Astonishing adventures – pt. 4: railroad bonus track.

Er… oops. In my previous post in this series, I forgot all about Uryupinsk! Accordingly, here’s adventure-tourism story of the unique/unusual kind No. 7…

In the fall of the year 2008, we took a business trip to Volgograd to sign official agreements on friendship and cooperation with the Governor of the Volgograd region. After the official part of the proceedings there was a short and friendly meeting, during which I noticed a map on the wall – a map of the region. And since I’m a big fan of examining geographical details on maps, I proceeded to duly scan it. And straight away I noticed the “legendary” (see below) Uryupinsk on it:

I say “legendary”, since, in Russia, the town of Uryupinsk has traditionally been used as a synonym for a bland, provincial backwater; and now, in the digital-era, it’s long been an internet meme for much the same thing. I’m not sure I even knew where it was (though, like every other Russian, I knew what it stood for), but here, in the governor’s office on the big wall-map, there it was – as large as life!

So, I pipe up with: “Is Uryupinsk yours?”, addressing the governor. “Yes, it is ours,” he answered. And then, contrary to both common sense and official etiquette, I made a joke. I said that, since Uryupinsk is a well-known internet meme, and we should hold an internet conference there!

The joke was made, I left, and forgot about it. But some time later, our Russian office (responsible for product promotion, marketing, sales, and support in Russia++) started poking at me. It turned out that the Governor didn’t quite “get” my joke, but, on the contrary, took it seriously. And the administration of the Volgograd region started knocking on our door in Moscow with questions like: “When will the conference be?”, “Well, your chief said that it should be held!” and so on!…

This led to a brainstorming session in which decided… we’d hold it! Why? Why not?!

So we allocated a budget and sent a reconnaissance group to the glorious city of Uryupinsk…

Said reccy group were treated with… suspicion, to say the least. Well, they were from Moscow, after all :). So the town’s administration needed some convincing that all this wasn’t some kinda prank or other deceit: even the town’s top man came to see me to check all was legit! ->

Surprisingly, there were to be rather a lot of guests at the internet meeting/festival in Uryupinsk, and we had to take care of the logistics (most of the participants were from Moscow and other big cities). But…:

Moscow – Uryupinsk = ~700km. Ferrying hundreds of folks on buses such a distance – on roads of questionable quality back-then – no, that wouldn’t work. Flying the participants in – also no-go (local airport not really local, and it’s a pretty tiny one too, so a decent-sized plane wouldn’t even fit into it).

Cue Uryupinsk-event-brainstorm ver. 2.0: we need to get everyone there by… train! Just one slight hindrance – there are no trains run between Moscow and Uryupinsk. They stopped the route in the nineties when folks started to transfer en masse to road transport. But… we don’t give up that easily

Uryupinsk-event-brainstorm ver. 2.0 result: we’ll charter a train to Uryupinsk! And that’s just what we did (thanks – again – Russian Railways!). Box – out – thunk!

Must say – I’d never heard of whole trains being chartered, nor have I ever since, but, heck – we just got all Nike and just did it!…

And we’re off!…

On the train – plenty fun and games ) ->

We arrive in Uryupinsk:

Meanwhile some guests did come to the event by coach, but not just any (young) guests – but special guests from… Brazil! Thus, the internet meeting/festival pretty much became an internet carnival! In Uryupinsk! Rule-book: shredded! ->

And the carnival took place on the central square of the town:

// After the event there were rumors I’d be getting into politics. Yeah – right :)

The internet carnival was a resounding success, with 10-15,000 in attendance. The mayor was pleasantly astonished, driving me personally back to “our” train afterward, which took us back to Moscow ).

More photos from Uryupinsk – here.

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