03/01/2013 14 CAPITULO 14


26/12/2012 13 CAPITULO 13


25/11/2012 12 CAPITULO 12


01/11/2012 11 CAPITULO 11



China - Capítulo 11
09/10/2012 10 CAPITULO 10


Second Part

01/10/2012 9 CAPITULO 9


First Part

12/09/2012 8 CAPITULO 8

The Pascal Jenny

Los Pascal Jenny
01/09/2012 7 CAPITULO 7

The Romanov

death and resurrection of the last Tsar

26/07/2012 5 CAPITULO 5

Stalin's gift to peron

15/07/2012 4 CAPITULO 4

The Baltics

08/07/2012 6 CAPITULO 6


Vague fragments of a diary

03/07/2012 3 CAPITULO 3

Without Prejudice

Three versions of Poland

21/06/2012 2 CAPITULO 2

Becoming Berlin

Becoming Berlín
14/06/2012 1 CAPITULO 1

Occupy Frankfurt

Expreso a Oriente - Occupy Frankfurt



Capítulo #6. Rusia

July 1, 2012. Arrival in Russia.
The van is terrible. The route from Helsinki to Saint Petersburg is full of wells. The driver does not seem to know the way. He gets lost. Suddenly we see a river with bridges in the distance. St. Petersburg. Where the hell will this guy leave us…? We get off at a corner of two huge avenues. I am overwhelmed. And above all, very persecuted. The only thing I was told in Buenos Aires from people who travelled here was to take care of myself, not to speak with cops… I look around, take my backpack and check my pockets all the time.


July 2, 2012.  St. Petersburg.
Like when I learned to read as a kid, now I try to read all the street signs to understand Cyrillic. It’s like a game where you replace symbols for letters.


July 3, 2012. St. Petersburg.
We decided to leave Tanya, a Russian who offered us to stay at her home on the outskirts of the city (hour and a half trip between subway and bus travel). She is nice but I get distressed. She is always dressed in a flowered shirt, fisherman style jean and a sports jacket which sucks. Her home is full of carpets. I hate them because usually they never cleaned them and thus they are full of mites and I´m allergic. Pipes everywhere, apparently the Soviets do not care about details. The functional thing is that they heat the place.
Tanya sleeps on the floor of the balcony. She says she loves that part of the house. She spends all the day in the kitchen, sitting on a stool in front of her netbook. Always with a cup of tea and a liter of warm beer, which is sold in plastic bottles. The flat distress me, as well as Tanya.


July 4,  2012. St. Petersburg.
The H is the n; the N upside-down is the i; the italic r is the g; the 3 is the z; the little door is the p; and the p is the r. 4 is the Ch.; and the o crossed by a dash is the f. I love Cyrillic.


July 5,  2012. St. Petersburg.
I look myself in the mirror in which years ago Dostoievski looked himself (it is hanging in the hall of his House Museum in St. Petersburg).

I confirmed what I supposed: the Russians are neither European nor Asian, they are Russians. Vassily, a drunken man I met in a bar told me this. The drunks don’t lie. The maps here lose legitimacy.


July 6, 2012. Departure from St Petersburg

The lady stares at me. She gives me a gaze half inquisitive, have with maternal anger. She utters expressions as expressive as unintelligible. She speaks (or actually shouts) Russian.  The whole carriage guffaws. Joaquin and Hipólito are, God knows where, and I don´t know whether to laugh or cry in my first experience in a Russian train.
The train left about 10 minutes ago and the lady, who clearly has a problem with me, not only threatens me with her screams but with a sheet in his hand. Laughs multiply and I keep on looking, shocked from my couchette a meter and a half height, to the lady who increasingly scares me.

Of course there are not only screams and laughs in the room. Five minutes ago, when I got on to my couchette, I had to take my slippers off and the entire walk through St Petersburg came out as a stinky feet smell which remind me of those nights playing cards in the country, when my aunt Matilda refused to give me candies because of the “dirty feet smell” I had.

There´s no doubt, the index finger of the old lady (which at this point is at least a “despicable” or “shit” old lady) is a clear gesture even for the most jerk. She wants me to wash my feet and will not stop yelling me until I do it; thus performing a show for the carriage and leaving me embarrassed like a wet child. However, my pride does not diminish and I – that cannot stop wondering what am I doing on a train in Russia – do not leave neither the ¨je niet gavarie paruski¨ (I don´t speak Russian), nor my couchette. Then the lady takes my pillowcase and comes back a few minutes later with the same pillowcase wet. After throwing it to my feet, she makes her final act sending me to hell (or at least that´s what I understand of her Russian).
I have no choice but to scrub my feet with the sheets and then rub them with my deodorant.


