Sunday, 16 December 2007


this has to be in german, non swabians don't get the meaning or the drink anyway :)

Wenn man in russland einen apfelsadtschorle bestellt, was schon mal einiges an erklaerungsbedarf kostet, kommt das mit ner flasche perrier. Waere ja auch echt schade wenn mal was unter 8 euro kostet. Stimmt;)


Thursday, 13 December 2007

accidents / traffic

Did I mention that I had two minors accident in the last month?

Two times somebody crashed me in my rear. Once a girl in stop and go, once a guy in a stop – stop no go situation. Just everybody stayed since minutes when he decided to drive. But ok, the guy was drunk and in a Lada. Nothing happened.
In case of the girl it was a bit more annoying, as that I finally made my way home after 90 min in the traffic jam. And almost at home she crashed into me and I had to wait 2 hours for the police.

Interesting about Russia is, that you are forbidden to move you car in case of any accident (they are supposed to change this law no). Means you wait and block the stress for everybody else. What caused traffic james, what causes accidents, what causes traffic james…you get the picture ;)

You anyway see easily 5 – 10 accidents here every day.
Just for you reference, attached a picture of the streets and a scan of one page of the street map here, as that you can see the kind of intersections you face here.


P.S. by the way, in Russia the traffic jam topics beats weather and sport as smalltalk topic. You can discuss is with anybody, they will always agree and everybody has a strong emotional bond to it ;)

Apparment Search in Moscow

I am currently again taking a look for a new apartment. My one is great, but I am feed up with the traffic jam. Sure, I know about the pricing in Moscow. And I absolutely accept pay 2000 dollar a month for an apartment (I am not happy about, but hey, this is Moscow).
Actually a lot of people would tell this, that 2000 dollars are still cheap (including my real eastat agent).
What is just partly true. This people have either apartments payed by the company or no experience in Russia or usually both. So they get ripped of by the landlord and agents. When my agent tried to explain me that 2000 dollars are nothing I simply asked here why she is not rich. After all she gets 1 or 2 month of commission and is supposed to make a couple of deals a month.
Still, I am surprised about the bad quality they are going to offer you. Russians lacks style in this terms. The picture attached are for an apartment for 1 900 Dollar. I watched another (no pictures) which was even worse. 2 200 Dollars a month for something which had a grandmother style. (blush, thick carpets, awful couch, squiggled picture frames *brrrr* ).
No discussion even about the heating system, isolation or common staircase.



P.S. do you know that you in Russian describe a apartment as "renovated" or "euro-renovated". Euro-Renovated means more or less european style. The pictures below are euro-renovated. This means (for me) just renovated is just clean Russian understanding of the word and this is more or less "you don't mind the details of housing".

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

welcome at home

Wow, couple of weeks ago I arrived in Germany and how did the country welcome me?
"welcome at home, please don't forget to pay you fees for watching TV"

The point is, that 3 of the dozened German channels are federal. So everybody with any kind receiver (even a laptop) has to pay for the possibility of watching it.

Sometimes Germany is stranger than Russia.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Moldovian Hospitality

I was last week in Moldovia, in the capital Chisinau.
Not really a place I used to be. On business the turnover is almost nothing. So I am not too much there.

Exactly the reason I went there to see it with my own eyes.
It was pretty wired,

in 24 h....

2 cutoms officers
1 police (after work in civil)
3 police in uniforms in a car (I used to chase away the first)
2 police patrolling the street
3 military police (who accompanied the two aboce)

...wanted bribery.

I made them a hard time in avoiding this, with 4 years of Russia experience.
It happens everywhere that government officials (usually the traffic police) mix up a foreigner and a cash maschine.
But this amount of incounters was extrem. I am not sure if I just had very bad luck or if it is normal. But unfortunately I guess it is.

Then there was also a raid of masked special forces (something you hear in Russia, but appears very rarely)... with all people around me seems to be with perfectly fine.

Yap, and finally we went over to Kiev on a ferry which was merely a steel raft with some cars on it which a guys pulled over the river on a steel rope.
All in all, Ukraine and Russia seemed very high developed afterwards.

I feel like Moldova never really came out of the situation, where Russia was in the wild 90s.
Thanks good Russia made a long way to become this country where I enjoy to life in (even though this blog not always sound like :)

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Marry a foreigner :)

I saw a flayer on the streets of Kiev. It say...

