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April 10, 2005

Sakhalin: Korsakov

I've been to a few depressing places. Sacramento was one, Alice Springs was another, and Gloucester was so bad we resorted to going to a bingo hall. The horror! But it's all relative: Sacramento was just pretty bad for a state capital, and Alice Springs was bad compared to other Australian towns. Gloucester... well Gloucester was just plain bad, but it had nothing, nothing, on Korsakov.

We met at Lenin Square in Yuzhno and fought our way onto a stubby, muddy little bus. There seems to be no such thing as orderly queueing in Russia - you have to sharpen your elbows and dive in with everyone else. The bus had a picture of an Alsatian dog stuck above the rearview mirror and rattled along the potholed roads, stopping at concrete bus shelters. These bus stops were often in the middle of nowhere, apparently nothing around but icy fields, yet people would get off and on. We passed tiny villages of small wooden houses with the mountains in the background and the frozen sea. After around an hour we stopped opposite a truck yard and everyone piled off. We had reached Korsakov: Possibly The Bleakest Town on Earth.

I'd forgotten my camera, so Lorraine took these pictures, which pretty much sum up the Korsakov experience. We walked through the town centre in the mud and snow, past grimy dockyards and buildings, and had some salyanka (meat soup) in a bar with giant wooden penguins outside. We mooched around for a while longer but it was the kind of place that made you want to end it all right there and then as it was so awful, so we walked back to the bus stop and headed back to Yuzhno. The good thing about Korsakov: it makes everywhere else look beautiful in comparison.

Posted by Rowena on April 10, 2005 08:26 AM
Category: Russia
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