Friday, 27 November 2009

Luxus and Germans:)

See in the picture an advertisment for a luxuary brand in Germany in a very liberal city (Freiburg). As you can see the they didn't evern bother to use German in it...

Instead the target group for 'luxus' are Russians and Arabic tourists.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Potemkin villages

so, President Medvedev was next to my place a few days ago. In a result they re-painted the bridge close by.
Of course, why to do things proper, when you can do it quick and dirty?! After all Mr. Medvedev will not leave his car to check the construction work, right.

So they just went with black color over the balustrade, not removing all the dirt, dust and old layers of similar procedures in the past.

The term "Potemkin villages" (odd enough, exists in a lot of languages) goes back to an incident that happend in the 19th century in Russia.

So I assume we can conclude this is no bungling. The workers just uphold a beloved tradition :o)

back to normal chaos

so, this was Moscow city (around the red square) beween 9 pm and 10 pm.
holiday are over, traffic jams are back on...

Imagine you leave the office at 9 pm, have to go 05 km to you family and face this. This and worse is bitter reality for most of the people.

Friday, 28 August 2009


The good old Hammer SUV if for me the classic symbol for an odd mix out of decadency and freud'sche desire to compensate something.

Thus I love-hate in the Hammer stretch limousines driving around in Moscow.

Recently I had a classic. At the red traffic light suddenly such a stretch Hammer appeared on my left and right lane. When they overtook me on both side I had the strange feeling of beeing overtaken by a tunnel :)

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

borders of Russia / Demographics

Last question in the Radio to a leader of the opposition:
(which said overall a lot of smart and democratic stuff in the interview.)

Moderator: 'In what borders do you see Russia'

Opposition leader: 'UDSSR minus the Baltics States'

Puh, and this is the liberal, democratic opposition…..
Together with some recent Russian legislation and statements I have a gut feeling that there will be more conflicts like the Georgian - Russian one (2008) in the next decade.

It’s not a question of the Russia government. It’s a question how the Russian people understand themselves and how they see their neighbors and other countries. I face myself all the time (as German) a Russian legislation that is horribly xenophobic. It is much harder to get a proper legal status in Russia as a German then it is the other way around. (Honestly, at least 10 times harder and 30 times more expensive.). Then consider that the Germans in Moscow gain and behave different than some(!) of the Russians in Germany (social wellfare, mafia, …)

Great perspective for a country that is supposed to loose 30% of the population till 2050. And this is not not a speculation, it is a fact. It’s just a simple counting as that who lives in 2050 is already born today.

here some facts...

Saturday, 22 August 2009


So, the new Microsoft Windows will go on sales in two month. User and manufactures are eagerly anticipating it. Some beta version made it into to P2P network (illegal downloads) with all the usual outcry in media.
The clock is ticking till the first version of Microsoft Windows 7 will be available for the public....
...pffft..forget it in Russia.

I had today a walk in a big Moscow shopping mall. There are at least three version of the new Windows 7 on sale. Professional cracked, labeled and sold. (Picture attached)
Hip Hip Hurray for the copyright in Russia.

This looks like a small things. But despite of illegal downloads this is a lot of money. Real money, huge money. People don't see at, as that the the music and movie industries labels illegal download as big money. But this is "virtual" money they could have been sold, if every
download would be a real sale. (What is of course stupid). But all this thousand of shops in Russia which sales illegal copies makes real sales. 20 euro an an disk they produced for maybe 10 cent.
Pretty good business, isn't it? Of course, this business is illegal, demands good connections and organization. Who could offer this set of features? ....Right, organized crime. So the Mafia make there a lot money they re-invested in real ugly stuff (trafficing, drugs,...)

As you may know the Russian government just decided to send the WTO plans to hell. Not sure the motives were entirely altruistic :)
Some 153 countries out there consider it to be a good things to be a WTO member. Probably it would have been a good thing for most people in Russia too. Of course, not for all (e.g. people producing illegal DVDs and of course the steel producing companies.)


