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Full Circle

Day 19: Magadan to Vladivostok

Michael Palin - Full CircleIt's another bright sunny day and I'm out looking for a probka dlia vanni - a bath plug. Do they exist in Russia? I'm assured by our interpreter, Anastasia, that they do, but she doesn't hold out much hope of finding one in Magadan.

Magadan feels, and is, remote. Despite the fact that 30 per cent of Russia's gold and a considerable amount of her oil is located here, the cost of developing communications in these bitter, inhospitable conditions is enormous. There is no rail link with the rest of the continent, air travel is more expensive than it ever was in the Soviet days, and the nearest big town on the road north is Yakutsk, over 700 miles away.

But walking the streets, even in an unlovely place like Magadan, I can see that some things in Russia have changed for the better. There are fewer men in uniform, much less blatant surveillance, more stalls and street traders, more food in the shops. Christmas was restored by Yeltsin two years ago and the KGB has been renamed the Federal Department of Security.

But I still can't find a bath plug. Not even in the biggest store in town - The Everything For Home And Life Store, where car body parts are sold next to bone china, and tampons are found in the stationery department.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 19
  • Country/sea: Eastern Russia
  • Place: Magadan
  • Book page no: 40

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