GoGabber Forum Newsletter Septermber 2013.

If you haven’t visited GoGabber in a while, allow us to bring you up to date!

As you probably know, the forums came under new ownership and management in late 2012; almost a year ago now. A lot has happened since then. GoGabber has its roots in the dating genre, but had morphed into a general chat site (in English and Russian languages) over the years. Following a member vote on the future direction of the site, it was decided to try to point the site slowly towards slightly more specific niches: World events, the economy, news and politics. With maybe a little travel, holidays and places thrown in (well, we like to be diverse).

Of course, you can still talk about pretty much anything at GG, but if you like political and current events debate or travel, then come and have another look as GG is changing.

Current Popular Topics:

US and Arab Intervention in Syria Imminent (Hot Topic!): http://www.gogabber.com/showthread.php?t=9955

Another Form of Computer Fraud: http://www.gogabber.com/showthread.php?t=10757

Muslim Riots In France – Guy Strangled Cop Giving Ticket To His Veiled Wife: http://www.gogabber.com/showthread.php?t=10748

The Gibraltar Issue: http://www.gogabber.com/showthread.php?t=10830

The Third-World Hellhole That is Detroit: http://www.gogabber.com/showthread.php?t=10747

Bribery in Russia: http://www.gogabber.com/showthread.php?t=10736

The Most Surprising Things About America: http://www.gogabber.com/showthread.php?t=10866

Mumbai – The City of Contrasts: http://www.gogabber.com/showthread.php?t=10662

Observations from Togliatti, Russia: http://www.gogabber.com/showthread.php?t=10807

Bread/хлеб: http://www.gogabber.com/showthread.php?t=10863

Most Online Dating Sites Won’t Match Republicans With Democrats: http://www.gogabber.com/showthread.php?t=10836

What else is going on?

We have recently moved over to new super-fast UK dedicated cloud servers, so the site is nice and fast as a forum should be. We have continued to repair the little faults and update the site over the last few months, so everything is working like it should (fingers crossed).

Like any forum, GG has suffered its fair share of trolls and troublemakers over the years. However, over the last year or so, the moderation team has undergone some pretty drastic changes, and we are firmly on top of both spam and former troublemakers now. So you may find the atmoshphere at GG has changed for the better since you last looked in.

We have recently re-activated the site’s long-forgotten Twitter account. If you are a Twitter user, please follow us, tweet any of our topics that interest you to your followers using the buttons in every topic, and generally help us spread the word about GG any way you can. Find us at @gogabber_com

2013 Musings from Togliatti, Russia: Samara Airport Again!

Leaving Russia. KUF Samara Airport Again!

When leaving Russia, I always aim to arrive at the airport an hour before I would in the west in order that the inefficiency I have come to expect can move at its own speed and I might actually make the plane. So I arrived almost three hours before the flight was due to leave.

They X-ray your baggage on the way into the terminal building, and then again at security. The queue for the second level of security had already filled the main terminal building. Progress was not fast. However, when I say queue, that isn’t quite accurate. Russians haven’t really grasped queuing. What they do is more of a mass thronging towards where they want to be. Blink and one will slip in ahead of you.

Only two flights were due to leave in the next couple of hours that I could see, one to Minsk on some local airline and mine to Germany with Lufthansa. How hard can it be?

Well after more than an hour of waiting to get through the second level security, a member of staff from Lufthansa was walking around herding up those travelling to Germany and arranged a queue jump to clear security.

On the other side, the queues to clear passport control were enormous. After a very long time waiting here with no discernible progress, the Lufthansa woman again rounded up everyone heading for Germany and again arranged a queue jump to passport control. For those not travelling with Lufthansa, some of them were very vocal about this and arguments broke out between passengers and staff.

Now I could see the passport booths, I could see the problem. Six or eight cubicles and only two open. Other staff were milling around, drinking tea, sending SMS’s but seemed in no hurry to actually do any work or open any other booths.

After some time, flight time was heading close and Lufthansa woman was getting more frustrated as our party simply weren’t clearing passport control as they were taking around five minutes to process each passenger. Well, do the maths. Two cubicles taking five minutes per person means 24 people an hour. That ain’t quick.

