“One does not go to Moscow to get fat.”

Today is making me believe that it might really be spring. The sun is out and it’s warm. The sky is a bit cloudy, but that’s a small complaint. I have to go out and about to do a couple of errands then I might just sit on the deck for a while and do nothing but watch the birds and grab a bit of sunlight.

Our last travelog had me arriving in Moscow, a city filled with smoke which our guide couldn’t see. Our bus wasn’t there. None of us were surprised. Since the evil guide had joined us, the tour had taken a turn for the worst. We waited over an hour before the bus arrived to take us to the hotel which was a bit out from the center of Moscow. The next morning the guide and a bus met us for our first day of touring. We went to a museum about the revolution. My favorite exhibit of all time was in that museum. In a small class case were two chunks of break: one tiny and one very much larger. The tiny bread was a portion from the time of the Tsar and the large chunk was from the time of Lenin. Oh the plenty the revolution brought! That day we also went to Lenin’s tomb on Red Square. No hand-holding the guide told the Italian married couple. The tomb was the coolest place in all of Moscow which was so hot that the Italians keep fanning themselves and saying caldo, caldo. We had found out the smoke came from the peat fields which had begun to smolder spontaneously from the heat. It was the hottest summer in a 100 years. I would have stayed in that tomb longer if I could have. Lenin looked waxed to me, a product of Madame Tussaud. One of our group started to whisper and was shushed immediately. Lenin’s tomb was a holy place. The next stop was the wonderful State Historical Museum facing Red Square. We got booties to put over our shoes. I figured it was a cheap way to keep the floors shiny. The museum housed many artifacts from the days of the Tsar including Fabergé eggs. There was a carriage that had belonged to Catherine the Great which was pulled by a large stuffed horse. The Frenchman wanted to know if that was the fateful horse (I’ll let you do the searching for this one). The guide ignored him, good move on her part. We also went to the church of the Assumption, a beautiful golden onion domed church. That’s where I scared the crowd of Muscovites. All over the city were Вода́ machines, pronounce vah-DAH, and meaning water. A small glass sat on one side, and you pushed down to wash it then inserted a couple of coins, köpeks, then moved the glass under the spout. You paid one for plain or two for colored water. I didn’t get either. The American in my tour who was standing next to me said to tap the glass front of the machine, like pounding a coffee machine that didn’t work. I did that. Nothing. I did it again. Nothing. The third time I did it I broke the glass with my hand. The crowd made such a sound of horror you’d think I kicked a grandmother a few times when she was down. The side of my hand was bleeding and had shards of glass stuck in the cut. The Argentina offered to help. He said he did cleaning of cuts and other wounds for himself when he was on the pampas. His arms were filled with scars. I politely declined. The American said he was a medical student and he’d do it. That man patiently took every piece of glass out of my hand using tweezers then took a band-aid and covered the wound. We did that a distance away from the broken machine. I kept looking for police. Later I thought about that machine and realized that the glass, a nice glass, just sat there not at all connected and was never stolen. By the reaction of the crowd to my mishap, I guessed why.

The tour continued. We visited St. Basil’s Cathedral and GUM Department Store, the largest in the world according to nasty guide. I bought a few scarves as souvenirs for people. We were done for the day and dropped off at our hotel. Dinner there was the worst so we took a streetcar into the city. The streetcars were on the honor system: put money in the slot and take a ticket. We put in dimes or quarters and I threw in some Finnish money and took my ticket. We took that streetcar often and never failed to put in money. Good thing too as a couple of times the streetcar was stopped, police got on and checked to see that everyone had a ticket.

One night we went into the city and had dinner in the Hotel Metropol, the grand dame of hotels. It was beautiful, majestic, ornate and one of my favorite stops in all of Moscow. We finished that evening by stopping at one of the foreign currency bars and having a nightcap before the trip back to our dismal hotel. At least the bed was comfortable and the bread with breakfast was fresh.

The last of my trip will be tomorrow, and I guarantee some excitement. That next day after dinner in the Metropol, we started, as did many of my travel mates, taking the tour bus into the city then ditching the tour and taking off on our own. That was the best part.

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17 Comments on ““One does not go to Moscow to get fat.””

  1. Birgit Says:

    Cпасибо! One of the few Russian words I still remember learning 30 years ago. Meanwhile I forgot nearly all of the language, but I remember the enthusiasm of the teacher who also visited an icon museum with us and cooked Russian meals and tea in a samovar.
    Will they ever let you visit this country again? 😉
    While looking for some Moscow story photos I stumbled upon this 1972 photo, but it’s probably not you on the left side?
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/yesplz/4292028785

    The blackbird pair at my house has chicks now. It’s interesting to watch the parents feeding the young.

    • Kat Says:

      Birgit,,
      I learned that when I was there as well as пожалуйста. I try and learn please and thank you in every country I visit.

      It is so funny as I may have seen that crew as were we both there in 1972 but I wasn’t as nicely dressed. There weren’t too many tourists in those days, especially in a hot, smoke-filled city (though that didn’t last).

