Again, on a thankful note, I was thinking about our trip to Alaska in the summer of 2006. We went mainly to allow my Dad to see an area he had wanted to see for a long time. Since he passed away in Nov. 2007, I'm so thankful we took the time for that vacation with him.
Unfortunately, I wasn't a blogger back in 2006 (didn't even know anything about it). I don't have a lot of photos to show for that trip on my blog now. I did come across a couple of prints I had from a funny place we visited when we stayed in Homer, on the Kenai Peninsula. Homer is 220 miles south of Anchorage.
While we stayed for a week in Homer, I saw a little advertisement about the Cafe Samovar. It looked like an interesting place, and we were looking for a little adventurous day trip. Cafe Samovar is in the tiny town of Nikolaevsk, which is 25 miles north of Homer, just inland from Anchor Point. Part of the road from Anchor Point was paved and the rest was a dusty, dirt road, as so many are in Alaska.
It took us a couple of wrong turns, heading into some private roads, before we found the exact turn to Nikolaevsk. This town was founded by Russian Old World Believers who fled from communist Russia back in the early 1960's. Since the town is so small (pop. approx. 500) it didn't take us long to find the Cafe Samovar.
At first glance, we thought maybe we'd just drive by and not stop for lunch. Then we remembered we were on an adventure, after all, so why not go in? Here is the little cafe. (click on photos to enlarge)
The owner/proprietor is Nina Fefelov, and she is quite a character. We had pulled the car into the dirt parking area and were debating on going in when Nina came out and waved to us and beckoned with her arm to come in. What could we do now? Better just park and go in. Nina was dressed in full Russian costume and she really looked quite beautiful and interesting.
Even though her website says "reservations strongly recommended" the place was totally empty except for the 3 of us. Nina had us sit up at the counter that she had partially sourrounding her kitchen entrance. As we sat on the high stools, she talked non-stop. She handed us each a menu and gave us little time to look it over, before pointing out several items she recommended and then said, "Don't worry...I fix for you" and took the menus away. I think that should have been our first clue.
The whole time she fixed the food in her tiny kitchen she talked a mile-a-minute. We were able to look around the room we sat in which doubled as her gift shop, too. There were tons of doo-dads, knick knacks and hand made shirts, purses, etc. all over the room. She had many sets of the Russian nesting dolls and Russian icons and books for sale also.
The meal was very good and consisted of several courses, each one very small but adequate. We ate borscht and piroshki among other things. She insisted we have her special, home made Russian herbal tea. Dad hated tea, but took it anyway....who could resist Nina, she practically force fed him. He took a sip or two but that was it. I asked if I could take some photos of her and she said, "Sure, but you have to buy something from my shop first." OK, so I bought the smallest set of the Russian nesting dolls I could find ($25.00) to send off to the "Grands" back home.
After our main course, Nina prepared dessert. But first she insisted we dress up in some Russian shirts so she could take photos for us to take home. I thought Dad would pitch a fit, but like a trooper he went along. He wasn't pleased about having to wear a pink shirt, either.
We ate our dessert and then Nina presented us with our "bill". It was over $100.00 for the 3 of us to have lunch. I questioned the amount and she grabbed her menu and pointed out several things she had fixed "especially for you, and you ordered them." OK, OK, I didn't want to upset the locals, even though I knew we were being had...big time! We paid the bill (cash only, no credit cards unless she could tack on another 15%). We smiled politely and got the heck out of there before she talked us into buying something else.
As we got in the car and drove out the dirt parking lot, Nina stood outside waving and smiling happily. I'm sure she was smiling and thinking, "oh, I sure got them good". It did give us something to laugh about over the next few days, in spite of the fact that we got screwed over for the meal. I do think I'd go back again, though, if we ever do go back to Alaska....it was that entertaining!
P.S. Nina's Cafe Samovar is also a B & B if you are ever interested. I don't even want to know what she would charge for that !!!
Until next time.....so long for now!