Russia

I had been mildly concerned about being hassled on landing at Domodedovo airport at Moscow, but my fears were not justified. I went through immigration quickly, and got my bag quickly, and was met by Kim Reed, who is a friend and was my host for the time in Moscow. At last, I was in Moscow.

Kim's driver took us out to her dacha in Zhukovko, where my bedroom was on the fifth floor. Nearby dachas included those of the Prime Minister, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, and President Vladimir Putin. The mayor of Moscow also lived out Rublevski Prospect a couple kilometers beyond Zhukovko. Kim explained to me that every now and then, the road out to Zhukovko would be closed down so one of their motorcades could pass. They even closed the bridges over the road. These delays could be a few minutes, or an hour or more, depending on when the motorcade actually passed, and there was nothing one could do but sit and wait. On several occasions, we would see the police start to close the road as we passed.

I also learned that for a fee, a driver could purchase a rotating light for their car, and essentially be above the traffic laws. It only cost $25,000, and $10,000 per year. You'd see drivers go whizzing by who had made this purchase.

After briefly settling in, we went to a dinner for the Democrats Abroad at a restaurant owned by one of the members. Eleven people showed up, including three students on foreign internships. (Did they even have foreign internships when I was in school? Not for computer science majors.) I had mushroom and potato soup, which was delicious, and pelmeni, the local dumpling. For my main course, I had a fried chicken cutlet that was pretty tasty. I found a working ATM just before the dinner, and managed to get 10,000 rubles.

The Russians do not use all that many herbs and spices, so the cooking must rely on the flavor of the original ingredients.

After the meeting, we set off for the dacha, but Kim was pulled over by the police. She tells me that this is roughly a weekly occurrence for her, and she usually settles it. This time, no bribe was requested. After that nuisance, we went back to the dacha, where I met Kim's husband Zbigniew ("Spish"), who manages the Proctor and Gamble accounts in Russia. (Kim works with a law firm, Hart & Hogan, who were the lead counsels for Netscape in Netscape v. Microsoft, although Kim was not involved in that case.) After establishing the plans for the next day, I went to sleep.

June 22

I woke at 5:30, still watching my internal clock slide to Moscow time, 11 hours ahead of San Francisco. We thought I had to register my visa with the Russian government, so we went to the tourist agency IP Consult who handled my arrangements. There, we were told that because of my visit to Volgograd on June 25, I would not be staying in any one Russian city long enough to be required to register. Normally, hotels would handle the registration for their guests, but since I was staying out in the country, I did not have that avenue available to me.

After the visit with IP Consult, Kim went to work and I met Irena, who was to be my guide for the day. We had a busy schedule planned; I was to visit the Pushkin Museum, the Central Army Museum, and Victory Park. Sixty-six years ago that today, the German Army invaded the Soviet Union, starting what is locally called "The Great Patriotic War." As a result of the memorial, the Kremlin and Red Square were closed for the day, as Putin was meeting with the surviving veterans of the war. One would see some of them, wearing their old military uniforms and with their chests bedecked in medals.


Christ the Redeemer Cathedral
First, though, was the Pushkin Museum. We walked past the Christ the Redeemer Cathedral, which has several gold onion domes, but is really a rebuilt model. Stalin had the original Cathedral razed and a swimming pool put in its place.


Pushkin Grounds
At the Pushkin, we saw several plaster copies of famous statues, including Michealangelo's David. There was a separate room for ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. The Museum was originally set up so that students could see the replicas and learn from them. Perhaps the most interesting room was the one with the (real) treasures from the discovery of Troy. These were originally on display in Germany prior to 1945, and were later "discovered" in the Soviet Union in the late 1980's. The gold headdresses were beautiful, as were several of the other objects of art.



Pushkin Facade

Pushkin Staircase

The Eagle Rider

Another Picture
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Next to the museum was one of the private collections of art. These were originals from Degas, Monet, Matisse, Van Gogh, and several other artists. There was the original of Degas blue dancers, a very beautiful pastel work of art.

We had a quick lunch at the private collection, a chicken and cheese dish, and then we took the Metro to near the Central Army Museum.


Christ the Redeemer Cathedral

Kropotkinskaya Station
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Kursk Memorial
Outside the Museum is a monument to Kursk, the submarine lost recently in the far north Atlantic, where the western nations offered aid. Inside, the history of the Army started back in Napoleonic times, and went forward through the Cold War. Most impressive to me were the collection of emblems from the different SS regiments that were captured, and that were thrown to the ground in front of Stalin for the 1945 Victory Parade. These included the "Adolf Hitler" standard, prominently features. Also present was the original eagle from the front of the Reichstag.