July 7, 2012. Arrival to Moscow.
I wake up with a much better smell in my feet. The old lady offers me tea. That´s the way, I presume, people declare peace in Russia. The Russian train is not an ordinary train.


July 8, 2012. Moscow.

Yesterday we went to the Red Square, had a few beers and decided to go out that night. Some students of Guatemala invited us to a bar: “we will change our clothes and meet you there”, we promised. However, and to my surprise, when I came out of the bathroom, already with my second beer, I found Hipólito and Joaquin in their beds pretending to be asleep. – Weren´t we going out? -I asked, even friendly. – Yes replied Hipólito, but it’s late and we have to wake up early tomorrow to make the check out and leave this place. If we go out tonight, he added firmly – we will lose not only the day but also thirty dollars. – If you don´t want to go out – I said, trying to keep my composure- it´s ok, I’m going alone. But do not exaggerate it´s only a matter of waking up at twelve o´clock and that´s all. -I am not exaggerating – answered Hipólito, already emboldened in his speech. The problem is that you are a “manija”… you want to go out every night; you are a pain in the neck. I tried not to throw him a tin of beer to his head and I reacted as quiet as I could. – Stop. To start with, “manija” is someone who consumes drugs at ten in the morning before going to work and without having sleep at night, not someone that after a month of travelling and without having fun at night wants to take advantage of the single Saturday night in Moscow before going to Siberia and Mongolia for two months. Discussion continued a few more minutes, but the important thing to remember is that, once they agree clauses to leave the bar without guilt, Hipólito and Joaquin went with me to a half empty den with a dreadful music, a muscular Russian wearing a t-shirt with the logo ¨Women killer¨, and an Ecuadorian who urged me to leave the place because I didn´t speak Russian… We left the place after a few dancing steps. Joaquin wanted to win the heart of a 17 years old girl.


It´s 10 o´clock in the morning.  Gastón is a “manija”.


July 9, 2012. Moscow.
During the day the city is hectic. Its metro –a huge Russian relic- takes millions and millions of people every day. And it does not collapse … Behavior in the subway queue or at the ticket office is in general rather uncouth: systematically they jump it, but they do it without awareness of the injury that means for an Argentinean, i.e. they don´t try to achieve advantage of the idiot who is in front, they just go staring at the safe objective: their tickets without having to wait, because here nobody waits. According to several Russians, it is a winter habit, when it’s so cold that there is no time for social corrections or greetings. Spaziva (thanks) is the privilege that summer offers.


July 10, 2012. Moscow.
We went to Lenin mausoleum. Of all the tourist attractions, this is the only one free of charge. We did the queue, went down stairs and everything became dark. There are a few guards calling for silence. You cannot stop; you must follow the passage and see him. And there is Lenin, in his window, the same as when he died. He looks like plastic.


Moscow increases its own shape without pause. Its three round borders, its three “General Paz Avenue”, are temporary. The first border marked the boundary of the city to a certain year, the second a little more, and the third one is the current limit. However, they have just announced that those houses on the other side, the ephemeral areas of the city are now part of it. And also the future outsides to come will also be part of it, and the others, and the others… Thus, the suburbs of Moscow are always the next boundary inwards. It is the only infinite city which I know.


July 11, 2012. Moscow.
Natalia, who is hosting us in Moscow, organized our day. We took a taxi because she said that it was cheap. The driver didn´t know the city, he had a GPS. It took us 2 hours to get to the viewpoint and it cost us a small fortune. Natalia wanted to go boating but we did not. I didn´t know how to tell her. I tried to be tactful, to exchange her offer for a beer… I think it bothered her. Anyway, I had two cherry beers and realized that the boat would have been cheaper.


July 12,  2012. Moscow.
Moscow is silent, as almost never before. For the first time I wake up in a quiet home and make the most of the dawn vestige (it´s twelve noon), to be alone with a blank sheet.
I look for a package of coffee in the room and come back. Hipólito looks at me when I come into the room and fakes to get out of the bed. I beg him not to do it, but I say nothing, only that look that begs the inaction: stay, stay there. But he breaks the spell and my late dawn with his morning noises and the unquestionable fact that this computer belongs to him.

