Joans cousins live on lake Baikal in a very small village and in a very traditional Russian house. I fall in love with them instantly they are fantastic. We arrive with no prior warning as Joan does not have their telephone number, at 10:30pm
Kolya and Valaria are overjoyed to see him and welcome us in with open arms, even though it is obvious they were just heading to bed PJs and all, Russian hospitality at its best. Within half an hour Valeria has potatoes peeled and on the boil, salad made and chicken out the fridge. We sit down to a very normal everyday meal…. Sorry Ihlena did you just say everyday Russian meal? This was a feast and the Russians take their meals seriously eating slowly eating a lot and enjoying themselves and their company. Kolya and Valaria grow their own food, have a cow and many chickens, pigs and dogs on their small holding. So everything we ate came out of their own garden.
Then the vodka came out with the question, Laura (what all Russians call me, I kind a like and may just change my name) would you have a little bit of alcohol tonight, beer, wine, vodka? Damn I should have said no sorry I don’t drink. But instead said sorry I don’t drink beer or wine but will have one very small half vodka shot. Hmmmmm Russians do not do small shots…ok I think I can survive a real Russian vodka shot. When the second one is almost poured I quickly protest niet vodka niet vodka spasiba (Thank you) oh no Laura this is Russian tardyon you must drink 3 vodkas you cannot only have one. Well ok I guess I can survive 3…8 shots later and I am on my ear everyone was for a special reason one shot before you go and have a Russian Sauna, one shot after the Sauna, one shot before bed …. Mid way through the evening Joan brings out an accordion and then the singing starts but it was great, obviously I could not join in as it was all Russian but just great entertainment, what an experience.
…Oh no we’ve decided not to go to bed yet so another shot to celebrate women oh Laura you must drink that one since you are a woman, ah the bottle is almost empty ok one last shot before bed an dot finish the bottle. OMG I think the last time I drank that much was when I was a student, and I must quickly explain that although I was a rather naughty student I stopped drinking years ago and now drink very very little in fact I have become quite a lightweight drinker, and the first vodka went straight to my head so image what the 8th did… FORTUNALTYE since I was in someone’s house as a guest I managed to behave but had a great time and slept like the dead. Which I might add was 4 am
So a quick word on the house and the Russian sauna. These old houses don’t have toilets or bathrooms but out houses and saunas. The sauna is not as hot as those we know about and in the Sauna are two large barrels one of very hot water and the other cold water and you are given a huge ladle and you go ahead and wash in the sauna and they are great….oh yes I was allowed the privilege of being able to sauna alone 🙂
The next day Kolya showed us his barrel, he has made a HUGE barrel and is trying to get permission to sail it on lake Baikal from top to bottom 600km. He is just a crazy and fantastic Russian.