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Kalmikia to Kuban

(CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE COMPLETE LIST OF DIARY ENTRIES & CHECK THE IMAGE GALLERY FOR UPDATES) As we rose in a trot, the wind grew stronger, filling the air with a fine dust and numbing our faces. The sun descended into a golden haze while the eastern sky remained a misty blue and yellow, into now which now floated the moon. Just as the sun spilt its last glow for the day, glinting off the remaining snowdrifts, we arrived at the top of a ridge upon which ran a series of Kurgans. These perfectly round mounds of varying sizes are the ancient graves and markers of one of the original steppe nomads, the Scythians. Far to our north and south similar ridges ran, separated by deep gullies, and all lined with these symmetrical hillocks. The slopes reminded me strongly of Mongolia, and it was easy to imagine Yurt camps by the streams below, yet I was now well within Geographical Europe in Kalmikia. Reflections aside, Anir, a local Kalmik travelling with me confided in me one of his fears. “Tim, I am bloody terrified of dogs. We are destined for disaster. Those Dagestanis they let their guard dogs out after dark!” I tried to calm Anir, but we had now travelled about 50km, it was nearing total darkness and without having eaten for a few hours we fell into a bit of delirium. We had pre-arranged to stay at a farm station with a Dagestani family, but a bridge which had collapsed in the spring melt had forced us to double back during the day and added a good 20km to our route. “We have to find the two kurgans. That’s where we will turn down to the gully.” Anir said, yet there were countless kurgans. He began to lose his temper and told me that we would ride all night rather than meet our fate with Caucasus Shepherd dogs. At one stage he was convinced that we were going the wrong way, but finally we found a track, and feeling our way by moonlight made it to the hut. I went first to meet the dogs and their barking soon gave way to happy wagging tails. Tigon proudly protected our caravan, hidden beneath my horses legs of course, and a very happy Rasul came out to meet us. “Hi men, we have been waiting for you! What took you so long!” Rasul was a middleaged man with large working hands silver-grey hair, and a scarf tied neatly around his neck. He had moved from Dagestan to farm cattle and sheep in Kalmikia, like so many of his fellow countrymen have done across Southern Russia. Inside the hut were another four or five men and by oil lamp we spread out things out on a damp old mattress. I took off my winter hat and was asked to take my coat off when I began to shiver. Only later Anir and I realized that there was no heating. More remarkable was that when it came time to sleep, everyone just crawled into a corner, or a patch of hard floor, or the luxury of a mattress, pulled over their coats and nodded off. The most elderly man in his late forties, but looking like a man in his late sixties, snuggled up in the corridor with no blankets at all! Anir and I remained in our winter clothes but still in the subzero temperature we shivered out the night. Anir was more amazed than me and would tell this story time and time again when we arrived in his own village. Lying down after a shot of vodka with the men ‘to our meeting’ I could feel every bone in my body ache- we had spent a good fifteen hours in the saddle which is a lot for the first day. It felt wholesome and relieving to be back on the road and nodding off to the sound of the wind. Bit by bit I knew that I would now readjust to the rigours and rhythm of this journey. Of course, as you may have read in a report I sent earlier by phone, things had not gone to plan after my winter break. I arrived back in Elista in late February with a new Russian visa and was privileged to spend much time gathering material in the library of the Kalmik Institute of Humanitarian Studies, and taking interviews with many including a historian, craftsman, traditional throat singer, and the head lama of the new Buddhist temple in Elista- the largest in Europe. It was when I returned to the horses that my spirits fell. Kok, my grey horse from the sands of central Kazakhstan had two and a half weeks earlier stepped on a nail that had protruded four or five inches into his hoof. The nail had been removed but he had not been given any treatment, and as I would later conclude, the infection by this stage had most likely reached the bone. The advice from Sheila, the specialist equine vet who has been supporting me from day one of this journey, advised that either recovery would happen within six weeks or so, or he would never recover. Hoping that it was an infection of just soft tissue though, I treated him with anti-biotics, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and had the hoof thoroughly cleaned. His mood lifted but after a day and a half, my time was running short and the limp had not improved. I took him for a run but it was clearly very painful for him to keep up. With little choice I decided to leave with just my two horses Ogonyok and Blackie. Kok woud remain behind, treated by the men who had looked after