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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

I Wish I'd Never Left Home

I ate pig snouts and moose with biologists in the Russian wilderness, and while I would not trade that experience for anything -- well, maybe a day or two in Provence -- it taught me one valuable thing. I am indoorsy. The Oka Nature Reserve, site of my enlightenment, is one of the only places on the continent where you can find European Bison in their natural habitat. There are hundreds of species of birds, fish and wildlife there, not to mention one of the world's two captive breeding centers for Siberian cranes. I spent a few days as a guest in the reserve -- located about 400 kilometers southeast of Moscow -- during the first week of spring. The first morning, I ventured into a crane pen and was attacked by a flapping, wild bird. Out by the bison pens, things were not much better. The beasts could tell I was a city slicker, and figured I had come to steal their babies. Whenever I came within a meter of the rickety fence, mama bison and papa bison would make hostile gestures. Even the billy goat hated me. He spent most of his time out by the pile of firewood near the settlement, and in the evening, when I went out to collect some logs for the fire, the goat narrowed its eyes, grunted, and trotted away. I fared much better in the nightly vodkathons. The animals may have thought I was meek, but the biologists had nothing but respect for my constitution. Hell, anything tastes good after pig snouts. Since it was spring, the Oka was beginning to flood, so getting back to Moscow was no picnic. The little Lada sluiced through the slush and mud no problem, but out on the open road, past Ryazan, it sputtered and stopped. I left my biologist friend tinkering with the engine while I hoofed it to the nearest town. From there I got a bus to the capital, which I greeted with glee. Nature, shmature.