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Stuck in Siberia with nothing to do mid-week? Looking for misadventure? Go to Stratosfear. I did. Apparently.

Detectives are peacing together the evidence of what appears to be a string of related incidents in Irkutsk. So far they have come across the following:

1. The chief suspect woke up in a different hotel to the one his rucksack was in

2. A round of beer and vodka costs around 2 quid in Stratosfera

3. There were pistachio shells scattered liberally around the drawer next to the bed of the chief suspect, and MTV blaring from the t.v.

4. Stratosfera shuts at around 4am on Friday morning which must have been about – 12C to -18C

5. The suspect was not wearing any glad rags when he woke, nor were any to be found in the hotel. Just the kind of scummy travelling clothes and boots that mean people look you up and down shaking their heads when they see you in nightclubs.

Stratosfera is protected by anti-vehicle girders, as you can see on one of the photos above. It has everything you need in a modern Siberian nightclub:

  • ten-pin bowling
  • a restaurant
  • many bars and many many many bar staff, one of whom I saw sprinkling salt (?) on slices of lemon and eating it.
  • flashing lights and music
  • cliched pimps who model themselves on Vinnie Jones in herring-bone jackets and maybe a tasteful cream polo neck top
  • a bulletproof security team of about 5 or 6, who from time to time wander onto the dancefloor, looking moody
  • a metal detector, which the security team were convinced was detecting cigarettes I didn’t have in my pockets, and ignoring the metal belt buckle I kept showing them, each and every time it set the alarm off
  • women dressed like Sue Ellen in Dallas – sparkly or shiny tops straight from the catwalks in Paris. A few decades ago. When the cleaners were sweeping the runway after the shows had finished.
  • the european union stillettoed ankle boot mountain being trotted back and forth on the dancefloor to pulsing music
  • the obligatory Asian business man staggering around in a nice suit, acting like the kid at the fair that is choosing the goldfish his mother will be flushing down the toilet tomorrow
  • the over-sensationalised much-maligned Russian ‘mafia’
  • a Subaru Impreza parked outside next to the obligatory SUVs

Irkutsk Police station has several tanks parked outside. These aren’t used for issuing parking tickets. 3rd party car insurance is not mandatory yet in Russia, which reflects in the “get-out-of-my-way-I’ve-got-a-girder-on-wheels-and-I’m-not-protecting-a-no-claims-bonus-style” of driving. Given that the average cost of a Russian car insurance premium is around four times the average cost of a claim, it would seem that not paying your insurance, and mowing down civilians would seem the right course of action for any self-respecting organised criminal. In their SUV. With the 20 inch rims. But the police station car lot also houses a rocket launcher. And a big rocket, around 30 feet long. So maybe that’s why there aren’t more hit-and-run accidents. And maybe the security guards at the clubs are to protect you from the crazed-police.

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