Finding Nemo

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Siberian surprises


Quick! What pops into your mind? Did you say hot Russian girls who are eager to buy an American a drink? Or perhaps Siberia conjured up a warm sunny day, one where you want to strip naked. (To go skinny-dipping in the deepest lake in the world.) Or … maybe you pictured lake seals that are so damn cute that you want to squeeze them until snot comes out their nose?

Fine, fine. Neither did I. Like you, I pictured ramshackle little cottages from a Disney movie. You know, the one where the evil witch lives. It was hidden in a dark wood full of Siberian wolves and bears and there were mountains of snow piled up everywhere and maybe a boiling kettle to cook little kids in.

What I expected to find
So when the train arrived and I spilled into Irkutsk, the last thing I expected was colorful neat buildings, clean broad boulevards, and beautiful parks filled with flowers and hot women. In fact, there were hot women everywhere I looked. They were spilling out of limousines, walking arm-in-arm through the parks, giggling in packs at restaurants. Pretty soon I was wondering if perhaps on the overnight train I’d been stabbed and was waking up in Russian heaven.

Upon closer inspection, these packs of women, dressed in gorgeous dresses and make-up and followed around by photographers were, sadly, not sent down just for me after all. They were wedding parties. And they were everywhere. 

Apparently, August is wedding season and I had arrived on a fine summer Saturday where every woman over 18 was either a bridesmaid or wearing a white dress.

What I found. (from
I thought back on the Mongolian women, who, no offense, probably wouldn’t be winning Miss Universe anytime soon. And I thought of my month on horse-back surrounded by flies and muck and eating… pretty much flies and muck. And I looked at this sunny town, full of pubs and vodka and restaurants and discos and neat pretty wooden houses, where the parks brimmed with roses and cleavage. And I thought: Siberia. I think I love you.

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