I'm back! Although it's taken me many days to get here (kept being lazy and not wanting to deal with silly internet things).
So I left off last time at Nadia's birthday. It was surreal (which is my favourite word at the moment to describe all things Russian) - sitting in a school playground, drinking lots and lots of beer with lots of people I didn't know, and being told in no uncertain terms that "drem end bess is best music!". Ok, I quite like a good bit of drum and bass, but not from an MP3 player phone...
We also went to the ballet, Romeo and Juliet, which we bought tickets for way back in the first couple of weeks here. It was amazing! Prokofiev's music, and (so we were told) a new choreography which had all the classical ballet movements but also a lot of more contemporary stuff going on (stamping around and so on - not what I'd thought of as ballet, but worked really well!). And the costumes were beautiful - I particularly liked Tybalt in his red and black stuff showing that he's bad (oh colour symbolism, what would we do without you?). All in all, a lot of fun and only four pounds! More please!
And then there was Divnogorsk... it was an adventure (that's the only real way to describe it). Basically it's a dam, and supposed to be quite something to see. Uliana, one of our Russian friends, said that her friend had been able to walk right up to it and even on top of it, which sounded very exciting, so us students (minus Vicki, who was shopping for a dublonka - big furry coat) plus Uliana and one of the four Maxes that I know now, set off one sunny Saturday morning to go and see it. Started off just fine - bus there, got us to the village of Divnogorsk. Good. Got to the dam in taxis, one of which had a broken windscreen. Not so good, but made it. So we walk up to the guard in his officey type thing, to be told that we couldn't go any closer and hadn't been allowed to for 6 years. Ah. So while Max pleaded with him, telling him that we'd come all the way from England and really wanted to see the dam, Uliana phoned her friend to find out how she'd managed. Turns out that when she visited, there was no-one in the guard hut and she'd just walked straight through. Obviously that wasn't going to work for us, and Max gave up arguing with the (rather amused) official (who had a gun, so the arguing wasn't too serious anyway) and we went to play on the beach for a while. It was cold.
Looking at the hills next to the dam, we could make out a road up the hillside from where (according to a fisherman standing on the beach looking a bit forlorn) we would be able to see over the dam and into the reservoir behind. So we set out to do that... the bottom of the road was in another fenced-off area, with another guard who wouldn't let us through. We decided to walk around the fenced bit until the fence ran out (it wasn't all built yet) and then follow the road from there, but the sentry got a bit anxious and told us that even though there wasn't a fence higher up we would still be trespassing. Since he also had a gun, and I didn't really fancy being arrested in the middle of Siberia, we didn't argue that point. Then Max remembered that it wasn't this road the fisherman had meant at all, but one higher up the hillside. The quickest way to get to this road, however, was not to walk 2k back down the road we were on, but straight up the hillside. So, being slightly crazy and more than a little desperate to see this reservoir (I don't know why either, I've seen plenty in my little lifetime) straight up the hill we went (watched by the now very amused sentry)... it was a scree slope. And more than a little steep. I'm still impressed that Sophie managed all this in heels - a true Russian effort, well done!
Having slipped and scrambled and used trees to get to the top of this hill, we found the promised road (and a good job too!). And a sign that said we were in a forbidden area. Hmm. But, we hadn't come here for nothing, and seeing nothing official-looking around, we walked up the road. Eventually we got high enough to see over the dam and into the reservoir (or sea, as we called it) and it was pretty.
But the adventure was not over yet, oh no! (Sorry, this is turning into a bit of an epic). Once we were safely back down the hill (following the road this time - I've come to the opinion that roads are much underrated), we got to the bus stop to take us back to Divnogorsk only to be told that there were no buses (or something). This might have seemed a problem, but in Russia every car's a taxi! Just hold out your hand and wave till one stops. And one did stop. It was possibly the smallest car I've seen in Russia, a little Peugeot type thing. There were 7 of us, so we were prepared to flag down another car too, but the driver was quite insistent that we would all fit. It was the most interesting car journey I think I've ever had! But we got back to the village safe and just a little squashed, so that was ok too. And finally in this epic day, we went into the kassa to buy tickets for the bus journey back to Krasnoyarsk, but were followed in by some guy who had a 7-seater minivan thing and wanted to drive us home for the same price as the bus, with a bonus stop at a viewpoint! So we did that too... The viewpoint was cool, there were amazing views over the Yenisei and the mountains (as you might expect), and also lots of ribbons tied to trees. But we knew why! Having listened in Gulya's lessons, we had learned that couples about to get married went to that viewpoint and tied ribbons to trees as a sign of their affection and a good luck wish for their marriage. It was a very pretty sight, kind of like Christmas but less sparkly.
Wow this is long eh!
This week has been quiet by comparison to last week though, we're all psyching ourselves up for train journeys... we leave for Irkutsk on Wednesday, and arrive back on the 25th. Hopefully we'll manage to reach Mongolia, but that depends on whether we can get visas. If not, we'll explore round Irkutsk and Lake Baikal (which contains a fifth of all the earth's fresh water - thanks Lonely Planet).
Tonight we're gathering at Ben's place to watch films. Good way to spend a Saturday night I feel!
Speaking of films, there's one out here called "9 Rota" (9th Company) about Russian troops in Afghanistan in 1988. I didn't go to see it because I wasn't feeling too good, but apparently it's amazing and should be watched by everyone. I'll probably buy it (yes, I've seen it on DVD already) and make everyone watch it. Even if it's only in Russian. You have been warned...
Before I go, thanks to Mum for sending me the Trans-Sib guide that I cleverly left at home, and to Dad for his letter :) I like getting things sent to me, and my family gets excited too! And thanks for emails and texts and stuff, I appreciate them even though I'm useless at replying.
Hmm, sorry that last bit sounded like an Oscar speech (although I'll never have the chance to do a real one, so deal with it). I'll try and post again before I go travelling, but if not there'll be a mammoth epic when I get back!
(Oh and there was a woolly rhino in the museum, I think it's awesome and should be genetically engineered back to life)