Journey to Neujahrs-Special in Petrosavodsk/Karelien
Berlin Swinging Bears, Deutsch-Russische-Squaredance-Freunde
When square dancers travel to Russia, they always have to be prepared for some adventure. I can't count any more. how many times I have been a guest of square dance clubs in the cities of Pskov, Murmansk and St. Petersburg. Last year I was invited a second time to visit the square dancers Oxana and Igor in Petrozavodsk.
Petrozavodsk is situated in Karelia on the Onega Lake with the world famous island of Kishi. The square dance club "Onega Wave Dancers" in Petrozavodsk .was the very first in Russia. They celebrated already their fifth anniversary. Alexander Kosyn and Fedor Antonov take turns calling and teaching. Both callers were trained by Kenny Reese. Several dancers have already gained additional experience by attending specials in Finland and Germany. It is great fun to dance with the exuberant Russian ladies.
I booked my flight - 2 months in advance to get a good fare. The booking read December 23rd, 2010 from Duesseldorf to Berlin, from there to St. Petersburg and then per overnight train to Petrozavodsk.
In Duesseldorf I wanted to check in, but there they told me that the flight to Berlin had been got on the plane. When we started rolling the captain told us that first we have to get in line for de-icing. We are eighth in line. I started to ponder: My transfer time in Helsinki was only one hour and forty-five minutes. At the time the de-icing was finally completed we should already have arrived in Helsinki. Well, when I finally got there I went to the nearest counter and asked how I would now get to St. Petersburg (Air Berlin - everything in German). The lady told me that there was no more flight going there today. She tried to help me and made a lot of telephone calls. Then came a result: I had to fly to Moscow and from there back to St. Petersburg. Wow, was I relieved. I did not have to wait long and my Russian odyssey began.
On December 24th, 2010 at 5:00 am. I landed at St. Petersburg airport Pulkovo1, the domestic airport. Now, where is my luggage! I inquired and they told me that it would arrive at the international airport Pulkovo2. Shucks, how do I get there? The taxis want 800 rubels for the ride, that is about 12 €. That would be much too much. I looked around in the arrival hall and discovered a little booth which was marked "Transver" (in Russian). There I saw that a woman asked for information. When she left, I used my little English to ask if the agent spoke English or German." At this moment a young woman was passing behind me and heard that I was asking for "German". She addressed me and in an impeccable German ask me "Kann ich Ihnen helfen? (Can I help you?). I was surprised and said, "oh, yes, please". Now she asked me what the matter was. I told her that I needed to get to the airport Pulkovo2 in order to get my luggage. Then she informed me that there was a shuttle bus leaving in 10 minutes going there and that it was free. Of course, that made me happy, and the lady that was ahead of me at the counter also took this bus. After arriving at Pulkovo2 I started my search for my travel bag. At the luggage collecting point I showed my luggage stub and asked whether my bag was there. They sent me to a room about 4x4 meters (12x12 feet) where luggage was piled up. I spotted my bag. It sat on top. That took a load off my mind since without my bag I could have turned right back. Well, I had my bag now, but I was not allowed to take it with me right away because the employees now first had to write a report. There were two young ones and one elderly lady. After one hour I had to sign the three resulting pages and only then was my bag given to me. Now I could continue my journey- I took the bus to the underground and then to the railway station from where my train to Petrozavodsk was leaving. When I got there, I first checked the display when a train going there would leave. There was one leaving for Murmansk via Petrozavodsk leaving at 8:45. I got on line at the ticket counter to purchase my ticket. Ahead of me was a young man. When it was my turn, the young man still stood beside me arranging his things. I talked to the sales lady and asked whether she spoke English or German. The answer was "njet". The young man heard that and asked me in English whether he could be of help. "Oh yes, please" I said. He asked me where I wanted to go and I told him that I wanted to go to Petrozavodsk in couchette coach, lower berth. The young man told that to the sales lady and I got my wish fulfilled. They let you on the train no earlier than half an hour before departure. When I had found my assigned berth, a young man sat down across from me. When the train started, we got to talk to each other. I asked him whether he spoke German or English. He said "English and very little German". I had two cans of beer with me. I got them out and gave one to him. Then we introduced ourselves by first name. We had a lot to talk about. At the next station, he got out and returned with four cans of beer under his arm and a 40 cm (1'4") warm smoked fish and said "guten Appetit" (enjoy the meal). We divided up the fish and ate it with our fingers. Since fish usually swim, we had the beer with it.
Then towards 8:00 pm we arrived in Petrozavodsk. I said goodbye and went to the exit. Before I even opened the door I saw Igor (Oxana's husband - Oxana used to be vice president of the Onega Wave Dancers) standing on the platform.
On the train the temperature had been a comfortable roughly 22° C. When I got out I took two deep breaths and immediately had to take out my handkerchief and cover my nose and mouth. The outside temperature was 26° C below zero. That was a temperature difference of 48 degrees. So, I had reached the family of Oxana and Igor on Christmas Eve at 8:30 pm.
After a wonderful fortnight with several square dance events of the Onega Wave Dancers I had to go back. Three days before I had to leave we went to the ticket counter to buy my ticket for the return trip to St. Petersburg. Oxana said at the window: "a ticket to St. Petersburg for January 8, 2011, lower berth". She got the answer: for the next four days there are no more tickets. Then Oxana told the sales lady that I had to catch a flight in St, Petersburg on the 9th of January. The lady at the window asked when my flight would be leaving. It takes off at 3:00 pm. The lady at the window fiddled with the computer and then she said that I had to go from Perozavodsk to Moscow on the couchette coach and there take the ICE to St. Petersburg, that way I would still catch my flight. This way, with a three hour stopover in Moscow it still worked out and I could take the flight home that I was booked on.
That was my Russian odyssey to the Christmas special in Petrozavodsk with a 1000 km detour via Moscow.
However, the proverbial Russian hospitality and the spontaneous helpfulness towards a total stranger who can't decipher the cyrillic letters give the feeling of belonging that will never quit.
Comment: Wolfgang Grätz is so to speak the contact person of the German-Russian -Square-Dance-Friends to the four Russian Clubs which the association helped establish. In order to finance his frequent visits there he takes on all sorts of odd jobs. One can hardly imagine what it means to the Russian square dancers to welcome a guest from Germany in the midst of the Russian winter, especially when it is Wolfgang whom everybody knows and loves. In an Email Tatiana Antanova, president of the Onega Wave Dancers writes: "we'll always be thankful to you and the German Russian Friends for giving us opportunity to be happy dancing, meeting friends having fun.
Transl.: Ursula Kreis