From Russia with Love… or what I brought home from the trip to the Soviet Union that J. and I did in 1985. Gorbachov was the new leader then and the Soviet union was getting somewhat friendlier. That did not mean we were not supervised and checked during our trip through the the Soviet Union. The supervising was at times felt. Our tour leader almost got thrown into jail because he was drunk after a dinner we had and said stupid things. In russian… They had at the time a no tolerance law against public drunkenness.
We were doing the Transiberian Railway trip. Flew from Stockholm to Moscow. Were in Moscow a couple of days. It was summer. Moscow was – to my surprise – beautiful. And my more interesting than I hade expected. Yes, we were at the Red Square. No, we did not visit the mausoleum of Lenin. Moscow and surrounding (when being transported around with the tour bus) was the only place were you could buy some souvenirs. That has probably changed a lot since.
Then we went onto the Transiberian Railway from Moscow to Irkutsk where we went off the train for a busride to the Bajkal Lake. From Irkutsk we continued by plane to Tashkent. Interesting town. And big. We walked and walked and walked on those straight wide streets they built after an earth quake that destroyed a lot of the town. I remember that we got the above embroidered thing in a theater we visited to watch local folk dances. From Tashkent we flew via Alma Ata (just transit) on to Samarkand.
Samarkand was fantastic. Really interesting. We had three days there. That was during the time when the Russians were leaving Afghanistan. They passed through Samarkand in their way out.
When we came to Samarkand there were vegetable salads at the hotel for the first time during the entire trip. We all ate salads. We all got stomach problems just about the time we were to fly back to Moscow (on the most rackety plane I’ve ever been… everything was loose on it…). That is, all but me. I didn’t get it until back in Moscow. And very mildly too. J. wasn’t all that affected either. In fact, we were the only ones standing on our legs the next day. Tours were cancelled and we had the day to ourselves. So we went on the underground inte central Moscow all by ourselves. Now and then there was need for a WC. And yes, I’ve visited the ones in the wall around the Red Square… Very clean.
After we came home, we were home for about five days. Made laundry, got well and then went off again to the former Yugoslavia and to Ulçinj in Montenegro. We felt we needed some sun and warmths that summer too. That was the year of visits to countries that no longer exist in the names they had then. Much has happened since.
I love the things the Soviets did and sold as souvenirs. They are all handmade. Above two painted colored and lacquered wooden boxes for small things, two silver chains, one with a hand painted flower decoration on glass, one with a flower-patterned charm that you can open and put a picture inside, one pill-box with glass mosaic in the lid and a wooden brosch, hand-painted.
If you are interested in our trip with the Transiberian Railway, there are photos on my old website here. Mind though that the site is undergoing re-build and that I will be exchanging the photos for bigger versions when I do. It was done for much smaller screens and really out-dated techniques so the images are very small. Some of the navigation also doesn’t work as supposed to.