Marry a foreigner

Getting a real gentlemen as groom form French, Germany, Australia, GB, Sweden (...)
All services for free and you get as present 28 lessons of english and a professional photo.

Honestly, I am surprised. Didn't expect to find something like this anymore. Ukraine is a well developed country which in my mind is pretty far ahead. Anyway, obvious still existing:)

At the other hand, all this "russian bridge" spam we get need their "human capital" from somewhere.

Saturday, 28 July 2007

High Hell Race & Taxi Trouble

It can just be so fun to be in Moscow... :o)Here two of the things which happens today

High Hell Race
There is an annual race in a couple of town in Russia. Russian girls get on their heels and then they run for a price of 100.000 Rubel (approx. 3k Euro).
This actually makes perfect sense in a countrym wheremen only can wonder how the female party of the society manage manage to walk on heels even on clear ice (in short skirts). Besides this it is an delight to watch for me, as that my company sells also stuff to orthopedic surgeons:)
Movie below, some pictures here.

In Moscow you just stop a car and negotiate a price, instead using a taxi. Sometimes stops just a normal car who makes some pocket money, sometimes a limousine where the chauffeur has the same idea and usually an old, crappy Lada with an guy from middle Asia who makes so his living.
This isn't actually as dangerous as it sound. But a lot of funny stories rank around this kind of taxis. Yesterday for example the car stopped in the middle of the road, we blocked all, chorus of horns, the driver got out and made a quick repair. Here a pick of my friend and the open hood with the driver in the background :)

Friday, 27 July 2007

Traffic Pictures - Hammer Strech Limo

Moscow traffic is an nightmare, but not boring.
The worst is for sure the hours you spent every days on this unbelievable traffic jams.
Then comes the recklessnesses. Only today two times in front of my drove a car with at least 80 km/h over a red traffic light.
Finally (?) there are all this show offs, a Porsche or a Mercedes does not count much here. To still get attentions you need something special.

You will find a lot of examples in the net. Here are some shots I made today when my camera was at hand.



Russian Registration Troubles

Russians Administration is wired. e all know that you need an registration in Russia. Anyway as foreigner and when you are outside of your hometown as Russian Citizen.
You need it theoretically after the 3rd workday and could be an obstacle to some things like
- getting work
- getting (as Russian) Health Care paid
- opening a bank account
- buy a SIM Card
- paying tax

It's unbelievable hard to get a proper registration. And even I, who goes through considerable pain to pay his Russian tax (another story), gave it meanwhile up to hunt for a registration.
As that the wide (100%) majority of Russians have a low (0%) interest in paying tax nobody of the Russians I know has a registration in Moscow (except the few born in Moscow).

At the first sight the registration stuff seems to make no sense. However, it's a good reason for the police demanding pocket money from you and some hotels make money with it.
I assume also a bit, that it's serves the Russian soul as that we have an other overregulated law more in a country where they are not even able & willing to enforce the basic traffic rules (like traffic lights and speed).
Also I suspects it serves some ostrich mentality in the administration, something like '...when we have just 12 millions registrations in Moscow, we just have 12 million inhabitants, despite that gas and water consumptions doubled the last years'.

So, a registration is something very Russian. And even sometimes I have one, usually I don't.
Where I usually make a registration, is when I stay in a Russian hotel. They have to make you one... theoretically
So, yesterday I went to the town of Saransk. Not really an airport there, so an 11h night train there and back. For a quick shower before I visited my clients I checked in a hotel.
The wired thing now, was that the hotel refused to take me. They said they don't take me as guest, as that I don't have a registration.
Means the institution who is obliged to give you an registration (and is about to make 100$ for renting me an apartment for 60 min refuses) refused you due to exactly this registration.
And I don't even wanted one. I just wanted to have a shower.

This is Russian province. Actually I had once similar problems when a storm grounded my plane somewhere at the Volga. After I had to land there in the middle of the nights, the boondocks started complaining about the registration when I tried to depart. (Altogehter also an very interesting story what happened all in this night).
Sometimes in the Russian province they are still living more in USSR than in Russia, a foreigner is a thread and reported to the local FSB and all together it's a load of crap.
Friend of me once tried to make his registration (as he should do) somewhere in Sibiria. He ended up with thorax X-Ray :). And my first registration in SPB leaded to an HIV test in an building I didn't even identify in this time as hospital :)

Так... anyway, I sneaked around the problem and got my shower.

