Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Russians are Coming.

Revisiting, perhaps for the last time, my hols in Tunisia, I feel the need for one more purgative. One more observation. One more - there's a risk of adamantine strength boredom setting in here - holiday reference. And it is: The Russians.

Remember the Germans? Fat bellied, all you can guzzle 'bier' swiggers, and their plump husbands. The whole monopoly thing with the toweled - claim-staked - sunbeds and the loud talk noise of the middle-agers, and the proud walk poise and sophistication of the blonde teens making young Brits look vulgar, badly dressed cretins - even if they didn't need much help.

The Germans and the Brits. How uneasily they shared their holiday space - consisting of a hotel, its communal areas of dance floors and restaurants, pools and snack-bars; two weeks of sneering and jeering. The quiet contempt and the whispered accusations, the kälte and the schadenfreud. Old hatreds resurrected in a bad blooded memory of enmity, an intolerant brew of wars, manners and football.

Loading hotels with human cargoes - equally weighted - of two nations' holiday makers, could be viewed as some kind of crazy social experiment. Nerdy chaps with clipboards and pen infested pockets lurking behind every one of those horrible cat infested rubbish skips you have to walk past on your way to the beach, or embedding themselves into every hotel bar, or pretend-dozing on every beach.

If it were such a thing, it would appear they have collected enough data. The Germans seem to have been reallocated. I saw very few of them last year in Spain and none at all in Crete the year before. The findings and reports must have been written up. Perhaps the evidence was conclusive - the Brits and the Germans make poor holiday bedfellows.

Now, it seems, it's the turn of the Russians. Still blinking in the white light of democracy and stumbling their way towards a European style existence and with more choice and more money than they've ever had before, the Russians have abandoned the Black Sea resorts and are now sharing holiday space with us. Just as the Germans once did. I don't know where Herr und Frau Schmitt und ihre kinder go now, but it doesn't seem to be any of the old war-field hot-leisure spots, scenes of so many towel wars, queue jump battles, loud speaking contests and best table hogging. But I know where the assorted Mr and Mrs Rokossouskys, Malashenkos and Barabanschikovas and their hugely extended families are now going, and they're sat on a table, languishing on a sun bed, and chatting together like hyperactive Bond villains in Brit holiday world. With you.

Taxi drivers and pedlars of tawdry wares approach you with unsolicited 'privets' while you wander around, such is their expectation that you're more Muscovite than Marmite, more St Petersburg than Peterborough, the old 'eeeloow' now seems to take second billing. If you're a tourist, you're Russian - that's how it now is.

Most of the Russians I encountered this year - and I can only say it as I saw it - were greedy. They ate all the time .... and then they went for their meals. Buffet service and all-inclusive. Kids and sweetshops.
Each morning The Skis and Skas would present themselves and load their plates until they groaned under the weight of food plopped, slopped and ladled on to them.
Boxes, cartons,jugs and bowls laid out for a little dainty spooning onto plates and careful sloshing into bowls were dragged off wholesale to breakfast tables. Fruit was gathered up by the kilo and hefted back to the table nest. Whole loaves of bread, carried like brickee's mates carry breeze blocks: stacked one on top of the other, all transported in ant-line-mode causing traffic jams in every aisle.

Lunch was just a rumour as I wasn't involved in the midday meals - though tales of gigantuan quantities of burgers, chips and ice-cream, suggested that we were all witnessing gluttony on a grand scale. We all knew that this was only a prelude to the main meal affair, the real deal, the gorge-fest. This was a feeding-frenzy that made your average pirannah cluster look like good-natured models of sharing restraint; street dog yaps seem decorous in their road-table manners; lions, genteel morsel pickers.

In holiday world, the German's like their sunbeds and favourite tables, the Russians don't give a shit where they lie or sit as long as they have enough food in front of them to sink a small ship. But it's fun to watch, and God only knows what they make of us. Bunch of xenophobic moaners in all probability.

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