I understood that already the flight to Minsk was delayed because of this, and people around me were getting anxious about that. Lufthansa woman went into a side office and I could hear raised voices. Eventually, a miserable woman came out and very slowly opened another cubicle. But the speed of her work averaged six to eight minutes per person. How the hell can it take so long? :'(

As we know, Lufthansa is not known for being late. Delays because of such incompetence and bureaucracy would be unheard of in Germany. Again Lufthansa woman began stalking up and down bitching at the staff who were simply sitting around.

Finally I got to the booth, the guy spoke English. After the usual typing and messing about, the guy asked me where I was going. What the hell does that matter? “Out of Russia” was my reply.
“To what country?” he asked. He knew this anyway as Lufthansa woman had been badgering him too. *sigh*
“Germany, if its important” I said.
“What is your final destination?” he asked. Where are we, the USA? I thought.
After hours of watching this nonsense playing out in front of me, I had had enough by now and yearned the little bit of organised Germany that was to be my plane seat.
“What does it bloody matter where I am going? Do you want to come with me? Why are you people delaying these flights like this? Is this fun for you people? Look out there at the damn queues, man. Stamp the passport and let me get out of here.”
“Don’t shout at me” he said.
“Do your job then – you know the plane is late, right?” I told him.
Eventually, he stamps me out with a sneer.

On the other side, the staff have minibuses relaying people to the plane three at a time at breakneck speed across the tarmac. Everyone working for Lufthansa is bouncing about looking at their watches and flapping. Outside the building are five or six border police smoking, laughing and chatting like they have no care in the world.

After a huge effort by the Lufthansa staff, the plane took off fifteen minutes late. And of course, arrived in Germany on time. :chuckle:

When we left, the plane to Minsk was still sitting there now well over thirty minutes late. I’d have been surprised if that managed to leave two hours later as most of its passengers were still in the building.

Samara Airport: Absolute and complete bloody shambles and not fit for purpose. It has got worse over the years.

Final thoughts.

Russia is changing; and for the better. Air is cleaner, the economy seems to be showing signs of life, the younger generations are becoming more European in outlook. New and old Russia are currently side by side, evidenced by a swelling middle class. I expect next time I go back I will see more positive change. These things do follow a course, and I saw it before in Estonia where change from ex-Soviet shithole that didn’t work, to the nicer place it is today took about a decade. Russia will be slower, but all the vital signs are there and its well underway.

The only thing that lets Togliatti and Samara down is the KUF airport. Next time I will surely connect through Moscow and avoid most of it. If Russia wants tourism and foreign investment, sorting the shambles out that I experienced two times at Samara airport should be top priority.

2013 Musings from Togliatti, Russia: Cost of Living, Money and Finances

People have said for a long time that to replicate a western lifestyle in Russia costs more than at home. And it does.

When you subtract the stuff that is laughably cheap, what remains is way overpriced. But its true that if you just go about your day, have lunch somewhere, take a few taxis, have dinner somewhere, buy a few provisions from a grocery store, maybe take a boat trip or do something each day, you will be surprised how the money just drains from your wallet.

Those prices quoted above by mhr7 for Ukraine are how it used to be in Estonia. Then they joined the EU and everything shot up almost overnight.

In Russia, if you look at locals, many of them are tooling around in BMW, Audi and other imported cars. Those cars cost almost twice in Russia than they do at home. And we know few will be on finance. That means the bloke in the BMW jeep likely coughed up close to £50k for that car. Well, he isn’t on £200 a month is he? Local oligarch perhaps? Five years ago you saw the odd one and you may think so. Now go to a decent restaurant or the yacht club and these cars are lined up outside.

We took a boat trip for a couple of hours down the Volga. Tickets were maybe £5 each. The guy ahead of us brought three pals, a big pizza and crate of beer so he and his buddies could chill out. So tickets £20, pizza and beer maybe another £15. So this average bloke spent £35 for a two hour chill with his pals. So he isn’t on £200 a month either.

I would recommend any visitor budgets for £100 a day, excluding accommodation. And have a back up card in case he runs out.

Anyone who can live in Russia on £200 a month rides the bus, shops in the cheap market and eats only home cooked cabbage and potatoes. Whilst many do live like that, what I guess we can call the middle class is growing quickly and noticeably. People are buying the new houses as they are built, people are buying new cars, both local ones and imported ones. People are dining out more. People are remonting their dachas. People are holidaying abroad. People are spending money, so that money is coming from somewhere.