Eight hours after the train left to Nizhny Novgorod, we realized that we hadn´t take it…So we bought another ticket. We paid twice.


July 13, 2012. Llegada a Nizhny Novgorod.
We arrived at Nizhny Novgorod -500 km from Moscow- our first stop in the Trans-Siberian train. The heat and the old cars with their sound of stuck engines make me think in Corrientes, an Argentine Province. There should be at least 40 degrees and Tito wears a tight underpants which, really, I don´t like. Wearing tight clothes in a hot day makes no sense.

The paranoid man came into action again. Our first night in Nizhny Novgorod, we went out for dinner with a couple we met at Couch Surfing. We walked for an hour to the Kremlin, guided by a Russian who was as lost as us, who we met when he got out from his mashrutka (typical Soviet van). After a few pizzas and a city tour, we decided to go home. Our friends tried to order us a taxi by phone, but it was impossible so we stopped a car in the street and indicate the driver where we wanted to go (typical practice in Russia, where most private cars become taxis for a few rubles if someone calls them).
It was a GAZ Volga, most popular brand in the Soviet years, with a smell in the interior as ethyl as strange. The driver, a bald man with the look of a mad circus assistant who escaped from an itinerant show, was listening Russian electronic music (whole cultural experience) while looking at us through the rear-view mirror. His face showed the Soviet foolishness of the drunks that go around at night, and the physique of a boxer who had lost his chance because of the drink. His untidy and ungainly clothes did not help at all.
Joaquin´s face was the same as the one he puts when he doesn´t want to look nervous. Hipólito, as usual, didn´t know how to hide his panic. We crossed the Volga by a luminous bridge and when Joaquin was still speaking nonsense and Hipólito didn´t know what to answer, the bald man started to ask us something about our origin, that´s what we interpreted. He smiled to hear Argentina, as ninety per cent of the Russians, but that did not seem to calm Hipólito. We turned in an unknown street and Hipólito started: this street is not familiar, are we doing well? Look, we must turn in the next corner. I think he had already passed it. It was that one. Let´s get out here.
I doubt – it´s obvious, paranoia is more contagious than flu – but I was sure that a couple of blocks were still missing. Joaquin began to ask him if he was sure, and Hipólito practically was forcing the latch to throw out from the car in motion.
Three blocks later I identified the street and told Hipolito that there were a few meters still missing, but he only wanted to abandon the car of the bones collector. At our hostel the driver greeted us with sympathy, charged what was agreed and wished us a good trip. Once safe, Hipólito told us the stories imagined during the journey: in all of them, our bodies ended up floating in the Volga. A paranoid man loose in Russia.


July 14, 2012. Nizhny Novgorod.
We went for a ride. We take the first bus that comes without knowing where it will take us. Half an hour later we get down in the suburbs of a city that we barely know. Full of Soviet buildings, monobloc design, typical of the Khrushchev era after Stalin. They are ugly. We try to ask how to go back to the city, but nobody speaks English. We sit at a bus stop and wait. Tito goes for a yoghurt. After a while he comes back with a misshapen faced drunk. He stops besides me and points to me, as delegating the task of dealing with the drunk. I watch him and smile; I try to calm the violence I imagine, a violence which, in truth, is only expressed in Tito´s terror face. He says something I don´t understand. I say Argentine, i.e. I’m Argentine, but I say naming just the country: “Argentine”. He keeps in silence for a while. “No americanski?”, he asks, convinced that we were americanskis, i.e, Yankees. But I repeat Argentines, no americanskis, at all, and it works because the guy, already transformed into a nice drunk, begins to smile.
Delighted for a few seconds in the fast fencing of my nationality, but the drunk, although nice, stays and keeps asking for something I don´t understand, money I guess. Then two guys dressed in leather get down from a bus and watch the situation.  They come near the drunk and push him out.  When I can see them better, not so clouded for the gratitude, I realize that remedy is probably worse than disease:  one is a silent blond with golden teeth and psychopath looking.  The other guy is simply the cliché of a guy that frightens, a bearded fat man with cut all over his body, his neck as cut in two and tattoos also on his nails.  Before they say something, I mark them “Argentines”.  It works again, perhaps too much.
Argentines? asks the biggest one. He expresses something similar to joy and sits next to me. He says ‘Me Armenia’, hitting his chest, ‘Me Armenia’.  I tell him that Armenia is good, that Armenia is very good, and we laugh, like brothers, like two Armenians who have met. The blond one looks, still in silence. Suddenly the Armenian hugs me by the neck, I feel scared. He puts two fingers under his eyes and makes a gesture as saying to keep them open, that many things happen around here. Yes, I say, yes, and try to keep the relaxed climate shacking his hand. Tito then proposes to take any bus to get away from the situation, which is quiet but which can get out of control at any moment. It seems a good idea. Gaston is standing at one side playing the fool, he does not participate, and I imagine that afterwards, whatever it might happen, we will brand us as wimps or paranoids.

