Vodka, a Russian Tradition

Wanting a campsite for the night I decided to find a lake on the GPS, which I promptly found and headed straight for. Once I’d made my way through what can only be described as bit of a shanty town skirting part of the lake’s perimeter, I came across a little lakeside holiday resort. You pay to go through the barrier and then you do pretty much whatever you like. I told the chap on the gate that I just wanted to have a look and he eventually opened the gate and let me pass. There was lots of other jolly campers and the place had a really good feeling about it so I decided to find a nice quiet spot to pitch my tent.

I drove through one of the gaps in the barrier and proceeded onto the grass right next to the lake and pitched up. There was also a couple of Russians pitching their camp too so I said a quick hello. The next thing I know the chap is talking to me in Russian but neither of us understands each other, and to be honest I just want to set up, get some nosh and settle down. Once I’ve set up I head over to the restaurant over the road and order their local dish which turns out to be salmon. It was the biggest fillet of Salmon I have ever seen, and the tastiest. I washed it down with a cold beer and a Sprite and asked for the bill.

When I return to my campsite with a full belly the Russian comes over again, this time armed with a phone in hand who passes it over to me. The gentleman on the other end informs me in his very good English that the Russian party would like to invite me to their table. I wish I hadn’t had that salmon now, especially as it cost nearly £15 and as nice as it was. So I joined them for some fresh shashlik straight off the fire, which I forced down, not wanting to be inhospitable. Then they cracked open the vodka and cigarettes and the party began.

After the 6th ot 7th shot I said no more thank you in my best broken Russian, but it was a “Russian Tradition” and who was I to refuse. Four of five bottles of vodka later and things were very merry indeed. I seemed to speak more Russian and they seemed to speak more English, or was it just the effects of the alcohol? There were two couples, one of which had a young boy, and a single chap. One was a police officer, another an ex-police officer and also an oil man. We chatted about the usual: me, the bike, the trip but as we became fluent in each others mother tongue we talked everything under the sun.

By the end of the night I was feeling pretty pissed and the oil man was getting pretty intense. Both of our linguistic fluency seemed to have peaked but he continued on in Russian for long stretches without me understanding a single word. I wish I knew what he was saying, it sounded very deep and meaningful. I decided to call it a night and said my thank yous and good nights and headed off for my tent. While I remained inebriated I slept very good, but once the vodka wore off I began tossing and turning and continued to do so for the remainder of the night.

The next morning I awoke early and packed up as quietly as I could, trying not to disturb my new Russian friends. I decided as I had some time to head down to the lake for a sunrise swim. The water was crisp, cool and crystal clear. It was easily the best tonic I’ve ever had to relieve me of the hangover. Feeling thoroughly refreshed and revitalized I head back to camp to find everyone else rising from their slumber. We chatted for a bit, took some pictures with the bike and I headed off, destination Novosibirsk.

a really big thank you to my new Russian friends for your kindness and generosity.


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