Auschwitz … even though I’ve read a lot about this place over the years, on visiting the site I was skeptical about how bad it really was; which is apparently quite common for ignorant people. However I’m becoming increasingly convinced that this place was very, very fucked up. The more I read eye witness accounts about the ghettos around Europe, the deportations and the testimony of those involved, the more I realise what I’ve just seen … I don’t understand how or why.
Turkey has been fun, but due to extreme fatigue I just haven’t seen that much of it really. The people are friendly, the food is great, the atmosphere is surreal. I especially enjoyed the Turkish baths and seeing Ayasofia. The Blue Mosque is just a big mosque. Nothing special. The Grand Bazaar was much the same – just a big shopping centre in a nice building. There was an interesting palace owned by previous Sultans that was quite good to see. Very cushy lives. Currently in Cannakale, just across the Dardanelles from Gallipoli. Six hour bus trip to Istanbul for a flight to Warsaw. Getting sick of all this travel. I need some rest.
Pripyat, Chernobyl and a lovely city. The weather is great, but I’m feeling crap. A little better this morning, so hopefully things will continue to improve. The shooting range was a lot of fun, but kind of surreal, as I was half asleep at the time. Still, I shot quite well, given the circumstances. The AK-47 was a lot smaller than I expected and the recoil not as harsh. The Dragunov on the other hand kicked like a mule – a light gun firing a heavy calibre. Turkey up next – another Muslim nation – it’ll be loads of fun 🙂
Pictures tell the story, so here’s some pictures. Quickly though, St Petersburg is a wonderful place; at least during Spring. It gets to -25c during winter and sometimes even lower …
Went to the Kremlin and met a strange local Muscovite. He proclaimed he was a yoga teacher and seemed to know enough about yoga, so I believed him. He plans on heading to Lake Baikal on a meditative mission tomorrow … anyway, he had a lot to say about modern Russia, mostly negative. I’m currently sitting in the common room and the young Russians are downing a bottle of vodka amongst themselves. Nearly half an hour and the bottle is mostly gone. I’m a little worried they’ll start getting violent. I think I was sitting in one of their chairs, as they became a little angry at my presence, so I decided to shift around the table a little … I just don’t want trouble with the locals.
I went out of the city centre a little today to the ‘burbs and stumbled upon the old olympic village from the 1980 games … monstrous hotels that served as accommodation for the athletes. The surrounds were in a state of disarray, as is much of the city. I’m off to Monino tomorrow for a look at the air museum. Hopefully the weather holds out. I was literally being blown off my feet on the way back to the hostel this evening … the winds are stronger than any I’ve encountered in a city and it’s very, very cold when the weather turns foul.
It’s pretty much everything I’ve read. There seems to be a larger than normal quotient of beautiful women in Moscow. There must be something in the water, but they don’t drink it unless it’s filtered, so perhaps there’s something in the filtration systems. There’s still a lot of throwback to the cold war era, the city is very unforgiving and soulless. There are drunks walking around in the street. I seem to be the only tourist in the city. I have not seen or heard another English speaking person, except for staff in the hostel, who run the place like a gulag. Do something they don’t like and they’re straight on top of you. I swear the women in charge used to work for, or still works for FSB or KGB.
Sorrento and Positano were great. Very touristy though. Riga on the other hand is dead. It’s cold and there’s still snow on the ground. The locals are staying inside, mostly at the local pubs. They are everywhere. This country has been through the wringer. They lost a third of their population during the Nazi and Soviet occupations, many went to the gulags. They have museums dedicated to the events. Very depressing stuff. The Soviet paraphernalia is amazing stuff and just what I’m into, but knowing the true result of their reign of terror adds a bitter undertone. Propaganda is powerful and relevant to our current lives in the west, methinks; it’s just a little more subtle nowadays 🙂