A Weekend of Adventures

Posted: May 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

I have had a pretty awesome weekend. Last night, I went to a friend’s house for barbeque, or shashlik as it is known in Russia. The home belongs to Lena and her husband Vadim. Their two sons were there as well as many friends. We enjoyed round after round of wonderful grilled meat. For a change, we had sausages last night. I brought a small bottle of Jack Daniel’s to share with my wonderful hosts. As the night went on, we finished the Jack Daniel’s and Vadim brought out a surprise – samogon, or homemade vodka. It was surprisingly smooth and I didn’t go blind. People are warned not to drink samogon because one of the side effects of improperly made samogon is blindness. I’m not kidding. The night eventually came to an end, and I retreated to my room to get a good night’s sleep in preparation for the next, adventure packed day.

Mmm grilled meat.

Today, I went to the Museum of Aviation. I have been dying to go there for months. I saw an article about the museum on the blog Englishrussia.com and wanted to experience all of the Soviet planes and helicopters for myself. A graduate of my department picked me up in his car. We stopped to get one of the teacher’s from my department and headed off for a great day. Getting to the museum was easier said than done, as it is located in the opposite end of the city from where I live, and somewhat outside of the city as it is next to one of our airports. The selection of planes was great. The star attraction was probably the Tupolev Tu-144, aka the Soviet rival to the Concorde. There were only 16 of the planes made, so it’s pretty spectacular that our museum has one. Sadly, we weren’t allowed to climb onto or into it, but it was amazing just to see it.

Tu-144, the Soviet Concorde in all of it’s glory.

I was also very excited to see a small selection of military planes, including a MiG fighter jet. Technically, we couldn’t get into it in the sense that the cockpit wasn’t open, but I was able to climb inside the engine cowling.

Chilling in a MiG engine, no big deal.

The best exhibit was a Tupolev Tu-124. We were allowed to go inside of it. Although it lacked modern conveniences such as TVs and tray tables, the plane looked a lot better than most current jetliners. The seats were fairly comfortable and there was plenty of leg room. It was also a lot of fun to sit in the cockpit in the pilot’s seat and in the pit for the navigator.

All I’m missing is the captain’s hat with the winged hammer and sickle.

After a break for lunch, I met up with Lena and Vadim to go shooting with Vadim and Lyosha. Vadim is a hunter and fan of all military things. We rode out about five minutes north of the city to where there is a tank training range. When it’s not in use, children play soccer on the field and today I saw someone herding cows. We went down a path and went shooting. The weapon of choice was a double-barred 12-gauge shotgun. Vadim makes some of the shells himself. Today was actually the first time that I fired a real gun. My previous experience has been limited to video games and the bb-gun that I have at home. I always meant to go shooting with my dad or with a few of my friends, but nothing ever worked out. It was a lot of fun to shoot some glass bottles. I shot most of my targets, except for when Vadim threw some bottles in the air for me to shoot. Missing the bottles was good, though, because Vadim went to find them. In the grass, he found used infantry and tank smoke grenades. I had a great time, but my ears are ringing a little and my shoulder is really sore. I can’t wait to see the bruise tomorrow morning.

No comment. I think this photo explains itself.

After shooting, we headed off to Victory Park so that Lena and Vadim’s son could go on some of the rides. I have been meaning to go to the park for months because I wanted to see the WWII tanks that are there. Today was just a super day because I got to touch Soviet airplanes, fire guns, and climb on a WWII tank. Unfortunately, I could not get into the tank, but a hole had been made in the top so that I could see the interior. The whole thing smelled of gun-powder and oil.

Everything is better with tanks.

  1. Kathleen says:

    Hi, I discovered your blog when doing research about Ulyanovsk since I learned that is where my placement will be this coming September for Fulbright ETA. I would love to talk with you about Fulbright and Ulyanovsk if you’ve got time via skype, email, facebook or other. My name is Kathleen and I studied abroad for a semester in St. Petersburg and I’m excited to get back to Russia and to see smaller-city Russia. Thank you for your detailed posts, they’ve already helped me get a better sense of what to expect. I look forward to hearing from you.

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