OK y’all, one more fun story from Siberia:
I got off of that train for a 2 day stopover in Krasnoyarsk, on the Yenisei River, one of Siberia’s many great wilderness rivers that flow north to the Arctic Sea. Krasnoyarsk marks the boundary between Western Siberia and Eastern Siberia. It’s a pretty big city, I think the 3rd largest behind Moscow & St. Pete.
Compared to the much more cosmopolitan cities in European Russia, Siberian Russia has not undergone nearly so much change since the Soviet days. You will still find all of the statues of Lenin, and all the Soviet monuments. You will also find that the psychology of the people is much more aligned with what I perceived as a Soviet Era mindset.
When I checked into my Airbnb 6th floor apartment in the center of town, I was met by the manager, Yevgenie. This was the 1st Airbnb where I was asked to sign an actual rental contract (in Russian), but more telling- this was the 1st Airbnb host that had ever asked for my passport, and then proceeded to take a photograph of my personal information page and the page that included my Russian visa. No big deal, it’s not private info.
I spent my day walking the town, and had settled down that evening to my favorite Russian mixed drink- vodka with a glass of water on the side (if needed), when at around 10 p.m. I heard a phone ring inside my apartment, and I realized there was a phone hanging on the wall next to the front door, which I answered. It was Yevgenie, apologizing that he had failed to get a picture of my Russian entry document, a piece of paper they give you at immigration to document your arrival when you enter the country. Yevgenie was at the entry door to the building down on the 1st floor and asked me to buzz him into the building so that he could come up and correct his omission. I realized that he was probably answering to local authorities who had sent him back over to get all info available on this American who had showed up in their town- for their dossier, I presumed. I buzzed Yevgenie up, and he explained that it was “the rules”, and that he could be heavily fined if he did not comply. I was more concerned about what would happen if I did not comply. He took his photo and left.
I spent the next day touring the Yenisei River, and again that night as I’m nodding off to sleep, at 10:30 p.m. this time, the phone rang. I answered it, and it is NOT Yevgenie! A man says “I am Nicolai, the administrator, open the door, please”. I said “Who? What? What do you want?” To which he replied “I am administrator, open the door and let me in.” “Why?” I asked. “I must photograph each page of your passport, it is the rules. Let me in please.” By then I was awake enough to be both annoyed and alarmed, and I responded “Nyet! It’s too late, come back tomorrow”, and I hung up the phone. Nicolai was persistent: the phone rang again and he said “Open the door, it is the rules.” “No, not tonight. Come back tomorrow, during the daytime. I will not open the door tonight!” After several seconds of silence Nicolai says “tomorrow?”, sounding perplexed. I said “At 9 a.m. tomorrow, during the daytime, I will open the door then, and you can take all the photos you want! Goodnight!”
I was shaken. I called Sandy to let her know what was going on, just in case we were not done for the night.
The next day, at 9 a.m. sharp, the phone rang again. I didn’t answer it, but simply buzzed the door open, and a minute later there was a knock at my door. The guy at the door was not Nicolai, nor Yevgenie, but a different fellow. I sourly threw my passport on the table and said “there you go.” Sure enough, he proceeded to photograph every page of my passport, about 25 photos I guess. When he was finished he said “Thank you. You are leaving now?” To which I responded “Nope. Checkout time is at noon. I’m leaving at noon.” “You will not leave now?” “No, I will leave at noon, per my contract.” He makes a phone call- in Russian- while standing in front of me and then says “OK, we return at noon.”
This is about the time that I wrote post #22, and I’m sure you could detect the underlying anxiety from my tone.
At 11:30 a.m. the phone rang, and I buzzed the entry door open. This time, it’s not 9 o’clock guy, but once again a completely new man walks in, along with a house keeper who proceeds to start cleaning the apartment. With my backpack slung over my shoulder, I tossed the guy the keys, said “Adios”, and walked out of the door.
On my walk to the train station I determined that I would put Krasnoyarsk, and Siberia, and Russia in my rear view mirror.