Tuesday, 21 July 2009


So, I called a hotline in Germany to rent a car. When the hotline guy asked me for a contact I told him it will be a Russian number.

Hotline guy: "oh, wow… can I can ask you something personally"

I: "please, go ahead"

He: "Does it make sense to go to Russia to... you know… take a look at the girls They are supposed to be amazing!”

Actually after another 5 minutes I convinced him to go at least also to Sankt Petersburg to enjoy a bit of culture. He agreed after I ensured him that the girls will not be worse than in Moscow. This is what I call a reputation! And it was not the first time. Once a guy came up to me with the same questions on a German parking lot right on the highway.

Russia culture is deeply underestimated in Europe, Russian girls are definitely not.

Monday, 29 June 2009

How much spaces needs my car?

Picture 1
Clearly more ==> you can't fit two cars and one truck on one lane

Picture 2
Clearly less ==> there could park at least three cars more, if the yet parking people wouldn't have prefered to be able to completely open their door after parking

Both pictures made within 5 minutes on Moscow roads.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

in the middle of nowhere

Some smaller cities in Russia have pretty funny airports. You arrive and just w-a-l-k straight out of the plane to the parking lot.
No bus, no terminal, not even an arrival hall.

You leave the airport area via a gate in the surrounding fence. For luggage there is usually some barrack (with shattered windows).

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Supermarket in the region


So, I am somewhere between Ural, Sibiria and Kazaksthan.
The small town is pretty amazing, clean, good repairs, high quality roads and buildings.
Way better than what you see in central Russia, e.g. Moscow.

Not the first time I observe this. I assume it's because the 'Intelligencija' was deported during the Stalin Terror to Sibiria.
Not to forget all the Germans sent here. (Even most of them life now in Germany)

However entering an overall nice and clean supermarkte I realized the problem of these regions... shelfes over shelfes filled with Vodka. (In Moscow this would be beer already).

See pictures

Cheers :(

parking madness

Do you see the cars lining up leftmost at the one picture.
This in not a parking lot.
This is a road on the parking lot.

So besides the the fact that like 50 people parked totaly in disrespect of rules and their fellow citizen (quite a few cars had a government ID) it creates at the end of the road a 'pocket'.
There more than a douzend cars are trapped.
This pocket is located right at the exit to the airport. The jerks which parked wrong had to see it.

Remains the question why the owner of the parket lot can't handle things proper.
But ok, long time 'blocked' cars make more money;)

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

ebook sales in a copyright free environment

Just got one of the eBook Reader here in Russia into my hands.

Nice thing. But not as fancy and cool as the amazon kindl I played
with last week.
The difference is that the kindl offers this great service were you
can everywhere download books and newspaper.
Much like the iPod with iTunes. Currently the service is just
available in the US.

However, the distribution of this particular ebook reader found a
unique solution. He just delivers it pre-loaded 3 500 books.
It's like buying a iPod pre-filled with Music.
(compare this with the US where a woman just was fined $2 Mill for 24
songs in the US)


Friday, 19 June 2009


Spent my night with 40 Russian downtown prague (guess the ruins are still burning). Instead of sleeping I rushed at 4:30 am to the airport to buy a last minute ticket to Munich (600 € for a 40 min flight). Had to make it to a private appointment at 8 am.
After boarding they announced a 120 min delay and my carefully orchestrated plan completly blew up.
--> Life can be such a bitch :)

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Media Review

I love faked media:)

No matter if the US Fox, German Spiegel or some Russian news.

You have so much to smile about.

E.g. The shown info graphic, stating 'clearly' that the good times from 2007/2008 will come back driven by the oil price. Just this time they will last. (I never forgot how in summer 2008 an employee suggested that the oil driven rubel till 2010 will replace the Euro and all German will have rubel in their wallets)

also in this particular newspaper

- China buys high level export good from the US, from Russia they buy raw material. The reason is NOT the quality, it is just better financing options from US banks

- a speech from President Medvedev about a possible 'virtual' currency to replace the USD immediately led to a crash of the US dollar on the international currency exchange


Good Morning

I found the pictured product in a supermarket.

