ich habe in Sibirien gearbeitet

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Moderator: Norbert


ich habe in Sibirien gearbeitet

Beitrag von HOTCHEF » Mittwoch 12. Mai 2010, 23:40

sorry es ist in englischer sprache, hoffenlich löscht der Moderatoor es nicht....
ich schreibe auch nebenbei, aber eben in englisch, weil es dann mehr chancen gibt es gedruckt zu bekommen...

Siberian Adventures
(Pages: 9
Words: 5246)

Siberia? What does that mean, still, to many people? Cold and freezing most of the year anyway and millions of mosquitoes during a short hot summer. Moreover, to the older generation, war and hardship, GULAG and other untold horrors.
Of course, things have changed a lot during the last few years. Most of Siberia was closed to tourists, with the exception maybe for a trip on the Transiberian railway. However, tourism has reached now even the most remote places might that be deepest Africa or high in the Himalayas. In addition, of course the decreeing traveler expects to be pampered with the finest food and best drinks, after all the pays for it.
There is satellite TV, cellular telephones and the Internet. Room- service around the clock and if you need your pants pressed at 4 o'clock in the morning for that important date or business meeting in the Tundra, it would be done.
5 star Chefs will produce the food that will please the most decreeing gourmet. It will be imported produce (bananas do not grow, yet, in the Taiga) but we will also choose from the best that local suppliers will deliver and there is lots of it.
The bars will be stocked with finest French Wines and Cognac or fiery liqueurs produced by local distillers.
This story is actually a compilation of several cruises up and down the Jenisei River. The ship, the Anton Chechov sails from Krasnojarsk in the center of Siberia high up north into the polar region to Ust-Port. We stop there at several towns, villages and places, do some sightseeing and of course shopping. And move on to the next village or city.
I also had the chance to go on all excursions. Moreover, since I speak good Russian I was asked to help with translations. Alternatively, if an older guest needed some help, well hiking in the Tundra is strenuous and an extra hand was always welcome.

Ust- Port (2250 km from Krasnojarsk)

A day ago, the temperature was a 'soaring' +10° C and millions of mosquitoes and assorted 'man-eaters.' Now it is cold and we walk around like mummies wrapped up in anoraks and thick caps .At least we did not bring all the things for nothing! From the sun, there is nothing to see and from the looks of it will stay this way. Actually it is raining already the whole day and if the thermometer drops a few degrees more, we are likely to have snow.
What is to see in Ust-Port? A few hundred wooden buildings and the central heating station. A few shops that are amazingly well stocked. In addition, in the center of the village a huge mountain of coal. This is far more important than a statue of Lenin or Stalin. Without them, they can live very well, but without coal, they cannot survive the long hard winter.
In addition, here, like in all villages and cities that are constructed in the permafrost region, all buildings stand on concrete poles about one meter above ground. Otherwise the ground beneath them will thaw and the houses will slowly sink into the ground as it happened in the early days when the engineers had not mastered yet this way of constructing buildings.
It is now mid-July but there is still snow in the shady places and it will not melt. Moreover, come end of August most probably the short summer will be over and it will start to snow again.
During these few short weeks all that is needed to survive the rest of the year, has to be brought in by ship. From food, fuel to toilet paper. During the long and harsh winter months, planes or helicopters will bring in only essential items. Moreover, this is rather expensive and who has the money to pay all this. The local government or the Kremlin? Well, that is another story and not for me to dwell upon.

Ust- Port - Dudinka

It is now 1h in the morning and the sun is still shining. We are somewhere on the Jenisei between Ust -Port and Dudinka, in the Polar Circle. During the day the weather was also accordingly, one moment it was raining, a few km down the river, around a bend, there were snow flurries and in-between, unbelievable, the sun was shining.
Left and right on the riverbanks there is nothing but Tundra, no house, tree or bush.

