SOVIET HOSPITALITY Part 7 Ammened Sorry!
next part a visit for March 8th Women’s Day
Rabfail and I went to the woods to look for the bears. The woods, still in the town, are lovely, utterly quiet but the bears are sad, sitting together in a small cage. They, being rather lazy creatures did not seem too badly treated but two badgers, also confined, were clearly bored. They were playing together but every now and again ran to the edge of the cage, stood up trying to see a way out. There was even a wolf in a cage barely even visible from the area where people could stand so his captivity seemed even more pointless. A polar fox in a small cage was the worst off; he was alone. We went on further and saw the happier part of the zoo, red deer and others all free behind a fence. I saw my first red squirrel, very tame. It seems that reindeer also roam their part of the woods but we only saw their food rack. Rabfail carried our camera in his briefcase. He presented quite a comical view, strolling through snowy woods with a briefcase.
We got home just in time to greet Nikolai who came to take me on a motor tour of the town. Rabfail and I had agreed that he was due time off and could stay home and practise his music for tomorrow but Nikolai, who is his boss, would not hear of it so we both went and Rabfail fell asleep in the car bolt upright. I think he must be worn out. We went to have a look at a pretty orthodox church where thy were in the process of restoring the font which was invisible as they had built a wooden construction around it to be able to work while protected from the weather.
We also saw another church, half built, a modern brick one with clover shaped windows. We got out of the car and walked to the war memorial from which point the whole sweep of the Belaya river is visible and miles of snow covered country beyond, to the left a vast low hill where stands residential Ufa and to the rightin the distance a whole skyline of chimneys, the industrial part of the town. We then drove out to see that part. As we drew nearer everything got greyer and greyer and evil smelling air pervaded the car. Although Ufa started to be industrialised well before the war they have neverthe less kept living accommodation and industry totally separate.
Industrial Ufa has two huge oil refineries and just about every other heavy industry and pumps pollution into the air at an alarming rate but in the residential areas the air is so clean that my clothes so far seem as clean as when I arrived and mu fingernails have never been so clean. In London after a few hours one has dirty hands just from walking about. Here I retyrn at night and wash my hands and the water seems totally clean yet the other end of the town is a nightmare.
What astonished me was that in the industrial area there are allotments Russian style.. These ‘sady’ are a very different matter to out allotments. Each one has its own miniature house of wood and they not only grow fruit and veg but spend weekends and fête days there. I can understand a man who lives in a back to back house next to a coal mine rushing off to his allotment on his day off but for the life of me I cannot see why one who lives in a flat in Ufa with every facility and wild woods a stones throw from home should want o go into the smog and dig his patch. More of сады (gardens) later.
After our tour we returned to the Cherkassov flat and were once more regaled with a feast.. We ate pelmeni with rich tomato sauce (not American style bottled) and Smetana. The crowning glory was развалêнвй замок (ruined castle) – a concoction made by cementing small round meringues with a sauce of egg yolk, raisins, chopped prunes and chocolate.. It was delicious. They have a cat, the first family I’ve met with a pet although I’ve seen plenty of dogs and cats on the streets. This cat Nikolai says is a little bandit. It’s called Alissa and it’s 8 year old owner adores it. They told me when it was a kitten it fell off the balcony (5 floors) and returned via the stairs.