Today we are traveling to a country that straddles two continents – Europe and Asia. This country begins with the Letter ‘R’.
We are going to Moscow, Russia to share some of my stories when I had the opportunity to visit my sister on two separate occasions. Ruth was posted to Moscow to work at the Canadian Embassy. This was her third posting having been in Peru and Australia on her first two assignments. She was delighted to be working for an officer she had met at her first posting.
I was in Moscow for Christmas and New Years’ in December 1988 and January 1989. The word on the street was Glasnost. Things were changing in the USSR but at the time I was very aware that I was in the Soviet Union. Prior to going, I took 10 lessons of Russian. Just learning the alphabet was challenging. As we drove down the streets of Moscow and saw all the signs, I managed to figure out what letter I was reading! The Soviet Olympic Team wore jerseys with the letters CCCP. A C was an S and P was an R – CCCP meant SSSR! That was one eye opener for me! I learned to say Welcome and Thank-you but that was about all I remember. 🙂
I just googled the word glasnost and this is what I found…
“To reform the distraught Soviet Union, the democratization of the Communist Party was promoted through Party Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev’s policies of “perestroika” and “glasnost.” Perestroika refers to the reconstruction of the political and economic system established by the Communist Party.
Glasnost, (Russian: “openness”) Soviet policy of open discussion of political and social issues. It was instituted by Mikhail Gorbachev in the late 1980s and began the democratization of the Soviet Union.”
I returned for a second visit in the summer of 1990. One highlight for me was when I was waiting at the bus stop to go to the Metro on my own. Ruth was at work so I decided to go exploring by myself. While standing there, I was approached by a stranger and asked if this bus would take them somewhere. Of course they spoke in Russian and I was not able to help them. But I fit right in, this person thought I was a local. 🙂
One thing I did by myself was catch the bus to the Metro and take the Metro downtown to go to the brand new MacDonald’s that had opened that year. There is a park across the street from the entrance and there was a line up just like this picture all around the edge of the block. I joined the back of the line and it took me an hour and a half to reach the door. The line moved fairly steadily but as we got closer to the entrance everyone in the line was joined by the rest of their family. You see only one person per family stood in line while the kids played in the park. The kids would move with the adults so they could be seen by their caregiver but they stayed in the park. The number of people going to MacDonald’s was 4-6 times as many as were actually standing in line. When I finally made it to the head of the line, only a set number of us were allowed in at a time. But the employees had it down to a science. There were I believe 17 registers and about 34 of us were let in at a time. There was a small menu so it didn’t take long to get orders taken and by the time you paid for your meal, the tray was ready. It was quite an adventure. When I told my sister, she couldn’t believe I would spend so much time in line. I guess as a diplomat, she was used to placing an order and having a driver go pick it up! I considered it a great adventure. I had the chance to practice my limited Russian and many folks in line were happy to try out their more than adequate English with me.
Saint Basil’s Cathedral, the church in Red Square in Moscow, Russia and is one of the most popular symbols of the country.
This view of Red Square taken from St. Basil’s shows GUM – a famous shopping area on the right side of Red Square. I was in GUM but as most shops in Moscow when I was there, the shelves were pretty empty of anything to buy.
While in Moscow my sister arranged for me to travel from Moscow to St. Petersburg via train.
I took an over night train and had the adventure of sharing a quadruple compartment with four bunks (2 lower and 2 upper).
St. Petersburg is a Russian port city on the Baltic Sea. Founded in 1703 by Peter the Great, it was the imperial capital of Russia for 2 centuries.
I booked a tour to the Hermitage Museum. This famous Museum is amazing and several hours or visits here are needed if you want to see everything.
My trips to Moscow where filled with many adventures and I found it difficult to select which stories to share. I hope I have raised your interest in learning more about this part of the world.
Be sure and come back next week and travel with me to a country beginning with the Letter ‘S’.