We picked up a new load of tourists, aged between 50 and 80 years (young...). Nevertheless, some of these elderly people are amazingly agile. Suppose who comes to Siberia on vacation is not your average tourist. We have on board a gentleman, 80 years young, who takes a dip in the river every day.(when the ship is anchored, naturally).Clad in his shorts and a inflatable live vest he is a formidable sight. In addition, just in case that he does not swim away, one of the sailors has attached a line to his belt. The water temperature of the river is a refreshing +10°C.

Dudinka (1989 km from Krasnojarsk)

Our ship has anchored at Dudinka, another town on the Jenisei River. It is nearly on the border of the arctic sea in Northern Siberia. A dreary place on the map where the ground is permanently frozen and thaws even in summer only to depth of about 1 m. From Moscow to Dudinka it is by plane 3500 km. The distances are gigantic here in Siberia.
All buildings here are constructed on stilts, deeply rammed into the permafrost, in places down to the bedrock. Dudinka was the first town where the Soviets mastered the problems with the permafrost that made buildings sink into the ground.
Summer lasts about 3 month, the rest is cold and freezing, temperatures down to -50°C. And lots of snow and ice. The Jenisei River freezes down to 2 m deep and of course, all river navigation comes to a halt. A nice place to live? Despite all the hardship, people do live here, if the like it is of course another question. However, where else to go?
At present it is raining (again), two days ago it was still snowing.' Summer 'is still far away. Nevertheless, this can change very quickly. The weather here is very unpredictable, it might change in a few hours and the temperature could be +25°C.And millions of moscitos and other assorted 'man-eaters' that make life living hell here.
For me working on a ship is a big change. It is also the first time ever that I accepted a position on a ship. The kitchen is small and ceilings are low. However, the biggest drawback for me is the cabin to work and to live in. And of course the narrow bunk to sleep. No nice big bed, as I was used to from my apartment!

Helicopterflight to the GULAG

Another first for me, a flight in helicopter.16 tourists, 3 tour guides and three pilots and off we go or rather fly! In a surprisingly clean and well-maintained Aeroflot helicopter. However, with the racket this thing makes, talking is impossible. On the other hand also not to bad. A few minutes peace from all the silly questions the tourists are asking. Nevertheless, I still wish there would be headphones like the pilots are wearing.
From the ship, on the riverbanks, one only can see miles and miles of apparently green Taiga. However, from the air the picture is one of destruction and desolation. Dead trees as far as the eye can see. In some places, there were large-scale forest fires. And nothing much is growing yet. However, factories that are over 300 km away in Norilsk are destroying most of the trees. Acid rain and pollution take a heavy toll. A few hardy bushes are more or less the only green sights wide and far.
Than all over sudden, we landed in a meadow, the grass nearly meter-high. Time to make some photos of the railway that led to the GULAG. Or what was left over. A few broken down concrete pillars from the bridge over the river and some lengths of rusty rails. Moreover, as usual we had to ward of the hungry bloodsuckers, which seemed to know when and where the helicopter with the tourists is going to land. Therefore, after a few minutes we climbed all back on board and now we had the mosquitoes with us in the helicopter. What a lot of fun...
Thinking that we will now fly to the GULAG the pilots took of. However, all we saw were a few half-rotten and overgrown barracks when we were flying over it, and that was it. (Only later back on the ship did I find out that the tour operators can not get permission to actually land at the GULAG). Suppose, as with everything it is also a question of money or the lack of it. To clean out the overgrowth and maybe set up {sic} some souvenir shops. Moreover, of course have at least a nice path from the helicopter to next fast food restaurant...
Local tour guides do not talk much about 'what happened in the past.'
The ships tour guides told me that locals are still very careful what they are talking about. Not that they might be afraid to be spied upon by whoever. However, they are not always sure how tourists might be reacting to the stories. Especially older people who might have been in Siberia as prisoners during or after the war. Some might even have been incarcerated in one of the camps around here. (One tourist actually had found out that one of his relatives spent time in one of the camps around Igarka. But never did return to tell the story.)
Nevertheless, since I speak good Russian there were always at least one or two tourists who also wanted to know more. And than it was like opening a stream. Stories were told that of course are never mentioned in any of the nice, sanitized brochures and travel-guides.