      I love watching the birds at their nests.

      Am I on their no entry list? Nah, too long ago.

  2. Bob Says:

    Of course Lenin looks like wax, he’s been dead for almost a hundred years. I was always amazed that the atheistic Soviet state deified Lenin and Stalin until he fell from grace, yet they kept all the religious places like museums.

    Bigger was always a Soviet pride. They built a huge turboprop aircraft in the late 50s called a TU114. It stood so high on the ground at JFK airport that it required a Pan Am stairway plus a small one to reach the door when Kruschev flew it to visited the UN in 1960. That was when he made his famous speech about burying the West and banging his shoe on the podium. Department stores were no exception except for the size of the merchandise selection.

    The NBC correspondent Irving R. Levine wrote a great book about the Soviet Union in the 1960s. He said that he knew that the lamp by his bedside in his hotel was bugged by the KGB. Whenever he went out he would yell into the lamp where he was headed. If he noticed that his KGB followers had gotten lost he would back track and tell them where he was going. Moscow on the Hudson in real life.

    Sunny and almost 90 degrees today but colder wet weather predicted for Wednesday.

    • Vintage Spins Says:

      Bob,

      That story about Irving R. Levine is hilarious! What’s the name of the book? I’m going to look for it.

      Marie

    • Kat Says:

      Bob,
      When I saw him, he hadn’t even been dead fifty years. I didn’t expect to see a rotting corpse when I went into his tomb, but I also didn’t expect him to look so waxen. I figured they’d have enough money to make his corpse more life-like.

      The store was filled with merchandise though most of it was cheap looking except for a few stores where I expect the mucky-muck party members shopped.

      We figured our rooms were probably bugged and you’ll find out tomorrow that someone from our group was followed.

      I would not ant it to be 90˚ this early in the season.

      • Bob Says:

        In Russia everything is bigger, not better. Only the party elite could shop at the stores that carried the good stuff because their currency was worthless outside of the USSR.

        Under the Soviet system there was no unemployment. They had to find jobs, although meager for everyone. Sitting and watching people in a museum or subway station was a job. Because most of the jobs were terrible alcoholism was and may still be rampant.

      • Kat Says:

        Bob,
        When I was there, there was a quota on how much vodka each store could sell in a day. When they reached it, they had to close down for the day.

        There were foreign currency stores which had lovely goods, including souvenirs. Most tourists, including me, shopped there.

        I knew there was no unemployment: it was a weird point of pride despite the sorts of jobs people had.

  3. Vintage Spins Says:

    You naughty scamp!

    I’m really enjoying this series of travel tales, Kat. Are they out of their minds? It’s positively scary. The only Eastern European country I’ve visited is Hungary (and I loved Budapest), but I’m afraid there’s a growing robotic trend to head back to the right wing.

    Looking forward to tomorrow’s instalment!

    Marie

    • Kat Says:

      Marie,
      I also have been to Hungary and loved Budapest, the rebel of the Soviet Union. The cafes and restaurants were wonderful. In some we were the only Westerners. I loved seeing the Danube.

      I was a bit of a scamp in my younger days.

  4. Vintage Spins Says:

    Kat,

    Sadly, there have been many reports that anti-semitism is on the rise again in Hungary.

    What are you reading now? I just finished ‘Rogue Male’ by Geoffrey Household (1939), a classic suspense thriller, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

    Recommended!

    Marie

    • Kat Says:

      Marie,
      I can’t begin to imagine that anti-Semitism would rear its ugly head in Europe yet again.

      I am reading The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult. I haven’t got far into it yet so I’ll hold off about whether I like it or not.

  5. Caryn Says:

    Hi Kat,
    It just gets better and better. 🙂
    I didn’t know peat could spontaneously combust on a hot summer’s day.
    Poor Lenin. Having to spend his afterlife as a stuffed exhibit in a museum. Didn’t they finally bury him after the Fall?

    Today is lovely. Light breeze, not too cool, just the right amount of sun. I did a bit more laundry and then did nothing but sit on the porch and read. Rocky and I took a little ride later on.

    Enjoy the rest of the day.

    • Kat Says:

      Hi Caryn,
      I think it was more like a day in hell; it was 100˚ at the least.

      I don’t know if Lenin is still there or not. It was, after all, a lovely mausoleum.

      Lovely here too today. I made three appetizers all of which needed chopping and two of them needed the oven. I sweated like crazy. Hot day for all that work.

      My laundry is still sitting in the hall from this morning.

      Have a wonderful evening.

  6. Ted Says:

    Is that a photo of the Moscow subway? I’ve seen pictures before and it’s like a cathedral in there, as well as built to withstand bombs. One of the only decent things Stalin ever did.

    • Kat Says:

      Ted,
      That’s GUM Department store. I remember when I first went inside, it was jaw dropping.

      You are right about the subway. The stops were like rooms in plush houses with ornate walls and chandeliers.


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