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Published: April 29th 2008
The journey which I have been dreaming for a long while did not start very well. My friend who wished to join me could not come because of his visa problems, secondly I was very very close to missing my plane from Istanbul to Rostov, and thirdly a corrupt officer sticked me and a few other Turkish citizens to the Rostov airport for a few hours just for his wish for getting some "small presents" like a bottle of whisky and a handful of cigars. At last he got his cigars and we were out of the airport at 4 am in the morning. After a while I would hear the Russian saying "Odessa mama, Rostov papa" which is said for the Rostov’s famous and rich criminal history. This officer was only paying his respect to this cultural legacy.
In my first day first I went to the downtown Rostov to an address of a hotel I found in the internet. I was rejected from this hotel as they were not registered to let the foreigners stay there. That time I did not know that I would get a few more punches from Russian bureaucracy in the coming days. As
I was looking for another taxi to go to another hotel I met Joni and his taxi Jiguli. Jiguli was the car of common people in Soviet countries in 1980’s and 90’s. Joni is a Georgian and he was very happy to hear my grandmother is coming from Georgian origin. During our 5 minutes journey he gave me many advices about the things I should be careful in Rostov. Although I did not get many things he told me, I understood they were advices as the sentences ended with “Ostorojno”. When we came to the hotel he gave his card. I took it just for being polite. When I was passing the street, I saw him waiting and watching for me if I were passing the street safely. That was a customer service, from that time till the day I left Rostov I called Joni whenever I needed a taxi. And a friendship formed between us when I left the town.
After settling to the hotel I took a walk on the Don River side. Size of Don surprised me, even very big ships coming from Black Sea could sail on Don. Our tiny rivers in Turkey only let
small rowing boats sail on them. The river side “Rechnoi Vokzal” is full of cafes and restaurants. Mostly females in groups of two walking there and resting in these cafes. Then I crossed the bridge over Don and I was on the other side of the river. This side has many parks, mini hotels and restaurants which are located behind the beaches. I had my dinner there. The waiter girls I met in Russia were always very helpful during the time I was making my choices. Even though none could speak English and I can badly speak Russian, their kindness gave way to communication. Sadly I have been to countries which I could speak their language well, but I could not relate with people owing to their attitude towards people of some region of this world.
The next day I took a bus trip to nearby town called Azov. Azov is now a small town but actually its history goes older than Rostov’s. The town used to be an important fortress of Ottoman Empire in her strongest times and its conquest by Russian Navy and Don Cossacks is an important mile stone in Russian history. For the first time
Russian military used navy and it was a step from being a city state to being a world power for Russia. Museum of Azov very well exhibits the historical facts of the region. The first floor is reserved for the remains of ancient animals and people lived around Azov. The most remarkable one was a skeleton of a Mammoth. At the second floor there were pieces from nearer history, like crafts from Hellenic people, Ottoman Army uniforms, weapons, then a saloon for Cossack traditional crafts, clothes and etc, and uniforms of armies which fought in the second world war. Then I came to a saloon which in my surprise dedicated to the Armenian claims of Genocide of 1915. What is the relation of a local museum with these events? Why did they not have a saloon for the Muslim and Turkish population who were massacred by Armenian militia in that time? And if this museum is so sensitive to these issues, Why don’t they have other saloons for other massacres which happened in the world are still questions I don’t have the answers.
After the museum I had a walk in Azov’s river side and visited what remained from
the Turkish fortress. I should say in Azov except some women working in that museum with weird attitudes people were so helpful and friendly whenever I asked for directions. I guess in all over the world people of small towns are real genuine people of that country.
In my last day in Rostov, I signed my name under a big accomplishment. I finally managed exchange all the dollars I have into rubles. For me it was something that really stressed me as half of the money I had was not exchanged by Russian banks, for some stupid reasons. Well I got used to be treated like a swindler that was not problem after all but I really needed to exchange my money to survive during the coming days of my trip. At last I ran into Citibank and they exchanged all my money.
I walked a while more in the streets of Rostov, had an excellent lunch in a Caucasian restaurant, farewelled with Joni and I was on my way to the city I had wished to see for a very long time. The place where the greatest and may be the most cruel battle of the mankind
took place. I was going to Stalingrad.
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