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Expensive but essential.

Date: 2007-08

I don't have many memories left of it, but the ones I do are pretty weird. We traveled there by train, and I think had motion sickness or something, so they fed me some salt? I don't know. Other than that, I remember a couple of random buildings, and I also have a photo of me holding a parrot on the beach. I think I enjoyed the trip back then in any case.

Date: 2015-08

It was decided to travel by car, but, as it turned out, Russia is really damn big. We spent less time in our destination than we did driving, but at least in the end I've seen a lot of interesting stuff. The destination itself, by the way, wasn't that remarkable since it's just a small village where we had a relative.

Date: 2017-08

This was the first time I've ever visited a non-CIS country and the first time I've ever traveled by plane. We stayed in a pretty low-tier hotel, but it was a cool and unique experience seeing what the abroad looks like in any case.

Date: 2018-07

It was pretty much like the previous time but with more food and in a better hotel.

Date: 2019-08

Also pretty much like the previous time but in an even better hotel and with an amazing Jeep safari ride or whatever it's called. Or well, it was mostly amazing with the exception of me violently throwing up in the middle of it. Not sure why it happened.

Date: 2019-08

Despite the weather being depressive a large portion of time and soviet architecture being everywhere, visiting this city was a remarkable experience. Everything is well-maintained and also well-connected with a truly incredible public transportation system. I can only wish I had a metro in my home city. Of course, there's also a lot of infrastructure and, well, stuff in general, but that's to be expected from a place this big. If you'd asked me "would you move there" after this trip, I would've said "yes".

Date: 2020-07

Big thanks to the 2019 coronavirus for ruining my plans of finally visiting a country I'm interested in. God fucking dammit, this was going to be the first time I visit something alone, and I hate it so much that I'm not going to for years to come.

Date: 2021-08

The pandemic wasn't over yet, and there were forest fires everywhere. What a wonderful time for a trip. Luckily though, none of that affected anything, and it was pretty wonderful. This time we decided not to buy an expensive hotel room but instead buy the cheapest one we could possibly find and spend the saved money however we want, which we did. Of course, not all of our purchases were reasonable, but to be fair, at least we were able to afford to eat actually whatever we want - I ate at least 2 doners every day. My stomach didn't like it, but no one asked it.

Because the hotel was so bare bones, we had to get outside to do stuff, making us walk around the city, which was quite enjoyable. For the example, the hotel has no dedicated beach, so we had to use a public one, which turned out to be even better than the private ones we were on before. Overall, I'd say I enjoyed this trip more than the previous ones to Turkey, and we'd probably continue doing trips in this style because it seems like an all-inclusive hotel only makes things worse.

Date: 2022-08

Yes, again but 7 years later. It was about as fucked up as last time but probably more fun. Instead of spending 8 days in a single car, we spent slightly over 6. This time, we were much better prepared - the car was bigger, there were multiple drivers, and you could even charge your phone if you tried hard enough. And I, of course, had to try hard because I was an idiot and had forgotten to update my Android and fix the battery drain issue. Anyway, these 6 days were an endurance test, but it was more fun than last time, I think. I actually took photos, and this time, no drivers were harmed in the process. The only downside was that my brain almost became dysfunctional and I could barely talk for quite a while. In fact, I'm still not sure I completely recovered.

The destination sucked. Not as much as a literal village in the middle of nowhere as last time, but it was nowhere near what I'd experienced before. The only reason I enjoyed it is because my environment finally changed. Yeah, and also I found one place with The Best Shawarma Everâ„¢ and had to walk an 800 step staircase in both directions. These 2 moments were actually enjoyable.

On our way back, we decided to visit Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan. Great city, great food. We visited a restaurant where I bought a taco with a horse meat, tiny echpochmaks a la French fries, a regular echpochmak, and sandthorn juice. Actually mindblowing that there's a place on the planet that sells stuff like this. Horse meat, by the way, was pretty interesting. It tasted kinda like beef with the tenderness and the texture of chicken. My stomach had a hard time processing it, but it could've because I ate so much at once while being really hungry.

What happened right before that, however, was a possible act of revolt of machines against the mankind. We used Yandex Navigator, and by proxy its voice assistant Alice, in order to guide ourselves. Back then, she wasn't that good at actually navigating, and you couldn't even configure it so she doesn't suggest you dirt roads. The app got much better since then and is now better than 2GIS in my experience, but that's beside the point. Apart from a few little surprises like making us take a ferry on our way to the destination, which in retrospect was actually kinda cool, there was one big and unpleasant surprise.

It was no dirt road. It was the worst fucking stretch of road I've seen in my entire life, broken beyond human comprehension and with barely any mobile connectivity or gas stations. It was located right before the town of Borisoglebsk, and driving there at night was like being in a horror movie. And all of that happened solely because Alice decided to "take a shortcut" through a thousand kilometers in the middle of fucking nowhere by suddenly derailing us away from a perfectly fine highway. Fuck you Alice.