them in winter. If he improved within five days by the time I reached Stavropol province, then I resolved to have him trucked to me. If he didn’t…well that was too hard to think about for now. What made it so bitter and painful was that if the horse had been treated with anti-biotics immediately after the nail had been removed then he was almost guaranteed to make a quick and full recovery. Worse, I had been in Elista just 70km away and had not been told of his condition. As it turned out there was even anti-biotics and needles on site with the horses so it seemed like such a terrible waste- a horse with whom I have struggled with for so long and who had become a concrete part of my little herd. On the other hand, Tigon was actually in high spirits. Utebai, a very kind Kazakh man who had been looking after him, told me how he had specially made him dinner each day, and that he had devoured umpteen kilos of sheep’s innards and heads, and that my orders to give him vitamin tablets every third day had been followed closely. What’s more, a plump little dog walked happily around Tigon, wagging her curly tail. “Tim you will have to make child payments from now on!” said Utebai with a grin. Indeed this winter Tigon had grown into fatherhood. Utebai warmed me with his sincerity. Perhaps his and the other men’s negligence had led to the demise of Kok – and created a moral, financial, and logistical disaster for my journey- yet they had also worked so diligently and been extremely kind in spirit. It never seems worth getting angry or blaming such genuine well intentioned people, especially when there is no longer anything that one can do about the situation. Now it was Anir and I riding a depleted team to Stavropol Province. It took five days to reach the Manich wet land system which runs like a natural border between the open steppe of Kalmikia and fertile soils of Stavropol and the Kuban. In the village of of Uldichin we stayed with a family, the grandfather of which talked about pre-deportation times during WW2. As a young boy he had helped to herd all of the livestock out of Kalmikia to the Volga and beyond in the face of the advancing Germans. Then in 1943 along with all Kalmikians he was deported to Siberia until 1957 when he returned. Looking into his weathered face I couldn’t help be reminded of the Oirat Mongols who I had met 20 months earlier in Western Mongolia. These people were of the same nationality, split by 6000km of steppe and the history of the Eurasian steppe. On the 17th of March Anir and I arrived at Manich with the bad news that Kok’s condition had still not improved. A replacement horse was trucked and I named him Utebai. He was however a very tiny horse unconditioned to the rigours of steppe travel and so would be a temporary replacement. The trucking of him, in addition to the payments for winter feed and herding since January, now sky rocketed to costs of almost $1000US- and this was not counting the money lost in Kok, plus cash needed to make a swap and find another horse. Already running far longer and expensive than I had ever planned for, it seemed that finance would now be one of the main challenges of getting to Hungary. Sometimes it can be hard when locals have preconceptions that all foreigners are extremely wealthy, when in fact my budget is around twelve Australian Dollars a day. We rode until 2am that frosty night on the 17th of March, and I said goodbye to Anir in the town of Divnoye. Here I was put up by Viktor Nikolaievich in the forestry department office, and woke with a cold and climbing temperature. Welcomingly surprised, it was here that I met one of the first westerners en-route since setting off in June 2004. Geoff is a bird watcher and retired Bomb Disposal officer from the British Army, who now lives permanently in Stavropol Province with his wife Olga. I spent a day with them and Viktor roving around Manich where thousands upon thousands of ducks, geese, and many other species had arrived during their migration to the north. To speak English, and share stories with another foreigner like Geoff lifted my spirits and reminded me that all of these problems are just part of the journey. Saying goodbye to Victor’s kind family I only made it 10km from Divnoye when hit by soaking rain followed by hail and a tad of snow. My temperature had still not dropped and my body felt weak and tired. When Sultanbagamalvich arrived and invited me in to his farm I could not help but take up the offer. I ended up staying two and a half days as the horses filled up on hay, and I came to terms with things. My dreams were filled with the sad eyes of Kok, and one time he appeared with his two front legs chopped off. I woke in a sweat every time, not yet ready to come to grips with his fate. Had I made a mistake in leaving him behind? Why didn’t I just go straight to the horses when I came back instead of spending two weeks in Elista!!!! The calmness and sense of family at the farm soothed me. They were also a Dagestani family, and Sultanbagamalvich impressed me with his horse and cart skills. He would come roaring in at seven in the morning with his big Clydesdale pulling another load of hay. It was the beginning of