If you took a ruler, protractor, or whatever device is needed to find the very center of something, and placed it into Russia....you would end up striking a big a** cathedral in the center of a city called Novosibirsk.
This isn't a geography fact that I would bet my life on, however...the church has a bronze marker plastered to its wall that indicates this.
Even after the Soviet Union parted ways with the Ukraine, Georgia and the other countries, it still has bragging rights for being the country with the greatest amount of land mass.
There was a time when the Motherland had 16 time zones, but for reasons unknown to me, they have whittled that number down to 9.
So Klecko has just finished a month long stint at the Kaaskad CO-OP in Aikhal (a city in the Asiatic Arctic) and strictly for monetary reasons, the Federation wants me to layover in Novosibirsk for 28 hours before returning to Moscow.
Novosibirsk is actually in some government program where it is "Sister Cities" with the town I am currently living in...Saint Paul.
At this point in my journey, I am worn out, but I certainly don't want to lay around at the hotel, my bed was designed for somebody no taller than 5 1/2 feet tall.
The elevator that hoists my Shrek like frame up 4 stories is the size of a small coffin, and when I step into it, I can feel a tension on the cable.
At night my phone rings at unchristian hours, and although I don't speak the native language, I am pretty certain it is special girls that hire out friendship.
In the morning, if you stare out the window, from my view...I can see a dozen babushka's sweeping the streets with crude brooms that are constructed from tree branches.
Novosibirsk is nothing short of intoxicating.
I love every aspect about it.
So during my one afternoon of free time, my people from the Moscow office have lined up a guy to show me around, serve as my guide, and hopefully help me to enjoy my travel day w/o drama or incident.
I've forgotten the guys name, but it might have been Jurgis, so that's what we'll go with.
Russians love to walk, perhaps this is why the majority of their nation is so fit. Jurgis tells me to make sure I have shoes to accommodate hiking, and before you know it, we are gone.
It was springtime, the sun was out and since we were located in the center of the city, our tour started at the nexus and headed towards the city line.
Jurgis had to have been 23 or 25 and he was fluent in English and Japanese as well as his native language. His goal was to serve state diplomats in with business interpretation abroad.
"Daniel....produce your camera please. To your left, yes there, that tall building. It was to be an important bumpiness hub. All 18 stories were to have offices of commerce not only for our city, but much of the Siberian region, however...do you see how it sags? It was built with such a foundation that would not hold it, and now it falls beneath the ground."
The building looked like an Industrial version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
"What will they do with the building now that it is useless?" I asked.
"It will be left to decay" answered my guide "but the saddest part of the story is this....look at all those buildings surrounding it."
There were strip malls, gas stations, souvenir and clothing shops.
"They all built these businesses with the promise that they would have built in customers from this huge building, it was supposed to have the most square footage of any building in Novosibirsk, but when the main building never got off the ground, the ancillary businesses fell as well. It is how do you say, so ghost town?"
The 2 of us chuckled.
Throughout the day I was exposed to many sites. Our tour lasted over 6 hours, so at least 3 times we stopped in cafe's to refuel with beer.
But if there is one image that sticks out in my head concerning Russia, it would have to be how every city, no matter how big or small, had beautiful parks that were always groomed meticulously.
Every park seems to have a dozen statues as well. Not tiny boundary marker statues, or modest sized statues, but Huge-Bold-Statement statues.
As you stroll by these fantastic pieces of art, you can't help but feel a surge of patriotism.
This particular park that Jurgis took me to was cool because it also had actual jeeps, tanks, rocket launchers and even fighter jets incorporated into the landscape.
As Jurgis explained each piece of equipment to me...in lengthy detail, he smiled and said.....
"I have never been to America, but for your country to have the ability to win the Cold War is impressive. We believe our weapon technology to be second to none, but yet the U.S. prevailed."
I kinda smirked being that I don't even under how to navigate a sling shot, and wondered out loud if maybe the USA intimidates the Ruskie's after we kicked their a** in the most important Olympic Hockey game ever.
"Yes, this is true" Jurgis replied "I had wonder if you would mention this event, but on a serious note, if I may return to the topic of the Cold War, most Russians are certain that the only reason we lost was because of the silly man Gorbachev."
At this point I mentioned to my host how I had the unique opportunity to bake for him when he visited the Twin Cities.
Jurgis didn't seem like the type of guy who just blurted out ideas,so I was confused because I thought that the collapse of the Soviet Union couldn't be place on the shoulder of just one man, so I asked him if he could explain his supposition with more clarity.....
Although Jurgis is more than a decade younger than me, when he answered....it was as if he was explaining elementary concepts to a youth.
"My country is old Daniel. Empires rise, fall...and then rise again, but America is a new world. You don't have a lengthy time line yet. One day when you do, you will see that sometimes the ineptitude of just one person is enough to crash a country. I will ask you to try to remember these words in 5 years. Right now...your George W is a silly man, much like Mikhail Gorbachev was. In 5 years I am willing to bet that America will find itself is a similar position."
That was 6 years ago, and I haven't forgotten my friends challenge.
Jurgis was practically a prophet.
*Don't forget to check out Klecko's newest Blog Site (on Blogger)
POETS ARE LAME (and other thing Mike Finley taught me)