To get to Russia is not a big problem, in case you speak Russian. You won’t have much success with Czech and English on the Russian Embassy. Unless somebody asks you something, you are OK. If that happens, you will have to use body language. In the end we found a way how to deal with all of the documents needed for the visa and thanks to invitation letter from my hosting university, Ural Federal University, was it free of charge. So let’s go to Russia.
My first stop was in Moscow, where I met with the first participants of our course. It is beautiful city, where you can find nice mix of history and modern business world. Unfortunately February is not the peak of the tourist season in Russia, so a lot of the famous tourist places was closed. Maybe also because of the fact that it was the coolest week of the year and the Olympic games started 2 weeks later. It was so cold, that it was the first time I bought an Ice-cream to warm me a little bit. Vodka also worked well. We drunk it pure or mixed, but forgot about the boring mix juice or energy drink with vodka. In Russia they mixed with everything what flows. Coke, sprite, Fanta, tea, soup… There are no borders for human imagination. Vodka wasn’t as cheap as we expected it, but you cannot compare the quality with those you can buy in the Czech Republic. Even the cheapest one was better than the best I drunk home. It was so good, that we missed our Transsiberian Express to Ekaterinburg but fortunately our friends from BEST Moscow helped us to rearranged our plans.
Traveling with Transiberian Express is really nice experience. If you ever go to Russia, I will advise to use this way of transportation. People are nice and you can meet a lot of new friends here. Also in the train is nice 29 degrees Celsius, same as outside. Except the fact, that outside is the temperature with ‘-‘. So the temperature difference was almost 60 degrees. As we had arrived in Ekaterinburg, we didn’t care about the temperature anymore. Good vodka. So the organizers picked up us with cars and the course can officially begin.
We met 25 other participants from all corners of Europe plus 2 guys from India and Brazil. Altogether with organizers and coorganizers there were 50 people ready to enjoy the best winter of their lives. To describe everything what happened on the course I would need 3 more articles and even then I would probably not mention half of the stories. There was everything. Sightseeing, weekend trip on Europe Asian border, company visits, university presentations etc.. One of the highlight of the course was trip to abandoned summer camp for children from the communist era. There we found in the treetops a rope playground. So in winter in -20 °C we climbed it and spend some time there. This doesn’t happen every day, or does it?
Evenings were the time for parties, from chill out party to wild house parties. But we also visited Russian ballet, went Ice skating, for us it was 10 days without any stress and we enjoyed Russian spirit, reasonable.
Organizers made really good work. We had awesome accommodation, tasty food 3 times a day and they were always smiling, even after hard day and harder night. We travelled by school bus with driver, that only his own mother knows how his voice sound. And even she isn’t sure. He was really thought guy, but the best was when he smile at us last day of our course and even gave us high five. Me and one friend from Istanbul danced a ‘Kalinka’ for him. So cool we were.
To sum up, everybody told me, that I was fool if I wanted to go to Russia.. Even the Russians living in Prague said that they go back to Russia first in April, that it is a suicide to go there in January. Well, I tried and I survived. And when a guy from Barcelona standing next to you tells you in minus -16°C: “It is kind of warm”, is worthy all of the freezing. Now I know that I would be fool if I didn’t go.
P.S. Licking bronze statue on the Russian square in -20 is really, but really, stupid idea…