Well, after ignoring my blog for months, I'm going to start posting again. I had some horrible deadlines that I had to meet. And also, we were doing a lot of traveling.
We've been back from Russia (Moscow and St. Petersburg) for a couple of weeks. And here's a report on the trip:
On the way home we had a horrible connection to make in Frankfurt, since our plane from St. Petersburg was late. We had to RUN to catch the plane--not easy for me. And our luggage--with some of the stuff I bought and a lot of my good clothes--floated around Europe for a day and a half before we got it. We didn't have boarding passes, since they wouldn't give them to us in St. Petersburg. So, when we finally got to the counter, they could only get us on in Business Class. A nice way to come home. (I think we couldn't get the boarding passes because we came into Frankfurt on Lufthansa and left on United.)
I learned a lot on the trip. St. Petersburg is a beautiful city. And Moscow is definitely a world capital. But I think we can be glad that we didn't live through the upheavals in Russia over the past 100 years.
After WWI, for example, the country was having a lot of shortages. To cope with the economic situation, they allowed people to have private businesses like restaurants. The enterprises were successful, but after a couple of years the authorities made all the private enterprises close and often imprisoned or killed the owners. Nice, huh?
I got the sense that the people running the country tried various unfortunate experiments on their population. Like when Khrushchev decided that--the U.S. is really successful growing corn. Let's turn most of our wheat fields into corn fields. But corn wouldn't grow in the USSR, so there were horrible shortages of food and long lines for bread. So that must have been before the shortages you experienced.
Our guide told us some Soviet jokes. One I liked was--
Brezhnev is asked about his relationship with the peasants. He says that relations with them are excellent. "We pretend to pay them, and they pretend to work."
I think I've got a lot of good material for a future suspense novel. But as I was driven around cold and sometimes wet Moscow and St. Petersburg, I started plotting a book set on a Caribbean island.
Another funny thing--
There's a very wide avenue called Moscow Avenue that leads from downtown St. Petersburg to the airport. It's also got wide sidewalks, since they planned to switch it to be the main avenue of the city. (Never mind that the main development was in a different part of town. They also planned to arbitrarily make Leningrad--the previous name of the city--an "industrial city" which meant it wouldn't need any trees. But I digress.) As we drove to the airport, there was a tremendous traffic jam. They haven't had a lot of private cars for very long, so motorists often indulge in dangerous stunts. One guy pulled off the road and roared up the wide sidewalk for several blocks. (I assume the pedestrians were able to get out of his way.)
There's very little parking downtown, so there are tons of cars PARKED on the sidewalks. And double parked.
Our son, Ethan, who is a political officer at the US embassy in Moscow, took us to see some sights--and parked on the sidewalk like everyone else. He also took us by Metro to a folk art shopping village. (Where a guy also had a trained bear.) I was really tired, so he got us a gypsy cab home--by holding out his hand. Motorists stopped, and he negotiated a price for driving us to his apartment--which was at least 20 minutes away. It was a really wild ride. Like I was surprised we actually made it home in one piece.
So after cold and wet St. Petersburg, I stepped off the plane at Dulles into 90 degree D.C. heat.
I have attached some pictures from the trip.
St. Basil's Cathedral, Red Square, Moscow
Lenin's Tomb, Red Square, Moscow
Ruth & Foreign Service Officer son Ethan dickering with rug dealer at Izmailovo Market, Moscow
Cathedral, Kremlin, Moscow
Norman with Hermitage Museum across the Neva River, St. Petersburg
Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood (site of assassination of Tsar Alexander II), St. Petersburg
Grounds of Catherine's Palace, Pushkin
Inside Catherine's Palace, Pushkin
Catherine's Palace, Pushkin
Boat Ride in St. Petersburg
Malachite table in Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
Ruth in Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
Mariinsky (formerly Kirov) Theater, St. Petersburg
Peterhof fountains, St. Petersburg
Peterhof gardens, St. Petersburg
Statue of Lenin, St. Petersburg