Helicopter flight to a Nomad's Camp.

One of the treasures of the regions is the wild reindeer. Apparently, there are about a million animals roaming the tundra. Moreover, the people who hunt them are still living the way as their forbears did. Since the tundra regenerates herself only about after 8-9 years, 'grazing grounds 'can be used only after this time again. So more or less the reindeer roam wild and in winter the Nomads have to follow them. During wintertime, also fox, wolves and other wild animals are being hunted for their pelts. In addition, of course reindeer for their meat. This is also being traded with the helicopter pilots who drop by.
During summertime, a more or less permanent camp is being set up and tourists are being shown around how the nomads live. Old men tell their story how much better it was 'before'. Moreover, I really believe for them it might have been true. They were free to follow the reindeer, live off the land and come and go as they pleased.
Since it is summer and schools are closed, there are also many children at the camp. (During wintertime they are being sent off to boarding school to the next bigger town, and thought the glories of capitalism and free marketing.) Moreover, children being children, like all over the world, they want presents. Of course they know first the have to pose for all the silly tourists who want to have many photos from the 'oh, so cute' babies and bigger children. However, after some time they must have enough of the cheap pens with ads from far away travel agent. I always bought a big bag of sweets, that is much for fun and worries about bad teeth will come later.
In addition, there are dogs all over, under and in-between the legs of the visitors. Friendly creatures who want to be petted and are looking for something to eat.
In the back, we observed how a carcass of a freshly killed reindeer is being loaded into the helicopter. The pilots taking their next few days' dinner back to base. Wrapped up in an old bag, the blood still dripping on the ground. And the dogs happily licking the drops from the grass.

Somewhere on the Jenisei, 1h in the night/morning

We are still not sleeping. However, sitting on the bar and having another beer. Outside it is pouring and there is constant lightning. However, we can not hear any thunder. This is the weather in Siberia. A few short hours ago, the Mosquitoes were feasting on us and now it is cold again. On the banks of the river, we can see piles of dirty snow. Still from last winter and it will not melt any more. Actually if the weather worsens we might have snow during the night.

Igarka, Permafrost Station (1744 km from Krasnojarsk)

What is 'Permafrost?' In these parts of Siberia the ground thaws even during summer only to a depth of about one meter. The rest, up to forty meters stays frozen all year around. Therefore, all buildings must be built on concrete stilts, rammed deeply into the frost. If possible down to bed- rock. If not, the foundations will bring the ground to melt and slowly the whole building will sink into the mud.
During the forties and fifties engineers and scientists constructed in a depth of about 15 meters laboratories and a testing station. With magazines to explore the storage of frozen food and to do other experiments. Perfectly frozen remains of animals were found. Also grasses and trees. Moreover, it could be proved that Siberia was not always that cold an inhospitable place as it is now. Palmtrees were growing there and other plants that are found now only in the tropics or more moderate parts of our world.
Now money has dried up from Moscow, the scientists have left and the station is closed. Now only a small part has been re-opened again. To show the tourist around and this way at least to get some money to make ends meet.
Supreme Leader Stalin also wanted progress to be faster in Siberia so he ordered that a railway should be built. The vast resources of the Taiga should be utilized for the better of all people. Forestry, mining and water- power. Moreover, it was done; with 300 000 political prisoners. Herded together in a GULAG in the middle of the forest. Many did not survive Siberia. The railway also did not. During spring, the thawing frost always destroyed the railway. In fall and wintertime, it was re-constructed again and the trains were rolling hauling timber and iron-ore. Later than the Jenisei was conquered with stonger and bigger ships. In addition, with the advance of the airplane, the railway lost out increasingly. Finally it was left to rot and now the remains serve as a reminder of a dictator's folly.

Polar Circle, in the morning....

