27.07.2012 - 31.07.2012
I ended up staying three and a half days in Saratov such was the hospitality granted to me while I was there.
It appears that the locals in Saratov love the sunshine and love to hit the beaches. It must be strange to live in a city where you can swim in the river in summer and skate on it in winter.
Anna introduced me to her friend Lena and her five year old daughter Lettia. They live in Swansea as Lena is married to a guy from there but they were back in Saratov for the summer. She's been in Wales for a number of years now and it's interesting to see that she has picked up something of the Welsh accent.
Anna has a car and I spent my time there being chauffeured around. It so strange to not be on the bike, I've not spent a lot of time in cars since leaving Xiamen and it genuinely feels strange to travel so fast.
Elena left early on Sunday morning for a gruelling 32 hour train journey to the city in the west where she lives and works.
Sunday was as all Sundays should be, relaxing; coffee, followed by a walk in the park and a chance for me to show off my oarsman’s skills on the small lake.
Move aside Redgrave
Monday was perhaps the most interesting of days. I had initially intended to leave Saratov on this day but Anna and Lena had persuaded me to stay an extra day. What with it being a Monday Anna obviously had to go to work. She works for the local TV station and she invited me along to have a look around and told me I could also use one of the computers in her office to get online.
The original anchorman
As I uploaded pictures, made couch requests and looked at routes through Europe one of her co-workers came in and spoke to her. It turns out news of my trip had spread through the station and the lady reporter in question was interested in doing a small piece about me for the news the next day. It's not everyday you get to appear on Russian TV and within an hour we were back at Anna's apartment with a cameraman and reporter.
We sat on the sofa and the reporter went through the usual questions about why I was doing it and what difficulties had I faced so far. They wanted me to show them my pictures, maps and equipment that I had. We then retreated to the kitchen and sat down for afternoon tea, all the time with the camera still rolling. It was so bizarre!
We spent a good hour together and they took a lot of footage, it really must be a slow week for news in Saratov. It was agreed that they would return the next day to not only watch me depart but also film it!
Saratov really did turn out to be an unexpected treat for me and it was all down to my wonderful host Anna. Nothing surprises me any more on this trip. I just continue to meet incredible people all with incredible stories.