Komsomolsk-Na-Amure

Trip Start May 24, 2006
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Trip End Aug 21, 2006


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Monday, July 3, 2006

My last couple of days in Komsomolsk have been great! It's a 100% model-communist city founded in 1932 as a primarily military industrial complex with a large aircraft factory and shipyard which the city economy still seems to revolve around. The name of the city: Komsomolsk is the name of former Communist Youth League (basically the rough Soviet equivalent to the Boy and GirlScouts in the US). It was and is still remote from anywhere. The city was closed to all foreigners until the fall of communism and still seems closed and feels like the iron curtain is still in force with sculptures of workers etched into the facades all over the city. I have yet to see any tourists here what so ever. In fact people on the street seem almost shocked when they heard me speaking English. This is fantastic!
The people also seem very curious and friendly to meet outsiders. My first evening I had a beer at a beach promenade on the Amur river. Some guys heard me speaking English with Anna, so they sat down right away at my table, though in the end they could hardly speak a word. I drank some sort of strange concoction that tasted like really cheap 20% alcoholic wine. Then had a few beers. About all I could understand from them is that as Russians they work 100%, play 100%, and drink 100% and despite pounding rounds at 11pm they would definitely be up at 6am to work (how's that for a work ethic?). They then invited me back to there place to drink even more, though I was about ready to pass out so I declined. What I didn't expect was that the especially drunk one of the group would follow me 10min. back to my hotel and would not let got up my backpack insisting that I should come to their place (or was he really trying to steal my camera?) Either way it was quite a welcome to this former Soviet secret city!
My second day I rode a street car out to the military aircraft factory. The tram travelled along this broad boulevard passing run-down concrete block buildings, un-paved roads, and wooden dachas that more closely resembled slums in my opinion, though every 100m or so there were large propaganda posters on street lamps showing modern high-tech aircraft, sculptures of workers, and seemingly futuristic looking buildings: a far cry from the current situation! Though I wasn't able to get past the main entrance of the factory it was still cool to watch people coming in and out of the complex through numerous specifically assigned different entrances with somber expressions on their faces undoubtedly hoping for better times to come (or a return to the old times), since the factory was undoubtedly taking a tremendous hit from the drying up of military investment after the fall of communism.
My third day I headed out to an village of indigenous Nahni people. They people were so friendly taking me on a tour of their school, a small museum, cultural center and one of their homes. They seemed so shocked to see a westerner and even wanted to take a picture of me so that they could have it as a memoir that someone from the US had visited their. I later discovered that the last time the remembered seeing a westerner was when a German person visited there several years ago. My guide then cooked this fantastic fish lunch for me on the banks of the Amur river. MMMMM!
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