Ulan Ude, Russia

  • Date
  • 25 July 1999

During our walk to dinner, we saw a passed-out drunken man being carried home over another drunk man’s shoulders. Alcoholism is rife.

We stopped at the Hotel Barguzin to look it over and decided to eat dinner there even though the flies were more abundant than I’ve seen in any restaurant to date. They kept landing on Jim’s shaved head and Sergei (our interpreter) joked that the flies were using Jim’s head as a landing strip.

The large restaurant, packed with 30 tables or so, had only one table filled when we arrived. Ordering our dinner took almost 45 minutes. Finally the server brought our salads, but they were not what we’d ordered. We ate them anyway. About an hour later, the entrees of beef stroganoff and boiled fish arrived. They were filling and I can be no kinder in description. As I ate, my hand kept a constant motion over my plate so the flies would not be a part of my dinner.

Midway during our meal the music and the deejay started – not too loud at first, but then so loud we could not hear each other speak. I noticed the restaurant filling up with women. Five tables filled with two or either three women at each, but there was just one table with two men. Everyone looked to be late 20s or early 30s. A little later, women began to dance with each other and Jim and I joined the fun. At one point a beggar from the street came on the dance floor and started dancing with me. The loud music in restaurants and women dancing with each other is common in Siberia. Around 10:30 p.m., we headed home and the dance floor and restaurant were just coming to life.