We had just completed an important stop--vodka & cigarettes to the Gods--when Andrew, the dentist, said we should take a bit of a side trip to see a particular mountain. It seems taht this particular peak was important to the native Boriats because it is the lcoation of athletic contests similar to the Olympics. To get to this peak though requires a horse. We have no horse. We have a car. If you saw this road you would agree that a car is a poor subsitute, or as we say this was a road made for a rental car.
We're dodging holes the size of the car and every imaginable rock, boulder and log that they have in Siberia, when I notice a series of huge old brick buildings to our left. They are obviously abaondoned (but then some things that look abandoned here, are not, so we stop). Of course, Jimmy will ask about anything and it turns out those buildings were the area Cooperative Farm, an industrial centralized 'collective' farm of the Soviet times. When the Soviet collapsed, the farming systems collapsed overnight. There were widespread food shortages and to this day much of the land remains unused. Here was a genuine monument to the stupidity of government control. It was a sight I will never forget. Painful to think about for these people I have come to know, like and respect. As I sat thinking of this trip and all its memorab le moments, I think that sight was the most poignant and perhaps the most memorable.