Once again I was travelling courtesy of my employer. This time I was in Russia with our Marketing Director. I hadn''t been to Russia before but had been warned of everything by everybody.

We flew to Ekaterinenberg on the far side of the Urals but immediately drove to Chelyabinsk which is 200km away down a wide but exceptionally bumpy dual carriageway. Road maintenance is obviously not first priority in this part of the world. On both sides of the road was thick birch forest and lakes reminiscent of Sweden.  Chelyabinsk, with a current population of about one million, was set up during Stalin's time, far from the invading Germans, for the production of tanks. It is as beautiful as its history suggests with soviet era factories interspersed amongst the blocks of flats.

During our visit we saw the newly created pedestrian zone and the barely finished museum. These and the renovations we saw in the company that we visited suggest that in a few years this will be a very different city.

On our second day we visited a restaurant that shows how the locals treat their past. The whole restaurant is decorated in Soviet style and the menu has the title "secret dossier". Old Soviet films run on the TV and the music is also from the period. Obviously we didn''t understand all the insider jokes but the Russians found everything amusing. One joke that we did understand was the two way mirror wall in front of the men's urinal which allowed you to stand viewing the restaurant while hidden from the view of those eating.

Almost everyone spoke only Russian so we were reduced to communicating through our translator. None the less all those we met made a pleasant and friendly impression.

Another country I would like to visit again. Next time for longer than two days.

Neill Hogarth | |