You need to know two things to understand
- cyrillic
- German

It's written 'Guten Morgen' what has no meaning in Russian, but means 'Good Morning' in German.

It's supposed to help against hangover :)

Saturday, 6 June 2009

tree fluff

You see the white stuff on the picutres?

It isn't snow. It's some stuff coming from the trees every summer (I call it tree sperm).
And without merci it fills up your appartemnt, car and ENT cavaties.

Fortunatelly I don't have issues, but I also don't expect it to be hypoallergicm.
It even burns like hell.

So, no fun at all.

I just was in the country side and forests around moscow is no trace of it. It doesn't seem to be a specific russian kind of tree.

What leads me to the question why the the only tree they plant in they grey city is one that makes the biggest possible mess?!

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

the society reflects in the water

so, it's on again.
the once in a year "no hot water season". As usually NOT in summer, now, since beginning of May.

Once a year they switch off in Russia the hot water to clean the water pipes. Why?! nobody knows. They will tell you, "to clean", what is not an explenation.
As it always was like this people take it for granted (and are usually very surprised if you tell them it was never like this in western europe).
This year the administration was proud of themselves because the cold water period is just 2 weeks, instead of three.

At this time air temperature hoovers around 6 - 9 degrees outside your apartment becomes very cold when though every water pipe runs cold water.
As you can imagine this is very uncomfortable, you can work around the worst by buying a small boiler for you shower or by going to the fitness club to have a shower. But this doesn't solve the overall problem.

In my eyes it has a huge impact on hygiene and immunity.

- You have a city of 17 Million people crowded on a circle of 40 km. Then you switch of cold water, people shower less, you can't clean dishes and clothes any more that well (amazing, how much detergents depend on hot water).
Of course a sharp decline of hygiene is the result.

- At the same time people are constantly cold. So of course they have a reduced immunity.

FOr me this is on of the reasons, that child mortality is here five times higher than in Germany and the average age of men is just 57 years.
Of course, about this nobody speaks here in official media.

Instead of providing in the 21st all year hot water we hat from the Moscow officials in the last weeks the following actions:

- to show off, that the NY budget is lower than the budget of Moscow (which fades into corruption)
- make an huge opening of the eurovision song contest for 30 Million Euro
- celebrate victory day with an million dollar parade

not understandable for western. But ok, in Russia it's the country which matters, not the citizen. And they are fine with, it seems.


Friday, 17 April 2009

F*** Moscow

Moscow, you shock us again and again.

3 small amounts of fruits.. almost 100 Dollar in a Restaurant

700g Melon- 30 $
3x Peaches- 20 $
200 g Cherries- 50 $

And this basically in a 3rd world land.
This his is just possible in the the city of show offs and squander
P.S. I bought 300 g cherries a month later in Germany, 1.70 Euro (approx. 60 rbls)

Sunday, 8 March 2009

where the money goes

I spent the last days on trips in central Russia and the north western part.
two as sad as typical stories people told me there.

- a local surgeon told me, that her cities is on of the mongorod's, where basically one factory owns the city and employees all people. This doctors got for 2009 a budget to buy equipment of 3.000 euro.
Never mind, when the "natzalniki" (management) from Moscow visited they build an VIP toilet for 20.000 Euro

- my taxi driver in SPB had the luck to get a one million rubel subsidization for this outrageous expensive flats. However, to get this subsidization you have to fulfill so many ridiculous rules that you have to use some local agencies (controlled by the sames people who set up the subsidization).
So, from the social support of 1 mio Rbl he lost 600.000 rubles to this agencies.


Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Wifi taxi

I use to complain sometimes a bit about Russia.
But this doesn't mean that there are some areas we all (G7 ;) couldn't learn.
One of the things I learned in Russia, is that the world has meanwhile a 'digital' gapp. People and countries which understand that information and their flow is a raw material, and countries who don't.
Germany is for sure on the wrong side of this gapp (hotel, 10 min internet 2 euros; standdars cellphone contract you pay for the first transmitted bit a day 2 euros 'basic fee').
In germany they didn't yet even grasp the idea of an digital society.

Other Russia (and other eastern countries).
Take a look at the attached picture I made yesterday in my taxi home from the airport.

Free Wifi in the cab!

If you are german and read thsi blog you may react with 'nobodies needs this'. But think again, didn't you (German) not think the same about cellphones, blackberry and navigationsystems at the beginning?

I mean, first of all it's free. So you don't want it, don't use it. But if you consider that you ride to the airport needs at least 2h just to be then offline for the rest of your traveltime this is a freaking good idea.

And it shows how advanced sometimes the Russian thinking can be.

If you are Estonian and read this, you may not get the point of this blog at all, as that you have an Wifi covered country and Internet access in your constitution ;)

Friday, 20 February 2009

Vodka steretypes

So, you know this old steretype that Russians drink so much.

Well, it's just a steretype, isn't it.

However, look at the attached picture. The board shop from ural airlines offers a 'glas' of vodka for 1,5 euro.
It has a crown cap, so if you open it you have to drink it.

I stay with my coffee ;)

No country of old phones

I may have mentioned a couple of times the overwhelming onslaught of iphones even while it wasn't official available.

It's overall easily possible to realize that in our office, restaurant, plane there are a dozend iphones around you.

And while I love myself shiny new gadgets and like the iphone I consider it as very funny when people spend all this money on a phone just to... Well, phone with it (and of course be stylish, show off).

Usuall russian doen't have any clue what a iphone can do (and most off the german which bought one in Russia cauz it's cool).

I just watch a girl in the airport, sending sms with her iphone while listening Music with an old gen bulky iPod :)

Stupid, didn't she even realize that the iphone has a ipod built in beside a dozend of other features.


Bdw, the Russians in my office like to joke about the old phones Germans use. And I agree that germany is embarassing for lack of mobile internet, pricing and an ignorance in the populations & politics for their potential (we prefer to support the transrapid instead of UMTS to close the digital gap).

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Anti crisis action

So, russia has a hughe crisis.
Basically because the blow it.

While they had money (from oil) they prefered to buy football clubs, buy skyscrapers and show of on international level (from St. Moritz to G8) instead of adapting technologies and strengthening their industry..
And this bdw, not done by some elite. It was done and carried out by a wide social consense.

Ok, never mind. So now they have in the crisis their very own particular crisis.
And what happens, a lot of stupid new laws.

So they try now to kick foreigners out by making it really to get an workallowance.
So it happens to me and other.

Fun, what do they think. That kicking out the foreigners of an foreign representative office with 2 foreigner (non corrupt management basically) and 100 (well managed hopefully) Russian and an aggressive growth strategie will make things better?

Finally, if you want attract foreign investment and knowhow on a country scoring a whooping 140st place on the corruption ranking you should make laws against foreign management or engineers.

Russian anti crisis programm, full throttle in the crisis :)

Friday, 13 February 2009

Estonias language ability

I guess and hope I already expressed in this forum a couple of time my respect from this small country with a hughe inferiou compley (what helps them to excel in a lot of things)

So I spent this week traveling the Baltic States.
Usually you come along with Russian. People understand, except in Estonia.

In Riga, Latvia one guy told me, that even during Sovjettimes Estonias where famous for NOT speaking russian.
Next day I went to the Estonias countryside. Somewhere in the middle I stopped to pick up a coffee.

Entering the place the propably not to high eduacated waitress welcomed me in fluent english.
And actually in 5 years I never meet anybody in estonia not speaking decent english.

