Friday, April 2, 2010

Mineralnye Vody

Earlier today, some airport-related link reminded me of this marvelous old Economist piece about Russian airports (gated version; Dec 19 2006). My favorite part:

Mineralnye Vody: To reach this airport, in the north Caucasus, passengers pass through a series of military roadblocks, where documents and the boots of cars are checked by slouching policemen, looking for weapons or terrorists. But a sensible terrorist would leave his weapons at home and buy new ones at the airport, where a wide selection of enormous knives and ornamental Caucasian swords is on sale. There are also embossed Caucasian drinking horns, and a large number of Brezhnev-era copies of the Kama Sutra.

Mineralnye Vody airport is a lower circle of hell. In Soviet times, before the region that the airport serves was desolated by separatist insurgencies, blood feuds and government brutality, the nearby mineral spas were popular holiday resorts. The building is incongruously large for a part of Russia that today, for all its macho hospitality and merriment, feels more African than European in its violence, poverty and corruption. It is weirdly cold inside. Feral cats have been sighted. The floor has not been cleaned since perestroika; the toilets are hauntingly squalid. On the wall there are arrival and departure boards that no longer work, and a big, proud map of the Soviet Union.

The article is also memorable for coining the phrase "incremental babushka."

And now for sth completely different... The Telegraph has a pic of a lemur playing with an Easter egg.

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