the lambing period, and I will never forget the way he picked up a little newborn one morning and said with a grin: “Tim, every year as winter starts I wonder- will the hay last this year? Will the animals survive? How long will the frost last? Now I know it is over. It is spring, it is warm, and we have survived.” Indeed a tad of greenery was already starting to show on the steppe, and despite sub-zero nights once could now stand in the sun at midday without a woolly hat on. More than the weather though, it was the change in land and style of farming that impressed me the most. Almost immediately after crossing into Stavropol Province, the open treeless steppe gave way to rows and rows of trees that bordered dwindling pasture, and more and more ploughed land and fields. There were canals, and evidently less livestock. In Divnoye I was shocked to see people out in their back yards already tilling their plots. This was a kind of soil and agriculture that I had basically not come across since beginning the journey. Furthermore, Sultanbagamalvich’s horses had no signs of ever being ridden. In fact despite being a farmer he knew nothing about saddling up. His horses were purely trained for hauling carts! I couldn’t help thinking that it must have been like this for a nomad who made his way to Europe in the 13th century. Europe’s – and that of most sedentary societies- culture of horses has always been closely tied with that of the cart and much less with the saddle. Also incredible was the sheer size of the horses that made mine look like little ponies. Our first day from the farm felt like the first day of the journey all over again- a new horse, unfamiliar landscape, and still far from readjusted to the saddle. I stuck to a quiet train line, but got lead into dead ends of canals with freshly burnt reeds. In one shallow canal I tried to cross but Blackie fell up to his chest in water. He managed to get through but the other horses were spooked. I tied blackie to a tree, and eventually the terror of being left alone forced Ogonyok to make the leap, and Utebai followed. We came out of it covered in black ash from the recent burning of reeds, muddy, and nerve racked. Tigon then also scared me. He ran off with the leash around his neck to chase a hare, but did not return. I found him on the railway line- his leash had tangled in the iron rails. Luckily no trains had come by! Later there were bridges and the town of Ipatova to tackle. Finally after sunset I passed through a row of trees to an incredible sight: a green, neatly sewn field!!! Green, rolling land, although the grass was short, enough to feed an army! I camped in this greenery out of sight of the town and reflected that all the dangers encountered during the day were indicative of what was to come to Hungary for the rest of the journey: highly populated and cultivated land. The following night the temperature dropped and a storm brought heavy snowfall. I had only just emerged from the tent to dust off the snow in the morning when a Russian 4WD came steaming towards me with an equally aggressive looking driver. He got out and after a short pause yelled:’ “So, think you’ve found some good pasture do you!” “Well, yes!” “Do you realise how much work it is to cultivate this land! Your horses have stamped and destroyed at least a hectare where nothing will grow this year! Do you realise the fines involved!” Indeed the horses had eaten well, jumped about and rolled in the soft earth, but ‘one hectare’ was going a bit far. “I am sorry but I have come from Mongolia and Kazakhstan, and there you can graze wherever there is grass. No one told me that I wasn’t allowed to camp in the fields.” This seemed to pacify the man but he didn’t leave until I had taken all of the horses and tied them to trees in the shelterbelt. This event itself was a big shock to the system since I had never been told to move on anywhere on the open steppe. Starting to feel a bit of traction with Utebai and the new land, I headed west following little muddy tracks along huge wheat, sunflower, sugarbeet, and barley fields. Far away from major roads I enjoyed this movement, cutting across the land very inconspicuously and anonymously. In Kalmikia the press had given me considerable coverage, and each day of the journey was basically organized. Although it had been of great help and benefit, in many ways it had also stifled the true spirit of travel when people help you from the heart, your plans are flexible, and people have no preconceptions. Into Krasnodar province I began following river networks that ran in an almost perfectly westerly direction. I had arrived on the Kuban Steppe which is traditionally home to the Cossacks and as in ancient times, all of the villages (called ‘Khuuters’ in Cossack) ran in one-house- wide rows along the riverbanks. One Khuuter I passed though was almost fifteen kilometres long, yet had a population of about one thousand! The larger towns were called ‘Stanitsas.’ Traditionally a Stanitsa was large enough to warrant a church, while Khuuter’s were not. From the sleepy wooden, clay, and brick homes of these villages, small plots ran down to the water, and flocks of geese and chickens wandered about the streets. Cattle and horses were now almost not to be seen anywhere. The wheat fields ran right up to the very edge of the village street, and beside the scant patches of grass in the shelter belts there was practically nowhere for animals to graze. Riding along the Khuuters I soon found to be particularly dangerous. At one stage in the space of two days I was given 15 kilograms of food products in gifts! Right there on the road, locals proudly talking about the Kuban Cossacks, gave me huge jars of pickled cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, jams, honey, vodka, juice, pears, and generous servings of Sala – pig fat. This extra weight was too much for the horses to handle, yet when I explained that I couldn’t take their offer, the locals glared back at me indignantly: ‘If I have given it to you, then you must take it! You will never taste food like here on the Kuban ever again in your life!” It became a serious issue, and in the end I did have to binge on pickled vegetables and throw away much good produce. The extra weight had already hurt the horse’s backs. The Cossacks themselves who can be found right across southern Russia, Ukraine and north-west Kazakhstan, were traditionally a fiercely independent people always ready for battle. They have lived on the borders between Slavic people and those of the south since perhaps the 15th century. Their life was modelled around the horse and they picked up many cultural traits from the Caucasus nationalities, and steppe nomads such as the Kazakhs. They were themselves largely Slavs by origin and practised Orthodox Christianity but their way of life differed largely from Slavs. In the 19th and early 20th centuries the Cossacks were a valuable asset to the army of the Russian Empire, but under Stalinism they were displaced, killed in one way or another, and like so many other peoples of the Soviet Union lost a great deal of their cultural heritage. There has been a revival in their culture, and in most villages you can find an ‘Ataman’ who is the leader of the local Cossack community. The mere fact that the steppe has been so intensively cultivated and de-horsed though clearly stems a return to the spirit of Cossack life. Near the stanitsa of Uspenskaya I decided to rest the horses for a day. I discovered a large patch of pasture on the riverbank that was well beyond view of any road or home. Yet I had only just unloaded the horses and set them to graze when two motorbikes with sidecarts came roaring to a halt. A man with red curly hair, a heavily darned woollen jumper, and a stomach that was as round and posturing as his face approached at pace. “What the f*** are you up to…..Mongolia to Hungary? **** off, did you ****** hear that boys, buggar me!” The other two men were unshaven with heavily freckled and suburnt complexions and stank of vodka. Their language seemed to be at least a fifty percent tirade of expletives that are unique to the Russian language. It soon became clear that they had arrived for some fishing. Within a jiffy a rubber raft had been pumped up, and most importantly a picnic of salami, cucumber, vodka, and beer had been laid out. Another two motorbikes came roaring to the scene. One of the newcomers was a mountain of a man, his face as broad as a wheat field, with large green eyes that glistened in the evening light. His mammoth face and head swam in an even bigger wobbling chin, and like the other boys he had chipped teeth and mismatching clothes. He swore profusely, and spoke with a very strong southern accent, particularly noticeable by their pronunciation of ‘G’ as ‘gh.’ They had together only just laid the fishing nets when one got a call on his mobile: “Boys! Police! Quick! Lets get the ***** ***** **** out of here!” This mammoth of a man now sprinted and moved with the pace of an athlete. The raft was deflated in a matter of seconds, things were stuffed into the sidecarts, two men helped push start the engines, and with that they leapt on board. As they roared away they told me in no uncertain terms: “Don’t say a word! Will we ride back when this all blows over!.” Sure enough, fifteen minutes later in the darkness came a four-wheel drive with three young policeman. “You haven’t seen any poachers around here have you? On motorbikes?” Another officer butted in: “Yeah, you know these damn Cossacks, you have got to be careful.” I denied any knowledge of poachers, and afterwards they took photos of me with a digital camera and gave me a bottle of mineral water. The police had only just driven off when the roar of motorbikes came back to life. During their time in hiding they had managed to collect a hefty pile of firewood and now went about setting up a campfire. Bundling up in coats and rugs we together roasted shashliks of salami, frankfurts and pig fat. Vodka and pure spirits were passed around. By the flickering light of the fire the cracked teeth smiles and tough boyish faces took on an air of celebration. “Yeah, you know, we are Cossacks after all! We have to live free!” They all laughed, yet under the stars that night as they checked their nets, and talked lawless, rude talk, I found myself wondering if this was a remnant of