of the nature we feel alone. As Alex is just about to cook an afternoon coffee, Ivan appears next to our tent. The 76-year old spontaneously invites us over. 200 meters further is his „waggonshe“, as he calls it, sourrounded by beehives. The beekeeper is full of energy, fries four eggs for us and starts boiling tee. „Kuschet, kuschet!“ (= Eat, eat!) he says, giving us friendly orders to eat more. He puts a huge tablespoon full of honey into our teas and offers us the rest of the glass as a gift! We stay for half an hour, enjoy the enormous warmth of this man whose language we hardly understand. Still he explains us that the bees only live here from May till August (4 months) and stay in his village, Altaiskoe, for the rest of the year. They hibernate at -3 degrees. Only that way they survive the cold Sibirian winter with up to -40 degrees.
  • As we arrive in Souzga (close to Gorno-Altaisk), we ask around for a public phone (Russian: taxofon). The first person we meet, responds: „Alex?“. That’s how Eugene, our new host, stands in front of us by coincidence and smiles mischieveously.
  • Eugene fuels the sauna for us and we are allowed to plunge birch twigs into hot water to then pat or hit our skin with it (this is good for the circulation of the blood and has effects like a massage). After that we happily taste a fresh omelet. Eugene smiles, tells us some stories and is creative if he doesn’t know the English word. With pleasure we accept his invitation to stay one more day. The nature and the good atmosphere here are exactly what we like.

 

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