- 9 July 1999
Headed for Parus Restaurant, Jim stopped in the lobby of our hotel to try out an automatic bank machine, assuming it would reject his credit cards since this happens frequently in Russia. Amazed, we watched the machine produce the requested 2000 rubles. As he put his credit card back into his wallet, the machine took the money back and then produced a receipt for 2000 rubles! Only in Russia does the automatic bank give you money and then take it away. In defense of the bank, Jim took several seconds putting his credit card away. So 15-30 seconds passed before he went to grab the money being snapped back into machine.
Then we tried calling a number listed on the machine to report the problem. The number was out of service. So then we went to the bank and explained our situation to the security guard who called the technician to our hotel. Then we returned to our hotel and, within half an hour, the technician arrived thinking the machine took our credit card. No, the machine took our money back! The technician said he did not have authority to check the money in the machine and we should go to the bank on Monday. But we were to leave on Sunday. The technician called his boss and asked us to return to the bank tomorrow at 1 p.m.
Finally around 9:30 p.m., we headed to Parus for dinner. The restaurant had few tables and we filled the third one. I desperately wanted to go to the window and spread the curtains since the place felt like a dungeon. A young couple in their 20s sat next to the window and three middle-aged sailors laughed constantly at the second table.
Jim and I both began with a cucumber, tomato, lettuce, horseradish and dill salad. Jim added garlic. Then I ate small pieces of stewed beef with potatoes and mushrooms cooked and then served in a brown earthenware pot, which is quite common in Russia. This dish was delicious. Jim ate baked sturgeon with rice.
Fredrik, our webmaster, ate salmon with lemon to start and then meat surprise with boiled potatoes. He thinks the meat, fried and in a sweet batter, was pork. Sergei, our translator, had a bacon, tomato, onion and cucumber salad mixed with mayonnaise and then pelmeny (dumplings filled with meat) soup, which he shared with everyone, and finally a fried pork chop with boiled potatoes. Larissa, Sergei’s girlfriend, ate a tomato and mozzarella salad and then fried sturgeon with boiled potatoes. We drank local vodka and Bavarian beer, which is brewed in Siberia.
During dinner we talked with the three sailors about road conditions and life at sea. At one point we discussed GSM phone service in Russia. They laughed and one said, “The most reliable form of communication in Russia is the pigeon.” We laughed and everyone toasted Russia.