the true Cossack spirit. Afterall, Cossacks had fled to the steppe largely to escape serfdom, and to be free of governance. Like the Mongols, Kazakhs, and many people of the steppe before them, they had surely developed this harshness along with the yearning for freedom. They all packed up and left at about 4am, but this would not be the last time that people came hurtling into my campsite on the river, scaring the heck out of my horses. The boys obviously told everyone in the village about me, and a 2am the next night a car of drunken partiers turned up with a picnic of alcoholic drinks and fresh fish. “Australia! Australia! Australia!” had come the crazed screams of one woman before their drunkenly waving headlights caught me half dressed, half awake, and holding the horses in case of them bolting. The next day I left in fear of being bombarded by more well intentioned, but slightly overly rough visitors. There was a point just after Yspenskaya that the freshness given to us by the winter break wore off. The horses were now starting to lack energy and eat at every opportunity. If I slept badly my mood disintegrated, and my body was aching constantly- even Tigon seemed to be relishing every little break. Then the Rains came. These beautiful lanes turned to terrible mud that balled up under the horses hooves and stuck to everything. The horses were still losing their winter hair, and now this stuck to my clothes, my skin, my sleeping bag, and even floated into my porridge. I gave up trying to be clean and tramped about with mud from head to toe. Near the Khuuter of ‘Maloye Kazachoye’ I was visited by a man that irritated me profusely. Wildly drunk he came to me swearing angrily. “How dare you camp here on the Kuban! I respect you but it is not allowed! If I tell my friends about it, they will come in the night, take you horses to the meat factory, and drown you in the river for the crabs to eat!” He was clearly a pestering fool boasting about influence which he didn’t have, but in any case I slept fully clothed that night with the axe by my side. The slide into dirtiness continued, and the problem was that the more dirty I became, the less likely anyone was to invite me in. In any case there was no grazing in the villages and so I was forced to graze on the edge of ploughed fields in the shelter belts. The horses would always somehow get to the field and roll in this thick mud making the job of brushing them clean in the morning particularly unpleasant. As I headed west to the town of Dyadkovskaya, something else was really starting to worry me. Ever since arriving in Stavropol province, I noticed that every second person I spoke to asked me if I would sell my horses. This was an indicator of how few horses were on the Kuban steppe, and I still had not been able to find a replacement for Utebai. Almost totally out of food, and with the horses in desperate need of a rest, my saviour came in the most unlikely way. I was in a remote wheat field when suddenly arrived a lada. An orthodox priest in traditional dress jumped out with a bucket and straw sweeping broom. “Hello there.We have come to bless the wheat fields with holy water. Where are you going to?” I took photos of this priest as he sent water flying onto the fields with the flick of the broom, and said prayers. This blessing of the crops in Spring was an important Russian celebration in old times, and the revival of the tradition has followed some particularly bad seasons. As we departed he unexpectedly sprinkled the holy water over me and the horses, and wished me the best of luck. It was only about fifteen minutes later that the largest, shiniest Land Rover that I have ever seen in my life pulled up beside my caravan. A plump man with mobile dangling from his belt and a big bushy moustache stepped out with a look of great interest. ‘So traveller, partisan, Kazak, how can I help you!” Nikolai Vladimorivich Luti, Ataman of the region, owner of 10,000 hectares of crops, employer of 800 workers, and all round kind-guy now stood before me and told me that if I wanted, I had a place to stay 30km distant. “There at my friend’s farm you will have all the services you could wish for. If we can find a horse for you, we will.” And that was it, the sweetest thing about travel. You reach a point where you know that, ‘by tommorrow’ I have to find somewhere to eat, to sleep, to buy grain, to survive. Will I find a place? Will I survive? Probably, but maybe not. The odds though dictate that some way or another you will get through, but just how is not known, and that is the most exciting part of travel. Then suddenly, totally beyond your control the most unlikely but fitting solution materializes. Before I forget to mention, one thing which struck me as quite bizarre at first but which has since become the norm, is seeing grand Kurgans (the ancient Scythian graves and markers) in the middle of fields, ploughed, and planted with crops! To see great tractors climbing all over them at first horrified me. Not sure that the scythians would have approved. Looting of these kurgans also still goes on. On one Kurgan I found a hidden tunnel that had been recently dug right down into the heart of a