Just keep on smiling :)


Sometimes I think Russia is a collection of artificial problems and flexible solutions. This is fun (or frustration) for us foreigner and (in my opinion) the reason they can't transform there wealth in resources, culture and intellect into financial wealth for wide areas of the population.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Just a public THANK YOU

ok, not a nice story, but a huge & public THANKS

Andreas, Martin, Philipp, thank you that you organized the great roof top party this year again. It's an awful amount of work for you guys... but also it's the best party all year in Moscow :)

Thank you!

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Eastern Officals vs. Western Gays

As you probably already know, the relationship between the gays and 'the rest' of society is a bit chilly in eastern europe. Usualy if here are gays on the street you find the surrounded by special police forces and opposed nazies and 'the rest' (and sometimes even the police).
However, listening to all this horror stories about the gay bashing in Moscow, Riga... I start to wonder what is with all other countries like Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and so on. This countries which are geographically and mentally tied between Russian, Afghanistan and China?
I assume the homophobia is outrageous there.
From this point of view, Russia is a liberal country ;)

So, here the story... last month I had a trip to Berlin with a minister from one of this mentioned middle asian countries. One day we had lunch at the Potsdamer Platz. This is the new center of Berlin, with the sony centre, an impressive glass and steel tower.
On the way the taxi driver warned me that a gay parade will pass the Potsdamer square and proceed to a place close to our hotel. Already then I had visions of the worst case... we running in front, behind us a queer, colorful CSD parade crowd behind us.
You have to picture this middle assian delegations as people which corpulent, small, bold, deeply conservation, they are real chauvinists and real fashionable is a black suit with black sunglasses. In short, the the natural opposite of homosexuals :)

Therefore I simply knew, I had to get them out of this place before the gays will arrive.
In strict correlation with Murphy's law it didn't work. The lunch went as expected, heavy German food, lot of German beer and a lot of schnapps (like german vodka). So this delegation wasn't hurrying at all. Finally the Minister wanted to take a look at the sony centre while the rest sat in a street cafe and took a nap.

Damn, and then it happend. The gay arrived and like a wave they came over the potsdamer platz. My minister barricaded himself up in the 3rd floor of the sony center and stared in disbelieve down on the gay crowd.
The rest of the delegation woke up down there and found them self surrounded by gays.
There was panic in their eyes :)
I played the messenger betweens minister and his delegation/troops. After some times we dared the prisonbreak. Meanwhile the streets where blocked, no taxi, and the subway filled with gays. So we sneak out and I tried to find a save route. Like Morphius with Neo.
This minister delegation was so shocked by all this tall, healthy, bodybuilders gays which sometimes just wore leather pants and leather bracelet's.

Sure, I made a serious face all the time. But deep inside I had a lot of fun about the clash of cultures. Hey, when do you end up with an ultra-conservative Minister in a gay parade :)
Life can be so interesting!

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Wasps' nest in my sport shoes

Hell, I am pretty sure I can't blame this on Russia (even I will do my best to try it;)....

Today I had luck with the traffic and decided to make a bit of sport. Quick scan in my apartment and my running equipment appeared. Found the shoes on the balcony.

When I tried to slip in I realized that the space is busy. First assuming it's a piece of paper I realized fast that it was a wasps nest.
How embarrassing, a wasp nest in my right sport shoe!
And I'm used to answered on the question if I make sport 'occasionally' ;)
(Bdw, this is the same answer as I give on the question how often I drink alcohol... 'occasionally' it's is a very flexible word)

Damn, I clearly have to change my life style!
But the other way around. It's a expat live with a lot of business trips, 2-4 hour in traffic jams a day (for 40km) also consume a bit of time and the gyms here are expensive and demand the

yearly fee in cash & advance...

... see, I did it. I blamed Russia again :)
But let's be honest. It's just me.



Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Vodka For Cosmonauts

A friend of me works together with the Russian space agency (on this project).
As that vodka is an essential of Russian life, e.g. As medicine, they seems to see the need to take it with them in space.