It is tradition on the Chechov that Crew and tourists alike get a 'christening' when they pass over the polar circle for the first time. (I believe the same happens to guests and crew when you cross over the equator for the first time).
And for two crewmembers and for me it was the first time.
It just looks so normal, but everything is being planed very careful! All the tourists seemed to know what would happen because I was wondering why all over sudden so many of them were around with cameras. Whoever might be in for a dunk is being grabbed by the legs and arms and thrown into the ships pool, quite unceremoniously. With all clothes on, shoes, glasses and watch. This time three of us were the victims.
At least my cabin was just around the corner so it was no problem to get changed quickly. At least we were not dropped into the freezing Jenisei River but the heated ship's swimming pool. The Chechov does have all imaginable comfort!
21 years ago, she was built in Korneuburg, a shipyard on the outskirts of Vienna. This is no joke, at this yard in its heydays quite a few big ships were built that are still around in service. The Chechov was ordered by the Kremlin's rulers for the pleasure of the hardworking high-ranking members of the Party so they might have a nice place to relax away from the prying eyes of the less well off working comrades. The ship sports a restaurant, reading room, hairdresser and sauna. However, most important at all, there are two bars. And of course, the heated swimming pool.
But than the party was in need of finances and the all paid for trips were a thing of the past. The ship was sold and supposed to make some money for the new investors. Well, it did not work out either. So the professionals were called in, in this case the Austrians and Swiss.To setup and run an operation that would appeal to well-heeled tourists.
The first cruise starts as soon water and weather conditions in Siberia allow it. Moreover, the ship was and is fully booked right to the end of the season. Bringing in a handsome reward for the owners of the ship. In addition, for the company who charters it. And have of course a good salary and bonus for the crew. That is being paid every month and on time. Not an easy achievement either.
The time is now 3.30 in the morning. The sun is not shining anymore but it is light enough to read and write without light. Moreover, it will be this way for the next 2 month.

Turuchansk, on the Jenisei (1450 km from start)

Another village in the Siberian Taiga. A dot on the map only remembered now because Comrade Stalin used get his mail here. Moreover, he also visited another exiled politician here. Lenin exiled Stalin here from 1914 to 1916. A fact that was not known to most people. (Maybe he should have stayed there longer in the Taiga. It would have saved the world and the USSR quite a few problems.)
There is not to much to see in this village.No statues of Lenin or Stalin.The center of the village is the central power/heating station.And, the now very much diminished,coal supply. That is much more important than anything else.Winters are long and cold and coal and most other supplies can only be brought in while the river is not frozen and navigable.
Local shops are surprisingly well stocked.From chewing gum to catfood ,the best only.Are there no mice in Siberia?Suppose the cats also got used to the capitalist way and prefer to get fed instead of hunting for themselves.
And there were beautiful furcoats.But not to show off but to wear in the Siberian cold.Therefore no mink or sable.But sheepskins from Mongolia and rabbit or Nutria.

River Lower Tunkuska-Stony Tunguska.

2989 km,another very long river,but we only sail about 3h up and back.And a very unpredictable river.During the spring time the water level can rise 15 m in a few short weeks.During the short summer season the ships sail in convois of up to twenty or thirty.And they bring everything that is needed to survive.From matches to pre-fabricated houses.After 2 month winter starts again and the river freezes down to a depth of 2 meters or more.All activity comes to a halt until next April or May when life starts over again.
In the year 1908 something exploded here that created a crater of some 100 km in diameter.Trees were felled like matchsticks and nothing was left alive.However how many deaths were there nobody knew since the whole are was sparsley populated.And nobody knew,or cared it seemes,how many people lived there in the first place.If it realy was a meteorit up to this day not a single piece was ever found.But in one thing the local population all agreed with.Whatever it was that exploded over the Tunguska made the sky shine brightly a week BEFORE it happend.

