We have finally left Russia and despite the few super friendly people we actually did meet, our main feeling has been one of why are the rest of the people so rude and unfriendly? It's a though we have defiled somebody's grave wherever we go, a smile is returned with a glare or grimace, a wave with a flick of the wrist that suggests we should go elsewhere and if we are to ever (god forbid) try and spend our money somewhere, we're growled out or shouted at for not understanding Russian or the particular system in place at that establishment, whether it be one for queueing, paying or ordering. In most places in the world these people would be sacked in half a second, but we are always greeted with a cold stare and 'Nyet, Nyet, Nyet, Nyet!!!!'. The best of the unfriendly people are the ones that completely ignore us as their complete lack of interest makes us feel almost welcome in comparison and their ability to ignore our smiles and waves feels almost friendly...like we belong!
Towards the end I gave up even acknowledging people as it was so disheartening being looked at rudely or so coldly. Occasionally we would let slip a wave or a smile and then find ourselves disappointed again by our invisibility. We did at one stage reckon that the cows were more likely to wave at us than the locals. Sometimes however, we are woken from our puzzled state by the only people who can be guaranteed to show an interest....the seriously innebriated! There are many of these all over Russia and the early morning vodka brigade are outrageously friendly in comparison, although hardly ever able to stand, let alone talk coherently. They do sometimes offer to let us buy them more alcohol or demand that we celebrate our meeting with another bottle, but for some reason we suddenly seem to find oursleves moving on, especially when they demand that we let them ride our bikes.
This is the state of Russia....at least the parts we have seen.
However there is HOPE!!!
A few times this trip while being rudely ignored or abused by a drunk or a shopkeeper, a small beacon of hope has appeared just as we thought it could get no worse. Near the border south of Biysk, as a drunk man shouted at us in the pouring rain, a wonderful family came out and gave us tomatoes, cucumbers, bread and some meat for our journey.....I nearly cried.
And in the Altai a whole car of Russians on holiday stopped and gave us tomatoes just as a guest house owner was telling us we couldn't stay because our registration was wrong (completely untrue!) They even saw us the following day and repeated the gesture. Wonderful people.
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