Kamchatka, land of fire and ice

Unwelcome to Kamchatka! You disuninviteded!

I travel all over the world (or did until the plague hit). Africa, Asia, Europe and South America, you name it and in these places you will find friendly, charming folks who want to show you their countries Except Russia. I’ve been to Russia several times and I go for a number of reasons. One is that I think Moscow today (I mean two years ago) has the best restaurants in the world and I’m including Paris and NYC. Also the meals are basically free as the ruble is so weak the bill is actually lower than the tip would be in America. Three star Michelin quality for $50. This is a new phenomenon. When I was there 30 years ago McDonalds was considered a place to dine for a grand celebration.

I also go because the Russians have perfected the art of rudeness across seven time zones. They aren’t all rude and felonious but many are and it is actually pretty hilarious at times. Once flying into St. Petersburg I saw them reverse the screening conveyer so they could x-ray our bags coming into town to see what they wanted to steal and steal they did.

Shopkeepers snarl at you, little old ladies scold you and I was once detained by the police because they thought I caught them on camera accepting a bribe…which I did. Many are on the con and I once found a stall selling burned out lightbulbs. Whaaaa? It seems you can swap the burned out one for a working one in your office and steal the good one.

Well hell, I’m a warm weather guy so I’ll skip this particular end-of-the-world. Kamchatka is the eastern most part of Russia—dangling into the Pacific like the drooping gonads of some field weary Brahma bull. Kamchatka is where you go if you can’t make it elsewhere in Russia. There are 160 some volcanos with dozens active, and valleys of sulfur-rich spouting geysers lending the place a hellscapish atmosphere. And the food is not up to Moscow standards.

The main import is despair and exports include salmon and ennui.

The Russians aren’t big on concealing their mistakes be they wrecked Airflops lining the runways at airports or a rusting fleet of ships in Petropavlovsk the regional capital. The Russians have been great shipbuilders even though they never had a seaport in the west until Peter the Great established St. Petersburg in about 1700.

Did someone mention shipbuilding? Ok, ok this article was just an excuse to write about the 1870s era Russian Imperial Navy ship Novgarod. It was commissioned by General Admiral Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolayevich, a man much given to gold braid and glittering commendations. 

The ship has been called the most misguided design of a warship since the Vasa fell over seconds after it was launched in Stockholm in front of king and country in 1627.

The Novgarod was an Ironclad, with 7” of steel plating and 9”s of teak planking—then crisscrossed with iron ribs and finally clad in copper. Heavy, very heavy. The ship was 110’ in diameter and the idea was a round ship would have a shallow draft and be easy to turn. It sported two deck cannons and was nearly impossible to steer in heavy weather, which is usually, and the cannons were impossible to aim and when fired caused the ship to spin. They also took 10 minutes to reload, a long time when under enemy fire.

The ship saw a little action in the Russo-Turkish War in 1875 but with a top speed of six knots (in an era of 16 knots) it was barely able to move especially considering it was supposed to patrol the Dnieper River with its substantial flow.

In time the Russians got better at engineering and eventually beat us to the Moon landing. Oh this isn’t true you say. This TV series imagines what the world would look like if this was true.

Easter Egg: A film not to miss is Being Evel. This is a documentary about Evel Knievel the man who invented extreme sports. A rollicking tale.

This guy

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4 Comments

  • Mmm, a Russian version of cioppino in a can. Just warm and serve. Nice segway to the infamous Novgarod. The good General Admiral Grand Duke obviously never sledded down a hill on a snow saucer. I just googled them and saw someone selling a completely dented up 70’s era aluminum flying snow saucer for $90!

  • This blog is definitely rather handy since I’m at the moment creating an internet floral website – although I am only starting out therefore it’s really fairly small, nothing like this site. Can link to a few of the posts here as they are quite. Thanks much. Zoey Olsen

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