Our friend Frankly is today heading from the Czech Republic to swinging London for a great adventure into the unknown.
I think he knows already that the streets are not paved with gold, but lots of good things can happen in that city. Here's wishing him a safe, happy and productive time.
cool shit, as always badger.
stay safe, mate.
thanks for the travelogue. Stay safe...
We climbed into the ancient battered MI-8 helicopter and with a deafening, vibrating roar lifted off into the grey skies of the Russian North. For 4 hours we flew over endless forest without a sign of people, vast, magnificent tracts with an occasional huge winding river. The first snows of winter had arrived and the trees looked like someone had shaken icing sugar over them. We were in the 500foot space between the clouds and the trees, dodging snow flurries, but it was so beautiful out there I forgot to be scared.
Three times we tried to climb above the clouds to see the peaks of the Ural Mountains, but three times we were had to retreat because of bad visibility. Eventually we stopped at a remote mining camp and drank vodka and ate smoked reindeer meat with the owners until our pilot urged us to leave as more snow was coming in. We dashed to the chopper and flew the last ½ hour to the city of Inta as the light was fading. In order to avoid paying landing fees at the airport the pilot dropped us on the top of the spoil heap from the city coal fired power station. We jumped out with our bags and the chopper vanished into the snow, while we stood there freezing, phoning for someone to pick us up from town. It was a fifteen minute wait for a taxi to appear so we kept warm with a couple of shots of vodka.
Inta city was founded in the 1930s in the Stalinist era as a Gulag, a camp for political prisoners 50 miles from the arctic circle, and grew rapidly when coal was found there. At its peak there were 27000 prisoners there, men and women forced to work as slaves in the coal mines, on road and railway construction, in brick kilns and on constructing the city. They were given a diet of 550 grammes of bread and soup a day, even in winter when the temperature drops to 40 or 50 C below zero. For the most part their crime was to come from a bourgeois family, to have said or written something wrong or just to be related to someone who had done such a thing. People died in their thousands, but ironically the coal they dug probably saved Russia in WW2,as the other coal and oil fields were in the war zone.
When the camps closed in the 1950s many stayed on (they had nowhere else to go) and built the city and worked the mines (this time with a wage). The city museum has a very moving exhibition on the Gulag. Many prisoners hid messages in the walls of the buildings they constructed and now they are on display. Desperate attempts to be remembered amidst the nightmare of their forgotten lives. Like the Nazis and the Khmer rouge, the Stalinists kept meticulous records. Lists of transportees, the living and the dead. Photos of gaunt broken people.
The city is not beautiful, but the people there, mainly the descendants of the prisoners (and their guards) have an amazing spirit of community and a deep love of the home they built in the frozen wastes. Each year they celebrate 'Victims of Repression' day. But now nobody wants their dirty coal, the next generation is leaving and the city is dying. A determined group of local leaders is trying to find new ways revive their city, as a centre for wilderness adventures and arctic tourism.
But walking the streets at night in the biting cold, the smell of coal smoke stinging my nostrils, I was walking with the ghosts of the Gulag.
We are so lucky.
safe travels youse two.
Just back from 3 days in Paris-a combination work/show new company owner Paris trip. On Friday night we were in this most bizarre restaurant I have ever seen. A combination of old fanshioned oppulence, (gold filagree on the ornate doors, chandaliers, red velvet tapestries, marble floors) and utter tackiness-snakeskin toilet and sink, AND an 8 foot tall onyx black rhinocerous statue in the foyer. I took a photo of this rhino for all you guys, but sadly did not come out too well. Today & tomorrow at home, and then Wed-Sunday in Essen, Germany, then Mon-Wed home, and Thursday-Sunday at Lucca in Italy. My first time ever in Italy.
Education: that which reveals to the wise, and conceals from the stupid, the vast limits of their knowledge.
have the 4 winds take care of you.
come back to us soon.
Safe travels Mr. Badger, I sure hope you're enjoyin' the ride in that old Tu-134... Did you know that plane's NATO codename is 'Crusty'?
Hurry back to the comforts of your badger sett. (Badgers live together in large extensive systems of underground tunnels or catacombs and nesting chambers called "setts", that are huge tunnel systems, in some cases, actually centuries old.)
P.S. I enjoyed reading your suggestion to return defective Winterland '77 discs to the Rhinos, with the $5,000 valuation. Give them a taste of their own medicine... HAHAHAHA
greetings from Syktyvkar in the Komi Republic in Northern Russia. Here for a few days then heading towards the arctic circle by helicopter. What fun.
As ever GD on the Ipod. Listened to DP 12 on the flight up, to take my mind off the 40 year old Tupolev 134 jet swaying around in the night sky. It even had a glass nose for the navigator/bomb aimer.
ain't wifi great!