So I got this Russian vodka made for cosmonauts. This stuff is not on sale.
As you can see in the picture it's not in any kind of real bottle. It's filled in plastic bags. Just as we expected it from space food after all this movies. It remembers me a bit of the Russian guy in the armageddon movie.

But let's take a closer look. I am so keen and try to use this as a gauge to estimate the value of vodka in the Russian (space) society.
Let's assume that a Russian Space Agency work rational and compare value and utility (in the economic sense). Means the price (value) to bring the vodka in space is less or equal the benefit (utility) the Russians see in it.
So, let's take a look at the costs. The good old Russian Soyuz is still the cheapest rocket to get stuff in space (everything else cost at least two times more). 1 ton just 17,4 Mio Dollars. AS that we have here 0,5 l Vodka (bdw. good one, 40 % vol), and the Russian order Vodka in gram, I assume this is half a kg.

So, the damn "bottle" equals roughly equals 8.700 Dollars costs, just to bring it up. And this should be the minimum value the Russian space agency sees in it.

Cool, isn't it :)
I will never drink this vodka (expect when I am really, really drunk)

One question remains... how much of the bottles they get up there with every flight? Cauz, with half a liter they don't go far.



Please feel free to correct my line of argumentation

Monday, 16 July 2007

"Business Lunch" <--> " Business Love"

I had today business at a bank branch at the Novij Arbat (Centre of Moscow). (Damn Russian botchers in there, I spent 4h in there and drove there three times just for a simple money transfer,... but this is a different story).

As it was Monday morning I did not mind to park in front of a strip club. There are a lot of them in the center, quite more than parking space. When I left the car I even mentioned to my girlfriend "guess they are not working yet"). Even though, there was written "non stop strip" and all this stuff.
So, a few hours (and hard strokes at the bank) later I returned to my car. Just to see that the stip club put a "business lunch" sign outside.

Well, as a matter of fact the sign was a bit blurred. So, I am not sure if they wrote "Business Lunch" or " Business Love". But then again, hell, it's probably everything the same in there :)



Sunday, 15 July 2007

The Soviet Collapse -Grain And Oil - Gaidar

Dear all,

I read a a very nice article about the Soviet collapse.

Beside the very compact and good overview which is particular for people like me (means connected to Russia somehow) it gives insights in
  • why the economical theories are finally still derived & connected from how peasant use there clods
  • why democracy is besides an "humanitarian dogma" also a economical necessity
  • where Russia may head
so, a recommended reading from my side.

You find it here (There is also a PDF available).



Usual Picture On Russian Streets

One more of the snapshots you make in Russia walking around.
Here you see a Ferrari and some SUV (Mercedes M-Class?). Not the cheapest cars anyway.

As that money substitutes culture and good behavior the park directly on a zebra crossing.
And you see the both (one one is clear) guys at the wall, this are the bodygards from the cars. So even police would do anything against traffic offenders (what they don't do in Russia), which policemen is so brave to go over there and start a discussion with this pitbulls.

Russia, impossible is normal :)



Fokker (-plane) With A Defect Engine


June 07 I flew back to Moscow from Riga.
My plane was a Fokker (the one with propellers), actually not too bad. Better than my russian planes in this month.
Anway, the pilot started the engine. Not engineS, just the engine because the right one did not work.
After a few seconds the pilot annouced:
"Ladies and Genltemen, we have small technical difficulties. We'll take a look and then decide if we can fly."

A technician arrived, climbed up a ladder and took a look in the engine. Without any tools. Just a torch he used to take a look (and I assume to slam it again some relays).
Afterwards the pilot crumbled something about a relay, turned the key and both engines started :)
So, we started... honestly, in this moments I didn't mind the right engine. When we started my heart & hope was with the 1st one nobody hammered again.



About this blog

This blog is a close up on Russia and the CIS. I am not giving you the big picture.
I would anyway fail. I am too long here. So beauty & decay,
education & corruption, high culture & kafka-style administration are meanwhile normal for me.
So this blog is like a painting from from Roy Lichtenstein... when you are with your nose on it :) You will just see the dots, not gaining any understanding of the whole.

Most things will look strange in this blog. But you can be sure, I would not live here, if there would not be a lot of great things here. Unfortunately, the weired stories are more interesting to tell & read.
Don’t judge Russia on this blog, if you want to know the country, come over and take a look by your own.