Three countries in a week or travel notes

Three countries in a week time:  Italy, Malta and Russia. Different impressions, different languages, different lifestyles.

Sicily. Only one and a half hours by catamaran away from Malta, there is a land where people speak only Italian – beautiful land of green hills and deep valleys. Unlike Malta, Sicily pleased my eye with smooth shapes and plenty of trees. Ragusa, especially its old part, resembles Malta very much: similar limestone buildings, same yellow street lights. Differences are also visible – traffic runs in the opposite direction, sloping roofs, higher blocks of appartments and green balconies. If Maltese hardly find a nice word for Arriva, local public transport operator, in Ragusa a bus is a very rare thing – only two buses I saw in two days.  Honestly, Ragusa Ibla is a charming place. Cannot say the same about local food, however. Not to mention that the restaurants did not even have chicken on their menu. One of most memorable details of my short stay in Ragusa – elegant gentlemen, when seeing an approaching young lady, take their heats off, slightly nod and say “Buonasera!”.

 Just a few hectic days in Malta and off to Russia for two weeks.

Russia. 1. Coincidence. I am a lucky person when it comes to adventures or funny incidents. And my trip to Russia continued this tradition. At the airport among many others waiting for check in, there was a guy who looked lost in space. He did not speak English, I immediately recognised a fellow-countryman. “Moscow is not my final  destination, will have to wait 12 hours until my next flight” – he said.  “Mine neither. And I also will be waiting for 12 hours”. “Where are you going?” we both asked same time. And same time replied – “Astrakhan!”.  Considering how vast Russia is, a person from a province city does not expect to meet a fellow-townsman in a small country like Malta. It turned out that we even lived quite close! Those 12 hours of waiting at the airport were not boring for a change – we exchanged impressions, life experiences. And, oh, yes! – lively, diverse, cutting-sharp Russian that he spoke sounded like the sweetest music to me! And if some my friends think that my way of describing personalities and physical appearances is too straight to the point and not very soft, than that guy was an absolute champion. I hardly can repeat adjectives and metaphores he used to describe his life in Malta, his colleagues (he spent 4 months on a Maltese boat as a mechanic), local food etc. By the way, we fully agreed with each other regarding local food J. Being just 30 years old, speaking very poor English, he had been around the world as a ship mechanic – Africa, Latin America, Northern Europe – and everywhere managed to be understood. He noticed quite a lot in Malta, like, for example, taxi drivers get actively involved in coccaine distribution and lots of people do not pay tax (just like Russians).

2. Nefertiti. It happened to be a pure accident, but from some time ago Nefertiti became my improvised test for general knowledge. When I am curious how well a person studied at school or how broad is education in his country, I ask him about Nefertiti. “Of course, I know!” he said. “ We studied it all at school, right? Moreover, in Astrakhan every sauna is called “Nefertiti!”. :D.

3. Good bye!  How many people I met travelling and it is always sad to think that, most probably, I will never see them again. Well,  who knows?.. We shook hands and said good bye at Astrakhan airport. Then I got in the taxi and it was the end of story.

4. Homophobia. First thing I noticed in Russia is homophobia. I turned on radio and heard very passionate discussions of the law, banning gay propoganda. As one speaker told, once he came in  Dior boutique and wanted to buy a jacket. The clothes were supposed to be for guys, but the jacket looked girlish. Then to prove his doubts, he asked whether it is a women or man thing and got a reply “It’s made for man, but it is of feminine style”. He got nervious and left. Others were quite intolerant to gays too. Russians are mostly intolerant to gay guys, but lesbians can sleep calmly. It is an ambiguous subject, however. Personally, I think it is a sexual deviation and it’s been proven a person’s sexuality is not a constant thing, our preferences can be influenced. This law is officially classified as “child abuse” and aims to restrict homosexual scenes shown to minors. Then I don’t understand why exposing a child to heterosexual scenes is not restricted at all! Trust my word, heterosexual and lesbian freedom in Russia is currently so absolute that it would make marquis de Sade blush. The problem is that men’s private sexual achievements became state heritage. The more women a man has the cooler he looks, the stronger is the country. Being faithful for a man is considered as a form of stupididy.

If you are a gay, better do not go to mother Russia for your own good. Or try to look bold and go with lots of girls – public respect is guaranteed.

5. Feelings in the air.  It is popular to leave notes on buildings’ walls. Some state “Natasha, I love you! Please marry me!”. Others declare “Death to jews!”.  Children play in yards (luckily, they got enough space where to play, unlike Malta where children have no space for their games). All boys play war games. With plastic Kalashnikovs.

7.  Vodka. “Beer. Vodka. 24 hours” – adverts like that are everywhere in the city. In the closests supermarket there are 30 sorts of vodka. As a result, most of men are either drunk or going to be.

8. Wild minis. After a day in Astrakhan I could not understand what was going on – all girls I met on street and supermarkets were wearing miniskirts. Very minimal mini. I’d even say they were dressed very slightly. And on crazy high heels! What happened? – Nothing. I came to my hometown that time “when girls wear skirts that more likely are wide belts” (quoting my favourite university lecturer). Oh, yes, legs are very OK as well as all the rest… Funny details – nowadays in Russia a normal lenght skirt attracts more attention than a super mini. Everybody got used to it, nothing surprising J. Those skirts are clear signs of spring though. Happy Spring, dear all!

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