Komsa, in theTaiga (950 km from Krasnojarsk)

We have stopped again. The tourists are marching through the Taiga. And hopefully not eaten alive by the millions of mosquitoes and assorted bloodsuckers. Moreover, I have been convinced that I also should go with them, a march of some 21/2 hours. The taiga is more or less also 'just' a forest like back at home only there are no oaktrees and wild boars. However, firs and birch. In addition, reindeer, fox and bears. Of course, we did not see any animals. With all that noise the people make, any animal would take to the next hill or hide in a burrow and hope for the best. Unfortunately, a few Swiss guests were highly upset because there were no bears to be seen. Since this is no circus but the wild, we had to explain the bears do not dance when we arrive.
However, there grows lots of wild garlic. So soon, the braver gourmets were munching away on the leaves. After I assured them that, nothing more serious might happen to them, their partner might not want to kiss them tonight.
In spring when the leaves and stalks are still young and tender it is picked and eaten like spinach. Alternatively, salted and pickled for later use. Eaten with marinated cucumbers, tomatoes and garlic as an appetizer. In addition, washed down with or three, or more.
Moreover, the bloodsuckers had mercy on us. Or they had already their fill of fresh tourist blood.
The kitchen on board ship had arranged dinner to be served on the beach today. Over an open fire, the local fishermen had prepared a big cauldron of fish soup. With fresh water from the Jenisei river, for that special taste. When we all arrived sweaty, thirsty and hungry from the forest, this was better than any gourmet meal in a five star restaurant. The weather was nice and a fresh breeze was blowing. At least it also kept the mosquitoes away. Nevertheless, later in the afternoon it got actually chilly. This is after all Siberia and not the Mediterranean. Moreover, the difference between night and day is still quite noticeable.

On the banks of the Jenisei, Village Worogovo (795 km from Start)

A few weeks ago this little village made headlines all over Russia. The whole area was flooded because the ice of the river was piled up meterhigh. Further inland the ice was melting fast during the spring thaw but this high up north the river was still frozen. One half of the village was washed down completely only a few houses were left standing. The other half was 'only' flooded up to about 1 m high. During summer, the banks of the Jenisei are some 15 m below the village; this just shows how much the level can rise in a few short weeks.
Army engineers had to dynamite the ice before it could do more damage. Now everybody is busy re-building or renovating. After all, there are only a few short weeks left. Come end of September it will start snowing and the river will freeze over again.
In addition coal, fuel, and diesel and of course, food has to be brought in by boat. Once the river is frozen all traffic has to stop and plane and helicopter are the only transport available with the rest of the world. However, who can pay them?

Yenisseysk (413 km from Start)

Another little town on the banks of the Jenisei. The center is still well preserved. Nice old, well-preserved, 19th century buildings. Moreover, houses still constructed from thick trees. Yenisseysk lives from wood. More or less rather clean because there are no factories or other polluting industries. However, most of it is being worked in small shops or home crafts.
The town was also the center of the fur/pelt industry. However, not from animals that were kept in small cages but caught in the wild. Here in Siberia where the temperature drops to -50° or -60°C there is no place for syntetics. They do not keep you warm.Here a furcoat is no luxury but neccesity.And once again,no sable or mink but fox or Nutria .
Last century gold was also found. Yenisseysk was also once a rich city. That was until the Soviets came and that was the end of it.
A few brave tourists and I went for lunch to a local restaurant. But I knew there would be no problem. The place was clean, the food well prepared and tasty. So, no need to worry someone might get sick. However, just in case we ended the meal with '2x100 gr' Vodka. To give an eventually lost bug no chance...(For anyone who does not know yet, in Russia, Vodka and all other strong drinks are not sold by ml but by gramm.50 gr for a toast is the minimum and 100 grams, or multiples thereof, are considered 'normal'. However, the conciencous drinker does not just slug it back. As the minimum, one always has a glass of juice or a snack to eat with, like a piece of bread or something sour, like pickles or tomatoes.)

Krasnojarsk 26

This town can only be viewed and seen from board of the ship. It is not possible to visit there. Krasnojarsk 26 was and still is a 'closed' town. That means not even visitors, never mind tourists are being aloud in. The town was the center of the uranium mining and processing for the USSR and now for Russia. The mountains are hollowed out like a giant Swiss cheese. Moreover, even under the river, there are tunnels right to the other side. Whoever works there is being restricted from doing many things, nothing much has changed. Along the river, one can see only barbed wire fences and tunnels dug into the mountains.
However, maybe in a few years things might also change here? Maybe there will be guided tours into the mountains to see the uranium mines. Even if they might acquire a slight green sheen. Tourists will do everything if that will give them a chance to boost at home that they have 'done' another extreme. It is possible to visit Chernobyl, why not a little uranium mine...

