Postcard from Samara
More Russian sights, Serbian grills and Aussie friends on a road trip from Kazan to Samara25 June 2018 | Mark Bowman
Rather than fly from Kazan to Samara, I booked a driver to take me by road, a lovely young bloke called Mushvig who moved with his family from Baku to Kazan. He insisted on buying me a delicious lunch in a small halal place along the way (I returned the favour with a pretty good tip) before reaching the sprawling city of Samara, on the mighty River Volga.
There is history about Samara - built as a fortress to protect Russia's southern borders - but its modern history is about the city's contribution to Soviet/Russian space flight.
Samara provided much of the nous and rocket parts, the latter shipped to the Baikonur launch pads in Kazakstan. So it's another space museum (with a surprise bumping into former Aussie captain Alex Tobin for good measure). The Soviets had complete plans and specs for a manned moon landing and also developed a reusable spacecraft that looks nearly identical to the American Space Shuttle. Breach of intellectual property is nothing new!
Samara was full of Australians, and to the locals we were an oddity from a very distant place. Their hospitality, along with their beer and their many 'Serbian Grill' restaurants was well received.
They even had kilometres of beachside along the river, with paved promenades bordering the sand. Lack of waves aside, it could have been Manly.
Throughout the city and on game day, it's been a delight bumping into many of the older 'true believers' who lived through the 32 year hiatus between World Cup appearances. Lots of us have less hair (the guys anyway) and most need to quickly put their specs on to read their phones, but how much better that we can now experience actually seeing Australia at World Cup games, having spent so many years having only friendlies and qualifiers, often on our own in front of a TV in the middle of the night. Regular qualification and social media have brought so many together. It's both surprising and fantastic to see that there are, and always were, so many of us.
And so to the game against Denmark. The team did so well but how much better would we be with a natural goal scorer!
We could easily be on four points rather than one. But that's football.
So, we're still alive but not completely in control of our own destiny. The Peru game is not a dead rubber and we've all to play for.
From Samara it's on to Sochi for the game against Peru. Sochi is Russia's quirky equivalent to the Gold Coast .... more of that later.
2018 world cup, #russia2018, socceroos fans, active support