One must wonder where we would be without the sacrifice of so many Soviet soldiers during WWII. Would the US and UK have been able to strange Germany's supplies and forced them to sue for peace? Would the Germans have advanced submarine technology to threaten the Allied superiority on the oceans? When Oppenheimer finished his work, we would have used the bomb on Germany, what effect would that have had?

And, had Hitler not invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, might Stalin have invaded Germany in 1943 anyway?

Also interesting were the remains of Gary Powers' U2 plane, shot down the year I was born. This was all a part of the Cold War; we didn't think the Soviet Union had anti-aircraft missiles that could hit a plane that flew in the stratosphere. Oops, got that wrong.


Victory Park
After this museum we went to Victory Park, where the newer memorials to the Great Patriotic War are located. This is less of a museum and more of a celebration/commemoration than the Army Museum. You have a large set of fountains (that at night are lit red, to remind one of the blood of the dead) along a walkway to an obelisk that lists the famous battles, and is 1 centimeter tall for every day of the war. Inside the memorial itself are two major rooms, the Hall of Sorrow for mourning the dead, and the Hall of Glory, for the Heroes of the Soviet Union. Each Hero (an official award, equivalent to the Congressional Medal of Honor in the US, or the Victoria Cross in the UK) has his name inscribed. There are over 11,000 such heroes. I was able to find some recognizable names: Stalin, Zhukov, Khrushchev, and Brezhnev. They were mainly political winners (apart from Zhukov, of course.) Two people won three medals in combat.

The Hall of Sorrows has memorabilia of the war, but is notable for the hanging "tears," little crystals hanging from the ceiling. There were over 2,000,000 such tears.

Surrounding the Halls are six dioramas representing different aspects of the war. There are dioramas for Moscow, Stalingrad, Leningrad, Kursk, and Berlin, and a general one for those who fought. These dioramas were very well designed and made, in a couple of them it was very difficult to judge where the back wall painting began, and the foreground ended.



Victory Park

Victory Obelisk

Victory Obelisk

Victory Obelisk

Fountains

Fountains

Fountains

Fountains
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I next went back to the dacha to change for dinner. I was meeting my friends from Fuqua, Eugene Terekhov and Gleb Rozanov, at a typical Russian restaurant. It was great to see them again; they're doing well after Fuqua. We had a set of typical Russian appetizers, this included some that were delicious, and some that were not... But it included sturgeon and halibut sashimi, which were wonderful, and some very tasty mushrooms. I had a vegetable soup that was not quite as good as the mushroom soup, but was still a decent soup, and pelmeni.

The main course was veal. I think I got about half the calf in my serving, as it was huge. I was able to eat a decent chunk of it, but it looked like I barely made a dent! After dinner, I called my father. This was his 76th birthday, and once again I was out of the country. Eugene also left a message. After that, I went back to Zhukovko and slept well.

June 23


The Kremlin


The Kremlin


The Kremlin Cathedrals


Kremlin Tower
The Kremlin and Red Square were closed for the memorial celebrations on June 22, so I had to wait a day before seeing the seat of power. Kim drove in and took me to Red Square. We walked through the gates and through the square to St. Basil's Cathedral. This is what most people associate with the Kremlin, with its many multi-colored domes, but, perhaps ironically, this cathedral is outside the Kremlin Wall. We walked past Lenin's tomb. I decided not to wait in line to see a wax figure, although I do regret not seeing the markings for the people buried in the wall.

Red Square is perhaps most reminiscent of Tiananmen Square in Beijing. They're both the central focus of their respective cities; they both see parades and the like. Red Square is much smaller, and it is built on a hill, so the two sides are slight inclines. When the Red Army would parade in front of the leaders, they'd enter from beside St. Basil's, and march uphill to the square, then across the flat part of the square, and then back downhill.

Opposite the Kremlin is GUM, the former state store that is now a fairly upscale shopping mall, reminiscent of Covent Garden. Three floors with three central atria stretching the length of the building, GUM is no longer the stark place of queues and shortages.


Kremlin Tower

Field Marshall Zhukov

Red Square

St. Basil's Cathedral

St. Basil's Cathedral

The Russian Saviors Who Rescued Russia from the Poles

St. Basil's

St. Basil's

Lenin's Tomb

GUM
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Another difference from Tiananmen, Red Square is completely lacking in McDonalds, KFC, and the like. As such, it is much nicer than the tackiness of American monoculture exhibited in Beijing. And, as I was to discover shortly, there is no Starbucks in the Kremlin - indeed, I didn't see Starbucks anywhere.