Finally, we move away to take a bus but the Armenian slows me down. No, no, he says to me, that one no… Bitch, I think, here we spoil the situation, and with my best fool face I say: No? Not good? As if all was confusion and not a desperate escape from two Russian or Armenian “tombers” who clearly frighten. Then the guy raises his fist and with the other hand points to his muscle. Good, says, strong, and then points out to Tito, points him out several times, and says not good, not good, while he puts a bad face and suggests we will be eaten raw, by more Argentines I might pronounce in a second. I keep my foolish face and agree, of course, of course, we have to take care of us. And finally the truce arrives. The Armenian “tomber” with cuts in his face, his naked chest and callused hands gets calm, smiles and asks me for a pen.

I give it to him. He writes down a phone number and implies me that if something happens to us we can call him and he will protect us. Again I say good, good with smiles and shake his hand. He takes us to another bus. Before leaving, with that typical walk of the neighborhood owners, approaches the driver and says something like we are Argentines, that he must take care of ourselves because we are his friends, and that he will be watching him… And the driver, submissively, more submissive that us, says yes, yes, of course. He moves off and goes. We are more calm, even Gaston who is still playing the brave role. We approach the driver to pay for our tickets and he says no, that our travel is free.


July 15, 2012.  Yekaterinburg.
The “Talk Russian in 15 days” guide that we bought for 30 pesos is simply a shit. It explains words and phrases such “camshaft gear”, “hydrophilic cotton-wool” or “surgical tape, or “and for me, hake in batter with a little lemon”, but says nothing about “Hello”, “please” or “thank you”.


July 16,  2012. Yekaterinburg.
At the hostel we are staying, there is an old little man who walks slowly all over the place without lifting his feet. I ask Vassilly, the owner of the Hostel, who is he. He tells me that he is his father, and that this is his home. His three room apartment turned into a Hostel. I ask him if it belongs to the Soviet era.  He says yes.


July 17,  2012. Yekaterinburg.
We interview Vassilly´s father. He is a photographer, same as his son. At the age of 75, he is fond of Photoshop.  He sings a Soviet song.  His voice broke with emotion and his eyes get watery.  Me too.

It is night. I chat with an Old Russian woman for two hours. We talk but don´t understand each other. Her Russian seems perfect. We laugh and she offers me a Jasmine tea. I accept it together with a chocolate. She smiles. We keep silence, enjoying a friendship that, indeed, we suppose. For a while I think on what we have spoken about.


July 18, 2012. On Board of the Trans-Siberian train.
I wake up several times almost dying for the extreme heat. It´s not a good night judged by the hours I sleep. My Russian friend gets down in Omsk and a fat; friendly, half-bald guy takes her place. He is cool… At the same time, I don’t know if sent by God or the devil, a divine Russian gets on the train and occupies the bed near mine. I help her to put her backpack away.


19 July, 2012. On board of the Trans-Siberian train.
We have been already two days in the train, and I have no doubt, behind the cold and intimidating exterior of the Russians, they are lovely human beings, full of kindness and solidarity, attractive as from the richest plurality of characters.

I look out of the window. At night you see trees, and more trees, huge amounts of trees to which I look as astonished as everything that happens mechanically.
Suddenly I feel, sitting in my Trans-Siberian train wagon, that I am happy as few times in life. We have already been 50 hours of train.

We arrived in Irkutsk.  After a month and a half, we have travelled 10.991 kilometers, seven countries, fourteen cities, and nine time zones.


July 20, 2012. Irkutsk.
There is no snow, no bears, and no cold in Siberia. Just a shit heat.


July 22, 2012. Listvyanka. Siberia.
It´s 2 o´clock in the afternoon in Litvyanka, placed on the shores of Baikal Lake. We finally arrived at the famous Russian immensity: From my window I can see a forest in the middle of a mountain. It doesn´t seems too large; one is unaware of the dimensions when you see only the outline. In Siberia, however, the immensity is not seen, it´s known. The green landscape, together with a silent rain, calms me. You can see a little fume like a fog at the top of the forest. It´s not windy but fog moves, which, again, evidences that you don´t need to see things in Siberia.


