Join us in an exciting adventure with the LaSardina in.. Caviar Diaries!
“Good Morning“, I replied, as I lifted the red handset from my landline telephone. “It’s the president”, tumbled out of the speaker, “your society needs your help!” I was pretty dazzled and a bead of sweat rolled down my cheek in slow motion: “A difficult mission lies ahead of us and we think that you are the one man to accomplish it!”
No more words needed to be wasted. I was already in, as a Prussian and as a robot; I stand tall when my people need me. When the president, the Matthias, the keeper of the holy Lomo-Grail is calling, one ought not to refrain from any kind of action necessary. I was defenceless and the terms and conditions of my inauguration as “00 Lomo” were hastily negotiated.
For weeks and months I had to keep the aims of my endeavour under the highest level of secrecy, but now after the release of “La Sardina” and the waves of affection it has received, I am happy to reveal the tales of my mission and open the files of the Caviar Diaries.
I knew for some time that this new fisherman’s camera was hitting the shores of the Lomographic land. But in this approach of “el Maximo Lomo- Líder” I was introduced to the fact that Lomography wanted to start a new legacy with La Sardina. The plan was to create some truly special editions and one in particular, which would be devoted to the Caspian Sea and to caviar. The Black Gold of the Caucasus.
The briefing of my undercover-mission was clear: Take La Sardina to the very origins of caviar, snap as many shots as possible and create some stories that are worth reading. The result of my assignment would be stuffed into a book. The route, as a mobile Lomographic ambassador, could be determined by me, but I only had a few weeks to complete it as production for the camera was on a tight schedule. A fantastic mission, but one had to keep in mind, that there were obstacles to overcome. I love travelling and I admit I am pretty good at it. If travelling was a profession, I reckon I would have a promising career in it. Dealing with border control is one of my expertise, negotiating visa issues with the authorities is very familiar to me, and checking for the lowest possible fares for flights is actually one of my hobbies, even if that might sound a little strange!
From the beginning, I wanted to make this Lomo trip exciting and that meant that I would need to go to as many places as possible. However, the region of the Caucasus has a challenging infrastructure for travellers and you need a visa to visit most of the countries there. You can only apply for one visa at a time, and this means you have to give your passport to the embassy. Taking this and the limited planning time into consideration, my options were quickly being narrowed down. However, this was a good thing, because it made everything clearer.
Within a week I had established my route and it looked something like this:
Germany – Ukraine – Azerbaijan – Russia – Latvia – Germany
I estimated that I would need four to five days in every country. I hoped that all of these nations would deliver a special flavour to my mission and would give me the sort of stories that needed to be written. As I had previously worked as a volunteer in Russia for 15 months after my high school graduation, I am capable of speaking Russian and I have a strong long for the region of the former-Soviet Union. That means I am always grateful whenever my paths takes me towards the east.
So before I could take my hundred-something rolls of film, two La Sardina prototypes and a handful of fresh underpants with me on this journey, I first had to clear my accreditations. When you go to the east you should always make sure that you have all your documents in order, because you never know which grumpy soldier you might meet in a remote, dark corner at the end of the world.
Azerbaijan was of course the true object of my desire; this little country of Ottoman/ Turkish influence lies on the Caspian Sea – home to the real caviar. My top priority was to get a visa for Azerbaijan first. For about a year now, you are only able to get your visa from the embassy itself; in the past an EU citizen could get hold of one in exchange for a handful of dollars at the airport. But since the policy has changed, the Azeri Embassy in Berlin is under constant stress and applicants have to wait more than two weeks. Even after that they still need a letter of invitation from a tourist office, a company or a person that knows them. Actually you have to present your travel tickets as well. This is all rather complicated, so I was thankful to have some good Azeri friends in Berlin who were kind of familiar with the consul. If things ever get complicated, personal relationships can do more for a nice guy on a world-saving mission, than any paperwork could ever do. So this time round, it was good friends that got me on the Extra Express Lane for a shiny new visa.
But still, the process of getting a visa is always your first encounter with a foreign mentality. As a German, I would ideally like everything to be completed within minutes, but as an Azeri you have to drink a lot of tea and wait. Eventually I received my passport together with a cute handwritten visa just three hours before my departure to the Ukraine. I was ready to take off. But wait, what about the visa to the other countries? Well, the Ukraine was a safe haven for EU Citizens as they do not request any visa, but Mother Russia does. There was no time left – I had to go and I had already purchased all of the tickets. Would I be a modern Mathias Rust and land my little Cessna right in the middle of Red Square or would I be forced to bribe a border officer with a six-pack of vodka? All will be revealed in the next chapter.
Caviar Diaries was written by Willie Schumann. Visit his LomoHome
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