The only explanation is that the economy is starting to work as it should. Government is spending money on improving infrastructure. That money eventually filters down the food chain to the baker, the butcher and the candlestick maker.

2013 Musings from Togliatti, Russia: Restaurants & Eating Out.

Eating Out in Togliatti.  When you visit a place, you don’t really want to start cooking do you? So restaurants are going to feature. However, in my experience, this is something Russia hasn’t quite got to grips with yet. We went in two places that had been previously OK that now have insect issues. One […]

2013 Musings from Togliatti: Taxis and getting around in Russia.

Getting around.

When I first went to Togliatti, when you wanted a taxi, you just stood by the road with your hand out and someone would stop. Negotiate a price before you get in and job done.

It always used to concern me the thought that any weirdo could stop and pick up women, and anything might happen. And indeed, sometimes it has done from what I have heard.

Happily, this practice seems to have mostly stopped. Now like anywhere else, you call a taxi, and a few minutes later you get an SMS that tells you what car it will be and how many minutes. Quite efficient really. Prices are really cheap still, anything between £2 and £4 takes you across town.

However, the quality of the said taxis, and the drivers, still leaves much to be desired. Most seem to be the crappiest old Ladas and other budget rubbish available. The quality of repair is terrible. Blowing exhausts, clunking suspension, dodgy brakes, etc. Interiors are generally filthy and the drivers personal hygiene leaves much to be desired. Bloody awful all round.

After the first few days of this, and trying several different firms to find they are all the same, I began looking out for liveried taxis to take a number from. There are some. But again, it often is the case that you take a number from a smartly liveried car, and the usual plain smashed up Lada arrives with foul smelling Ivan at the wheel smoking a Parliament. Cunning trick.

In one of the restaurants we visited, there were some business cards that proclaimed their taxis were “new foreign cars”. But when you call, a foreign car will be an hour, and a smashed up one can be there in minutes. :chuckle:

I expressed concern that I didn’t want my wife and daughter travelling about in a piece of smashed up crap with no brakes, even if it is £2. There must be a proper firm out there somewhere.

My wife asked a girl she knows who she calls a “new Russian” and got a number of a firm called ‘Elite’: 702 702.

And guess what arrived? A brand new Chevrolet with aircon, with a rather fetching young lady driver! And she was a good driver too – which makes a change there. So that’s the taxi problem solved. :nod:

Not all drivers at that company are women, but the cars are generally better than most and the drivers are not smoking and juggling two mobile phones and a taxi radio whilst driving. As all the cars are liveried, they are image conscious one told my wife when asked. The price was just the same as a smashed up one. That wont last…..

For the hell of it, we took a trolleybus on a couple of occasions. These have not been updated yet and are still the creaking rattling relics of yesteryear. They are ridiculously cheap. Pennies.

I suspect the new liveried taxis are where local travel is heading, and the smashed up taxi will soon become a thing of the past. As soon as the local cops cotton on to the fact that taxis in bad condition are easy targets for fines, as are people on phones, I reckon they will be forced off the road in a changing Russia.

2013 Musings from Togliatti: Russia is Changing.

Usually when you get on the road, you get the gargling paraffin taste in your throat that is the pollution. It is normally so bad that I need some antibiotics after a few days to quell my swollen throat.

I wont say the air smelled like an English meadow in spring, but the paraffin taste has gone. This air tastes somewhat cleaner than it has always done in the past.

And the road. What is different there?

Ahh yes, the ruts are fewer, the potholes not as big and while not the M1 or a Floridian boulevard, the road surface is somewhat better than I remember.

The drive from Samara to Togliatti used to take about an hour. Now it is 40 minutes as the roads are better.

Repairing the roads in Samara and Togliatti will take decades. But it is well under way and the main routes are all in the midst of being resurfaced.

They haven’t yet started on the pavements; they are still the death trap they have always been. But roads matter more IMO. Anyway, fewer people are using the pavements as more seem to be driving.

I can only guess what has caused the pollution to lessen and that is more newer cars and vans on the road. Many of the old crappy vans and trucks are now gone, as are many of the 70’s and 80’s Ladas. In their place is American imported SUV’s and modern Ladas.

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