Ah, Sainte Russie

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A great many years ago, in 1979 to be exact, I was in Russia, when it was still the Soviet Union. I had no choice, though I hated it, to travel with an organized tour. Intourist was the be all and end all of travel in the Soviet Union at the time. Still, independent soul that I am, I managed to get to a place in Moscow where they sold army stuff and bought some for my son. I took a taxi and managed to make myself understood. But most of the time, everything was organized by Intourist, which meant you had no choice of hotels, entertainment, cultural visits, etc.

But surprisingly, it was mostly all very good. On our first evening in Moscow, after flying more than eight hours and going through the stringent controls, we arrived at our hotel, where we were assigned our rooms. Immediately after that, we had lunch, then we went on a tour of Moscow, visiting the Metro (which to this day is still I believe the most beautiful in the world), an abbey of sorts, the Gum department store, and the first evening was spent at our hotel with a lovely spectacle and even more lovely food.

Let me explain: there were eight of us at our table, and only four of us liked caviar, which was in a huge bowl. Did the four of us ever dig in! It was accompanied by Russian “champagne.” We had a very lovely spectacle with Cosacks, etc. Everywhere we visited of course, we went first, cutting long lines at Lenin’s tomb, the Armory Museum within the Kremlin, which was a revelation of extremely beautiful artifacts, including Faberge eggs, some Empress or other’s gold carriage, very heavy gold platters, and heaven knows what other things. The next evening, we had the opera in Moscow, again within the Kremlin fortress, given by the Bolshoi Theatre.

Then we flew to Kieve, where, on our first evening, we saw a lovely ballet, “Romeo and Juliet.” The second evening was a gala evening, again with the champagne, the vodka, and everything else flowing. The meal, such as it was—we didn’t know what we were eating—was pretty good. There was dancing, and a Russian was so taken by a lovely French-Canadian woman that he wanted to dance with her all evening. During one of our meals in Kiev, we finally had “chicken a la Kiev.” It was scrumptious!

On the flight back to Moscow, I made acquaintance with a Polish young woman who was on her first tour of Russia. As everywhere else, we managed to talk with our hands, our mouths, and gestures. A bit of German, of bit of Yiddish, a bit of French, a bit of English. This lovely lady made me understand that there was not much “flesh,” meaning meat, in Poland, but otherwise it was okay.

On our return from Kiev to Moscow, the guide asked who was interested in going to the Moscow Circus, which 99 percent of us were. That was the only entertainment that was not included and paid for in our tour, but we all gladly paid the $5 or so that it cost for the circus, which was absolutely marvelous.

This is another trip that took place almost twenty years ago that I am not about to forget. Another experience that I am not about to forget, ever!


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