So I wonder, how could Estonias refuse 50 years to learn any Russian but in 5 year they kick started themself to a truly multilanguage society ;)

The answer reveals the real power of an democratic and free EU and US versus controled regimes.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

hit and run

So, I sat this morning in my car waiting for a college in front of his hotel.
Motor running, warning lights on, in the parking area.

When all a sudden another car scratches my one. He thought he could overtake another car on the right and miscalculated.

I was honking like crazy, but of course he didn't mind and keep on going. As I will go to the police.

Crazy behavior, and so short minded. The mind of this driver went like this

- "where will I be better off in the next 5 seconds, when I drive behind the car or overtake him right"

==> overtaking

- "ups, I crashed somebody... where will I be better off in the 5 seconds. When I stop or when I drive away"

==> drive away

what I realy like about Russia is the fact, that is is never boring ;)

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Crisis.. police

wow, came back from NY holiday and in really seems to be the crisis here.
OK, the rubel crased by 30%, oilprice and stock by more than 70%.
But now I feel the upcoming storm.

Two days in a row police stopped & checked me. Usually this happens once a month and they don't find anything to fine.
This time the started digging till they found something (outdated(!) translation of my driving license.

Now it's funny with official persons in Russia. They usually want to pay you the penalty upfront without any official paper or receipe. (A western minded person may call this bribery, but here it's just one of the twisted way the russian soul goes we Europeans anyway never understand ).

I always refuse to pay. (I don't refuse to pay any offical fine, just the unofficial one. Of course it would be easier. But how can I become part of the system I complain so much about?).

The (1st) time the police didn't just let me go. He started to lecture me, how much more a german police men earns than him. I answered him, that this he may discuss with the city administration, not with me.

When it happened the next day a 2nd time it was right in front of the Kremel. I sat in the police car, front windows showing the illuminted Kreml 50 m from us.
The lights in the police car was out (doesn't help to write reports, but helps to pass the money unnoticed). It was quite romantic, russian police and me in the shine of the Kreml lights.
I started wto discuss where their college stopped the day before.

So I pointed out, that I am fine with paying any official fine, but... pointing to the Kreml, that they should discuss their finances with some other people.
The answer was quite surprisingly and I assume honest.

I told me, when he get an decent salary he will stop to make differences if the suspect he catches if a Russian, German or "on of them" (pointing to the Kremel).
And "they" don't want to be the same.

I kept thinking about this
We speak here about the country with the 3rd highest foreign currency reserves in the world, which is not able to pay their police (doctors, nurses, teachers) a decent salary in the most expensive city in the world.
Then I remembered how two years ago some Oligarch in the French alps was arrested for orgies during his skiing holiday where prositution was forbidden.
The public outcry in Russia was immense. And it always came down to "the European envy our money". No radio commentator or talk show stated the simple fact that the broke the law.

I guess this is it. They miss totally the concept that everybody is equal in front of the law. Considering that this was properous years I start to wonder what will happens now.

crisis :) Rolex

Back in Moscow, So I went out in the evening and had a beer with a friends.
It wasn't one of the cheap places, but last year still ok.
Now for two Heineken 840 rbls = 22 Euro is even in Moscow a lot. Seems the increases pricing a bit.

Then a girl at the counter started to speak with me.
I realized that she has a nice wristwatch and asked here If a I can take a look. Turned out to be a rolex. I am not far from an expert, but it didn't look like one of the cheap Rolex. (a cheap Rolex is the one your friends dream of buying on day and you don't understand what is special about it. This watch was definitely shiny)

So, I told her: "Wow, nice... from your husband?"
She (pissed): "What the hell, do you think I need a husband for this?!"
I: "Listen, how old are you? 24, 25 years?"
She: "25"
I: "Ok, husband or parents, nobody can earn with 25 enough cash to buy himself such a rolex."
She (subdued": "parents"


A real crisis can only help this society to come back to earth and then build up some real values!

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.