Somewhere on the river

We have anchored again and the tourists are stomping through the forest. Moreover, this time I was with them. One time I should be on every excursion. At least than I can answer all the questions about the Taiga, Tundra and all the other sights that we are going to see. The Taiga is a forest like any other. There are just different trees, instead of firs there are Siberian cedars and birch and of course no oaktrees. Vegetation is a little bit different also, there is lots of wild garlic. Moreover, apparently there are also ticks, but it was to hot and we did not really walk through thick brush so nobody was bitten. Temperatur was about +35°C and humid like in a laundry. In addition, of course there were the always-present mosquitoes. At least I got wise rather quick and got hold of a local repellant. Funny enough it did not smell but it kept the suckers at bay. It seemed to me that they loved all the imported cremes and lotions and went after the tourists....
We also had a swim in the river. The water had a refreshing +13°
so it was more a quick dip in and out. The river is not to clean. There were many algae but we were hot and sweaty. Moreover, we kept the mouth shut and did not swallow.
After a hard day of working and excursion, it was nice to sit in the bar and relax over a beer or two. Soon it was 'storytime' again. After all, I work now the 9th year in Russia. Moreover, it seems to fascinate the tourists to no end how an Austrian Chef comes to work in Siberia.

Krasnojarsk (Beginning or End of a Cruise)

Krasnojarsk, also the capital of the province with the same name, is the beginning or end of a cruise. A tour lasts 11 days with about 160 to 180 tourists and 120 crew. We sail up to Ust-Port and back to Dudinka and there people depart and fly back home to Switzerland, Germany or wherever they came from. New tourists arrive and we are soon back on our way to Krasnojarsk. Ten days down river with all excursions and visits, like on the way up. Than in Krasnojarsk the tourists depart .In the meantime the ship is being cleaned, we load some 20 tons food and provisions. In addition, I do not know how many tons diesel, oil and water.
Fruits and vegetables, toilet paper and mosquito spray, all has to be brought on board here in Krasnojarsk.At the beginning of the season a few items come by truck from St.Petersburg. These items might not be available in such big amounts locally, as we need them. However, no meat from Belgium or the UK and not from Germany. Only local made Coca-Cola, excellent beer and mineral water. Supplies and quality are very good, no need to have all imported goods on board. After all the tourists come to try local products, and eat local food. Of course there will be also French and Italian wines and Scotch whisky. Moreover, bananas do not grow (yet) in Siberia.
When stopping along the river I tried always first to find out where is the local market and the shops with food. Moreover, I must say we were definitely always positively surprised. Shelves were well stocked and quite a variety of goods available. Nevertheless, one could see clearly see the difference between a private owned shop and the local Gastronom. In the former, the employees were friendly and more helpful .In the state owned shops we were rather left to find by ourselves what we might be looking for. Still, when approached also here the employees were friendly and helpful. Moreover, nowhere did we see empty shelves as it is so often shown on TV.And I am sure they did not bring out the goods because the tourists from the Chechov were in town.

In a few short hours, we will be ready to sail again. I can see already the first of the new load of tourists arriving. With suitcases and bags, like they go on a trip around the world. In addition, of course they will bring coffee and milk and shaving cream and God knows what else. It really seems to me that many people still think Siberia is the end of the world and there is not much to buy there. Moreover, maybe on the ship there might be not enough food.
However, we will look well after them, for 11 days they will see and do things they for sure will not see and do again. After all this is Siberia, still the land of adventure.
Nevertheless, in our case and because quite a few of the people are of advanced age, things are made easy but still exiting enough to give them the feeling of 'the sleeping land' as Siberia is called by the local population.

©Benedikt Morak
September 1999


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