Kurgan. A farmer later gave me as a gift the metal head of an arrow that he had found by a Kurgan. It was a long, but sweet thirty kilometre ride to the wheat growing ranch in heavy rain. First Nikolai escorted me, then Alexsei in a lada, then another farmer in a 4wd for the last muddy kilometres. There at the ranch among a throng of soviet harvesting equipment came the moment that we had all been waiting for. The horses were relieved of their loads, Tigon curled up on my big soft canvas bag, and I stepped about awkwardly with a throbbing behind and stiff knees. The best thing was that tomorrow, and maybe the day after, we would rest! I washed my hands, and was ushered into a hut to the most glorious sight. A tub of fresh meat and herbs lay on the table among a sea of vodka, fruit, salads, sauces, and wine. Here sat the three men who had escorted me by car: Nikolai, Peter, and Alexsei, with the addition of the owner of the farm, Chaika. “Well Tim, I am a big farmer, Nikolai. This is a little farmer, Sascha Chaika, this is my deputy…….I want you to know that you have fallen in with simple people, basic people. Although we are observing an orthodox period of fasting, Cossacks were always allowed to eat meat and drink alcohol when on the road…and well we are all on the road! I would like to raise a toast to our children- after all that is who we are all working for- and to Tim, so that he makes it to Hungary and home safely.” With that the feasting began. We gorged ourselves in a manner that is probably only possible without the presence of women (no forks, no spoons, disposable plates and cups, and a tablemat made of newspaper), and spoke about everything and anything, becoming louder and louder as the vodka rapidly ran empty. Eventually I collapsed into an old spring bed as the party went home. Tigon lay on the canvas bag by the hut’s window, and I realized that I had probably found my base for getting my horses ready for the Ukraine. Since then I have somewhat recovered from the rigours of the physical journey and am again juggling bureaucracy. I moved my horses to a metal recycling plant in the town of Timashevsk, where the owner keeps a stable of purebreds. The owner, Igor, is also a pigeon lover and as I rode into the town he stopped his 4wd and caught a pigeon with his own hands on a bridge! My horses were washed with horse shampoo, and are still being fed ample amounts of hay and grain. Nikolai put me up in a luxury hotel room for a night in Timashevsk, and I have since been living in a security guard hut at an industrial site where they make concrete tiles, and ship gas and diesel. My room is a little hovel nominally known as the mechanic’s domain where the unofficial word is where the head mechanic drags his lovers to now and then. Alexsei and a man called Edic have become my drivers while I try to get all of the veterinary requirements fulfilled for entry into Ukraine, and look for a replacement horse. This has involved vaccinations for all the horses against anthrax and flu, another repeat of the plague and rabies for poor little Tigon, and so far two blood tests. The first blood samples I took to a laboratory 45km distant in Krasnodar where I discovered that one of the blood analysis can only be done in Moscow. Test tubes of blood were then sent by courier to Moscow, and more blood was taken from the ears of the horses for immediate testing for parasites. The first blood had to be taken exactly 28 days before arrival at the border, and exactly 14 days before arrival this whole process has to be repeated. Meanwhile I am trying to train a wild stallion to replace Utebai, and he will obviously have to undergo an operation very soon to render him a gelding. I have since come to the city of Rostov on Don to have my Ukranian visa renewed. The Ministry of Culture of the Crimea sent through an invitation to the consulate, and on Friday I received the visa, although a mistake by a woman at the consulate only gives me five months, and not the six as requested. Life at the industrial base is far from dull. There is always someone swinging by, sometimes wildly drunk, sometimes not. A Georgian man took me home for lunch one day for me to try his wine, and last Thursday, some men who work for the concrete tile factory invited me home for the best banya I have ever experienced in my life. At 95 degrees, the thorough beating with Oak branches left me ‘like a fried rissole’ as they say in Russian. In general I have covered about 650-700km since setting off in March from Kalmikia and have 200km remaining to the black sea ‘Port Kavkaz.’ From there I will take the short ferry ride to the Crimea and hopefully get through the border without too many hassles. Apologies for the lack of correspondence in the last couple of months. As you may appreciate things have been very intense and finding the time to write and send updates was a bit beyond the limits. Ahead, spring! Another 1800km or so as the crow flies, and who knows what else en route to Hungary. Russian saying for the day: “When they give, take. When they kill, run!” (CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE COMPLETE LIST OF DIARY ENTRIES & CHECK THE IMAGE GALLERY FOR UPDATES)