23 July, 2012. Bolshie Koty. Siberia.
Our hostel, a small few cabins built by Alex (his owner), is quite cozy. Once you don´t feel the cold, the body gets used to the tranquility seen in the surrounding area. The still pines decorate a square without streets where two horses run desperately. A mare escapes from a colt that wants to mount her. Tito is afraid; he jumps a fence and moves away a little more to protect himself from the colt…


 24 July, 2012. Bolshie Koty. Siberia.
Yesterday it was our second day in Bolshie Koty, a village of 100 houses next to Baikal Lake. Our plans for the day were stay and do nothing because we were very hurt due to the eight hours (18 km) hike to reach the village. Alex, the hostel´s owner, suggested us to go to a kind of popular pot at night for only 150 rubles (4 dollars). We accepted. An Uzbek with a colorful Muslim cap, called tubeteika, received us stirring ploff, a kind of a stew made of rice, chicken and tomato sauce. Very nice. After dinner, one of the Uzbek uncorked the first vodka. First I had only beer but after a few minutes I was already doing my first bottoms up. I don’t know why I decided to soften the vodka with beer and gherkins with pepper. Uzbeks filled my glass so fast that I took no consciousness of the stupidity to keep on drinking. The meeting ended, I left happy and drunk to sleep at the hostel, but before going to bed I opened another beer and went to see The Big Lebowski with my friends.
Incredibly I finished watching the movie and fall asleep until today at six in the morning, when I was woken up by a “ploff”. I ran to the garden only in my underwear and began to vomit. Everything came out so intact that hurt my throat. I went back to bed. Half an hour later the “ploff”returned, but this time I didn´t reach the garden and vomited the floor. Now I´m still in bed. My liver is killing me. I tell Gaston that I left my medicine in Litsvyanka and I got scared. I want to hurry to Irkutsk in case I have to be operated, I tell him he is a great friend and he can stay with my computer when I die.

We went with Joaquin to buy a Sprite for our sick friend, who woke up vomiting. Only yesterday he claimed to be The Wolverine.


I could not sleep. What a son of a bitch, when he does not snore, he vomits…


July 25, 2012. Bolshie Koty. Siberia.
Baikal Lake looks like a sea. Too few boats cross it although it is high season. Its charm, according to books, is in its depth: nearly two kilometers (exaggerating a few meters). In winter, at least for four months, the entire surface of the lake is frozen. A layer of seventy centimeters becomes completely rigid and during that time it is normal to cross it from one side to the other by car, motorbike or bicycle. The experience of the winter, here, becomes my duty to return someday, with much more warm clothes than I bring now. Boys come back from the market. Words breakfast ends for me. They instead bring some uneatable chocolate cookies, the hazards of not handling Russian: you eat what they want to understand…


I have just experienced the Russian sauna (Banya). Technically, it is the same as the common sauna; the difference lies in the method. One enters, spends as much as possible. Go outdoors when overwhelmed. There, emitting smoke from the body, lowers the body heat but does not feel the cold. You enter again. Another time, puts a little water in a sort of chimney and temperature rises (I reached the 80 degrees Celsius). Until you overwhelm again. You go out. The fume, the fresh. Before you feel cold, you enter again. So long as you dare.. Alex, the owner of the hotel, spent two and a half hours. As a beginner, I think I reached one hour at the most.


July 25, 2012. Bolshie Koty. Siberia.
Last night I had a hard night, due to the uninterrupted Tito´s snoring. Besides this, the mattress did not help at all. At one point, I even changed my room and woke Gaston who didn´t see me and I had to talk to him to relax him and go back to sleep. It was really strange; really scared me the possibility of Gaston waking up. I don’t like him to wake up earlier because it forces me to a series of routines that I deplore: talk just when I get up, have breakfast in company, not to be able to write alone for a moment, think together what to do during the day, caring ways, support their dreadful morning jokes (more dreadful for my lack of humor), decide whether to buy or not this or that, if cookies, sugar or tea, fight for first bathe, second, fight for not bathing… Finally and fortunately Gaston went to bed again and, and to be sure of his dream, I returned to the room with the boys. We have already been almost a month in Russia.



Video: Expreso a Oriente
Music: La vuelta al mundo, Calle 13


Tu e-mail no será publicado.