By any standards it was an entertaining evening. Bored of the menu in the hotel the three warriors ventured out into the frosty Kogalym night, in search of food. After a short walk, we settled on a rather happening spot in town and headed upstairs into a bustling, nicely furnished restaurant. The place appeared to be playing host to two large groups of people. The first were celebrating a recent marriage and the second was made up of couples celebrating their tenth anniversary.
Funny isn’t it? The world over, wedding parties are one and the same. There’s something very comforting about wandering into a reception in the middle of absolutely nowhere and seeing the same enormous PA system, the same club singer and the usual collection of friends and relatives doing the usual side-to-side type of dance we all do when we haven’t had enough to drink. I suppose it’s a bit like biting into a Big Mac in some terrible backwater a wondering how on earth they managed to make it taste the same.
Our dinner was a feast of the finest local delicacies including the now compulsory frozen raw fish, cabbage, pickles, steak, potatoes and of course vodka; litres of the stuff. It was at this point I realised I would be paying a heavy price for my evening’s entertainment, and it wouldn’t be one you could measure in roubles. During the meal, the assembled guests really began to kick-up their heels. After a few numbers from the resident club singer the party was in full swing and all side-to-side dancing was cast aside in favour of flamboyant, individual styles. Like all weddings of course there were one or two dancers whose enthusiasm was in a very different league to their actual ability, and that made for an entertainment all of its own.
It wasn’t very long before both parties realised there were three diners that evening who were unattached to either group. Apparently this is not allowed in Russia and so we were “invited” (kicking and screaming in my case) onto the dance floor to help them with their evenings celebrations. It’s at this point in the proceedings that my usually photographic memory becomes a little cloudy, in fact I think I must have accidently popped the lens cap back on after the second half litre bottle of vodka had disappeared. All I can say is that the restaurant and everyone in it, made three strangers feel like members of their own family. I couldn’t help but think how the same situation would have played out in any big city in the UK.
My last recollection of the evening was making snow angels on the way home. The temperature was a rather bracing-35 centigrade and believe me, a snow angel in that weather gives a whole new meaning to the word refreshing.