After my few days in Istanbul I flew from there to Krasnodar in Southern Russia. Neither Turkey nor Russia concern themselves overmuch with night flights bothering the populace so my flights in and out of Russia were in the middle of the night. I sneaked up on them as it were. Except that you can't sneak up on Russia as you have to apply for a visa beforehand and give them most of your life history. So as soon as you land they know all about you........
I went to Krasnodar to visit an old friend of mine, an English guy who had been teaching English out there. He's really quite ill so I thought a morale-boosting visit from me would be appreciated. And so it turned out.
One of the first things I wanted to do was change my left-over Turkish Lira into Roubles. I tried all over town but to no avail. The banks in Krasnodar are interested in buying and selling US Dollars or Euros. Nothing else. Not even the once noble Sterling. After I'd tried a few banks I began to lose my temper and called them a Third World country. Well, they might, or might not, be a Third World country but calling the bank staff names wasn't going to change the price of bread. I realized I had gone too far and took the rest of the day off to allow my mood-meter to swing back to its more usual happy(-ish) position. The next day was a different day entirely and I notched up a major success with the Unicredit bank. I had left a little bit of money in there when I left Moscow a few years ago. Then I lost my bank card and from that moment on I had no way of getting at my money from abroad, try as I might. So it was very nice, last Friday, to walk out of the bank with my £150. No great sum, I know, but my sense of achievement knew no bounds. The piece of paper that we filled in to get at the money was signed in several places by me, then by their 'expert', then by their 'senior expert' and then by their cashier. If you want to know about bureaucracy go visit a Russian bank. But not the one shown here. It is defunct. It is no more. The sign says "Attention:the bank doesn't work (closed)" The inference being, closed for ever. This is Russia - banks come and banks go.
Flushed with success, I made my way to the nearest cake shop (пекарня) which happened to be called, somewhat intriguingly, "Patrick and Mary". Here, as well as nice coffee and cake, there was a glass for tips which had a cardboard sign sticking out of it emblazoned with "for our smiles". Surprisingly (?), the glass was empty of coins. I put a couple of coins in out of gratitude for my irony fix. It is possible to make Russian people smile but it is not always easy to do.
I stayed in a cheap (and cheerful) guest house because I hadn't wanted to spend too much money in case my visa was refused. It was strange. There was no dining room so breakfast, such as it was, was brought to your room because there was no dining room. All part of life's rich tapestry! Please excuse the partial thumb print on the photo!
Today's video clip has to be "back to the USSR"