It’s Saturday, so I decide that it’s high time to check out the local nightlife.
I wander into town and search for a restaurant or bar where one wouldn’t look too out of place in camping clothes.
On the streets I pass a shiny green Lada and recall its muddy counterpart, driven by the friendly farmer in rainy Oloy. This one is pimped out in white mags and low profile tyres and couldn’t be cleaner.
The KwakInn Belgian Beer Bar ticks all the boxes, and I take a seat at the bar. A man named Sasha is on bar tender duties. He seems like a natural, but is not the owner. That honour goes to another man, dressed in the official shop shirt, who is far more reserved.
I’m not sure about my timing though. Shortly after taking a seat at the bar, two people from the local radio station, Fresh FM, start their routine over the loud PA system. They interview pub goers, and select couples to compete in silly competitions. These include skulling a litre of beer, eating a spicy pizza, or reading poetry with a mouthful of toast. I’m surprised that vodka doesn’t feature in the challenges.
As the odd one out, I can’t avoid a few questions from Fresh FM, but they are merciful and I’m excused from further embarrassment. It’s all quite entertaining, although I don’t really have a clue what’s going on.
The range of beers here is fantastic and I enjoy bottles of Piraat, Bruegel, Gulden Draak 9000 Quad, Abdij Averbode, Floris Framboise, and La Trappe Quadrupel. Paired with a small cone of Belgian Frites and some deliciously fatty Flemish sausages, the total comes to NZD 61.50, certainly more than the usual budget but much less costly than gorging myself like this at home.
Most people in the bar are seated in wooden booths and engaged in the competitions, or are intent on hanging with their mates. I feel a bit lonely at the bar, and mostly focus on repeated consumption and intermittent chit chat with Sasha.
However I do meet the regional representative of MTC Russia. Aged 31, he tells me about the (five?) different mobile providers in Russia and his love of travel, both to Germany and also to Australia. I’m surprised, both that he is so well off, and that he likes to travel to my corner of the globe. He gives me his number in case I need anything, a friendly gesture, though I am only here for a few more days anyway.