In most of the countries that we passed, or let’s say from Georgia onwards, you will find many things written in Cyrillic script… it was a bit of a problem in the beginning because I didn’t have any clue how to decipher information, traffic signs and especially city names… now most of the countries have most of relevant information also written in Latin script which provided a real benefit… having both scripts next to each other I started to learn how to read Cyrillic… I wouldn’t understand most of what I read but especially when it comes to city names it is very helpful because from the mere sound of reading the name out loudly you know at least where you are, and… in Kyrgyzstan and Russia you will face a complete absence of Latin script even in bigger cities 😉
So what would have looked like “NPKYTCK” to me (although the first letter should actually be twisted) became a readable “IRKUTSK”… I am a little bit proud that I have made it that far although I also have to admit that the benefit of being able to read some of the words is limited 😉 For example, when we were passing by a signboard for directions on a motorway before an exit or junction, we slowed down the car and tried to read… first thing is always to get all the letters and translate them one by one into Latin louds. After disassembling the whole word into letters we put it back together again in our louds and speak it out loudly… then we listen to what we just said and try to figure out any sense of it, i.e. we see if what we say somehow sounds similar to one of the things that we look for… if this is the case we try to memorise in which direction the arrow of the city that we want to go to has pointed on the signboard and then we curse a little bit because the whole processes usually takes so long that we missed the exit that we should have taken 😉
Yesterday we had a second night of good byes with Bernie and we wanted to go out and grab a beer… in a restaurant with Wi-Fi we tried to find information about Irkutsk’s night life – not so easy on a Monday night… the first sentence of the first google hit delivered a rather disappointing information “Irkutsk is not famous for its nightlife” 😉 …we can confirm that 😉 …but what is Seoul Street in Ulaanbaatar, namely the place where all the clubs and bars are, is Karl Marx Street in Irkutsk, so we went there and found a Craft Beer Bar, picked one and decided that we would both need a normal beer somewhere else 😉 Bernie met two guys outside and we asked where to go to… they gave their recommendation and apparently it was so difficult to describe how to get there that they just came along and brought us there… very nice! We had our beer together with them and had quite a fun discussion about a number of things…
It was getting a bit tricky when one of our new friends asked me directly what I thought about Russian politics… I tried to wind my way out of this trap by saying that I would not be interested in politics at all and could thus not give a qualified statement… maybe a too technical answer because he wouldn’t give up and asked me very straight forwardly of my opinion about Ukraine and if I thought that the sanctions on Russia would be justified? I really tried but I couldn’t hold back “Of course” I said… to my surprise… well, to my surprise, was suprised and asked me “Why?” Although war topics always make me a bit emotional I tried to stick to very classic, dry and matter-of-factly statements “Because a sovereign country was invaded and war is never the right solution in times where people have the possibility to learn from history” Apparently the argument didn’t count for him and he tried to convince me by explaining that people there would be Russians anyway and wanted to live in Russia… I agreed that some, maybe even many, of the region’s population was ethnically Russian but that I didn’t believe that they had very determinedly wanted to live in Russia, because they had always been free to move to Russian territory but didn’t do so, hence their ambition must have been very limited… He wouldn’t give up bringing the argument that the region used to be Russia anyway… I tried to explain that in my opinion this argument was not really of good quality because if all countries would start to invade territories that used to be theirs in some point of history we would have the biggest world war of all times… sitting in a military super power it seemed that this idea didn’t really scare him 😉
It was Bernie, the diplomat among us, who took the steering wheel and brought the conversation back on track highlighting the very good relations between our two countries and in particular addressed the president’s visit to Austria not long ago… well, two people, two opinions, fair enough…!