Reindeer Meat and Vodka


Safari Restaurant

Don and I have been determined to visit the Safari restaurant ever since Vortex Yulia assured us that they have reindeer meat on the menu.  Lukash comes with out of curiosity as well, but with one eye on the vodka menu.  We find a lavish restaurant, decorated with all manner of animal heads, skulls and African tribal shields and weapons.  It also seems to be completely devoid of customers.  We discover there is one other group of people on the balcony overlooking the street, but we decide it’s too cold outside and settle down to have the inside to ourselves.  The menu is replete with reindeer based options, but nothing else unusual; we were hoping for bear of course.  Reindeer soup wins out for me, Don gets the cold reindeer meat entrée and we both get reindeer steaks for mains.

Hot elephant action

The Zebra Foot of Calm

We pick some wines at random and Lukash handles the ordering process for us, including some more menthol cigarettes for me.  I really only order them because the ashtray in the middle of the table is a zebra’s foot and I want, nay, I NEED to use it.  I’m picturing many of my friends squirming at the prospect, both of smoking in a restaurant and using a zebra’s foot ashtray; but the sheer novelty value works for me.  The restaurant IS empty -perhaps that’s punishment enough for their unhygienic and ecologically questionable practises.  Ashing into the zebra foot still fills my soul with a divinely pleasurable calmness.

Safari Restaurant

We end up passing around all our entrees and main courses so everyone has a taste of everything and Olya joins us just before the main courses turn up.  The reindeer is a tasty meat, certainly like venison, but with a wilder, gamey flavour.  We discover later that the meat comes from herds that run virtually wild in the north of Russia and are brought into towns for slaughter by the native people as their main source of income.  The steaks I can recommend highly if you get the chance, it’s a delicious meat.  We end up staying in the restaurant for a few hours, lazily ordering more wine and calling for menus again.  I notice they have a port on the menu and ask if they can create a cheese plate for us.

The lads at play

They return with a few glasses of port and three kinds of cheese laid out on a platter with fresh green grapes and crackers.  The staff leave us alone for long periods of time, so we start exploring the room and fooling around with all the decorations.  I find four safari hats and bring them back to the table so we can be dressed more appropriately.  Don escorts Olya back to Yana’s apartment and then to the train station, while Lukash and I decide to go to the nightclub that’s on the floor above us.

Lukash in da house

The nightclub wants to charge us 500 roubles (AUD$25) just to get in and Lukash says he can’t afford it.  I consider the situation for a moment before offering,
“It’s my shout mate.  We both want to see what’s inside, I’m not going in by myself and we’ll at least be able to talk between the odd shot of vodka.”
“Who is shouting? What will you shout?”, he asks, looking around confused.
“Oh…it just means I’ll pay, let’s go in.”
His huge smile breaks open again,
“Are you sure?”
“Of course I’m sure, now let’s get these passes.”

Olya on Safari

Don plotting for world domination

We pay for entry and catch an elevator to the third floor.  All the bouncers, employees and patrons don’t know what to make of us, but mostly smile and wave us through.  We are each given a card that you use to pay for drinks, the cards have a 2000 rouble (AUD$100) limit on them, so if you fill them up, you have to pay that much to continue.
So I’m sitting in a Russian nightclub in the middle of Siberia with a one legged polish dude on a skateboard, drinking beer and downing vodka shots.  I’m so glad there’s no way you can prepare for a moment like this, but I’ve always enjoyed landing in them and riding it out. The club has two floors, both of which circle a large, raised central area.  On top of the raised area is the dancefloor, which is square in an otherwise curved room.  It has smooth, round, chrome metal fences around the edges of it to stop people falling into the main bar, which surrounds its base.  The bartenders have an interesting position, since along those chrome fences is a solid line of stunningly beautiful Russian women dancing like slutty Americans from a hip-hop video.  Lukash and I exchange a long grin and the two of us switch between talking about the rest of our Russian journey and downing what becomes a stream of beery, vodka soaked goodness.  Lukash will leave for Irkutsk the next morning and we leave that evening.  Don arrives about this time and the three of us continue a very slight binge into the night.  At different points we go for walks around the top floor to see if it’s any better there; it isn’t.  We move tables just to have a different view of the inside for a while.

Men's and Women's

I’m not sure how it starts, but Lukash grabs me in a headlock and I grab his larynx firmly in my fingertips and gently squeeze.  He is seriously strong, much stronger than me, but what he is surprised by is the pain I can inflict so quickly and dangerously that makes it hard for him to breath.  We’re both laughing crazily as he lets go and he looks at me, amazed,
“Where did you learn that? I’ve never had someone do that!”
I shrug and reply,
“Dunno really…probably what you get growing up in an Australian country town like Darwin.”
I really have no memory of learning it, but in the moment I did it without thinking.
“Do it again, what do you do exactly?”
Don returns from the bar at exactly this moment and the two of us are holding each other’s necks as I demonstrate.  He cracks up and offers to leave us alone.  We end up laughing again and Don starts teaching us how to fall properly using Judo techniques.  Every now and then we catch people staring at the three of us grappling and falling around the bar in baffled wonder.  It’s all completely logical when you’re in the moment.
We manage to fill up all three of our cards and leave soon afterwards.  Don returns to Yana’s apartment, so the journey home for me mostly involves staggering along following Lukash, who seems far less affected than me.  The sun is already up and somehow I’d got myself into a slightly worse state of inebriation than earlier in St Petersburg.  I have the same walk, leaning sideways, and I’m dreading any interaction with the police this time.  Lukash scoots ahead when I think we’re fairly close to the apartment, but without him in front of me I become confused and lost for a while.  I have no idea how long that lasts, but he comes back and rescues me from oblivion.  I somehow manage to drag my carcass up the three flights of stairs and stagger inside.  My autopilot gets me into the shower and I think I’m going to largely be alright once I’m sitting on the bed. Lari looks at me sideways and says,
“Are you alright? Do you need a bucket?”
I don’t understand why she’s asking,
“No…I’m fine, just need water.”
My face must be telling a story my body isn’t telling me, because I throw up a minute later before passing out completely.

Olya stops to smell the flowers

Would you care for a hat?


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