Saturday, 5 September 2009


So on coming into the town I had another slip on the bike. The back tire flipped out and my bike ended up in a puddle of the deepest darkest mud - I had a narrow escape. So I'm riding through this gorgeous part of town (Astrahan and LViv are two of my favourites - neither destroyed by the germans during the war - very few were left)trying to find a hotel. Who pops up - Mike.

Mike spent time in America and on his first day was held at gunpoint and robbed of everything then had his face smashed in with the butt of a gun repeatedly. Rather than go home straight away (I would have) he huing on strong and began to meet people who righted all the wrongs. In response he vowed to be a gaurdian angel of people in his own country.

So he found me a hotel and then took me on a tour of the city after I'd cleaned up. Now at this point I was still thinking maybe it was too good to be true. He invited me to his family home the next day, he knew a hair dresser - I desperately needed a cut - anything I could possibly want he could handle. Then meeting his parents in their country house (frequented by the communists in times gone by) I realised it was all true. I met his dad forst and whilst Mike picked up his mum we had a few 'quiet' vodkas. We had about 4 or 5 and then he washed up the glasses and put the vodka way. The said shhhh don't tell my wife. DON'T TELL YOUR WIFE - I can hardly stand up!!! I was shown everything from Kremlin to lake - to lotus flowers - only exist in a few places Astrahan and India both having them as their symbol. Rowing, swimming, great food - amazing!!

His Dad was once proud to be Russian telling people he met in his ships how great it is. Since 1997 though this feeling has dulled and now he has a bitter taste in his mouth about how his country is governed. Over dinner I watched a tear slowly roll down the big mans cheek as he told us of his country!!

All through my trip I have seen groups of young people hanging out, drinking beers socially, and felt jealous that I wasn't involved or invited. This all changed. I met about a zillion russia people who could all speak English and even went to a house party the night before setting off again. Lime beers - I could be a 'Russain Alcoholic' on these!! When we went to the store we had a kitty - notlike an English one - everyone puts in what they can afford and share the produce equally - really amazing to see the trust!!

A beautiful resident artist was going to give me a painting but the party led her elsewhere and I never received it. I am definitely going back to pick it up one day.

One of the best times of the trip - absolutely high as a cloud!!

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