Kim had to return to work, so I met my guide Irena, and we had a quick lunch at Teremok near Red Square. I had a pair of sausages with buckwheat, and about all I can say is that it was salty. Salty hot dogs... That's the best way to describe it.

After lunch, we visited the State Historical Museum, which ranges from the very early years all the way through the Revolution and the Fall of Communism. I did get to surreptitiously touch one of Napoleon's eagles... (OK, it was only the staff of the eagle.) Still, the history in that emblem was a lot, the march from Paris to the Invasion of Russia in 1812, to the Battle of Borodino and the occupation of the Kremlin, to the disastrous retreat in the winter of 1813. Three years later, there were Russians in Paris, and the "bistro" was invented as a result of the impatience of the Russians, who would yell "hurry up!" to staff in Paris in their native Russian.

After the Museum was the Kremlin. A ticket to the Kremlin now, including the Armory and the Diamond Fund, is 850 Rubles, or $34. The Russians have taken to capitalism like a fish to water. You go across a bridge, and you enter through the Kremlin Gate. Inside are working government offices, including an Office of the President. There's old architecture, and there's some modern architecture. The most out of place building is the former Hall for the People's Soviet, where the Communist Party used to meet every five years. It looks like any short office building you might see in a run-down part of a dying city. But surrounding that office are some magnificent buildings.


Kremlin Flowers

Main Gate Tower

Inside the Kremlin

Kremlin

Kremlin

Archangel Cathedral

Putin's Office

Office of the President
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The Tsar's Cannon

The Tsar's Bell
There is the world's largest cannon, a gun that weighted 400 tons and was never fired, but the simple presence of the gun scared opponents. There was also a very large bell, cast in the 19th Century, and also broken. While our Liberty Bell has a crack, this has a piece broken out. Then, you reach the Cathedrals.

There are several cathedrals on the grounds of the Kremlin, and some of them even survived Stalin. In one cathedral are all the burial tombs of the czars, including Ivan IV (The Terrible) and Michael Romanov, the founder of the Romanov Dynasty. (Around the time of Peter the Great, the capital moved to St. Petersburg, and the more recent czars are entombed there.)

Inside another cathedral are special seats for Czars and Patriarchs. Others apparently stand through Russian Orthodox services. All the onion domes on the cathedrals are covered in golf leaf, and sparkle brilliantly in the sun.



Annunciation Cathedral

Kremlin

Assumption Cathedral

Kremlin Cathedral

Kremlin Cathedral

Ivan the Great Bell Tower

Ivan the Great Bell Tower

View Across the River

The Red Star
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Words do not do justice to how impressive the Kremlin is. Pictures don't really do it much justice, either. You feel a sense of awe looking at the wealth required to build these buildings, and to top them with gold. The closest I can come is to try to compare this to the Forbidden City in Beijing, but the analogies are not quite that good. Part of the Kremlin is still in use by the government of Russia, whereas the Forbidden City is entirely unused. Both are out of doors, with buildings inside, but comparing the different throne rooms to the cathedrals doesn't quite relate. The Forbidden City is more logically laid out, whereas the Kremlin looks like it grew organically.

Part of the Kremlin is the Armory and the Diamond Fund. The Diamond Fund is an exhibit of diamonds and soviet mountings; diamonds were discovered in Siberia earlier this century and are one of several key exports. Also present were the crown jewels of the Czars.

The Armory is an exhibit with several bits of Kremlin memorabilia. Most notable were the dresses (it was alleged that some Czarinas had surgery to have ribs removed to fit into the dresses), carriages, and the gifts from foreign governments. At last, after a very long day, I was finished. Kim picked me up near the Kremlin, and we went to Tiflis, a Georgian restaurant near where she works.

Georgian cuisine is perhaps the most memorable of all the former Soviet Republics. At the heart is Shashlik, which we probably know as shish kabob. It consists of skewered, marinated meats, grilled directly over fire. One can order sauces on the side; I ordered what I was told was a spicy sauce. My sauce was vinegary with a good kick to it. We also ordered a type of cheese-filled bread. I also ordered a side of olives. This was an excellent meal.

I had run out of cash, so I went to an ATM, but it didn't respond very quickly.

Then, it was back to Zhukovko and bed.

June 24

This was to be an easy day, compared to the others. It was shopping day! I tried again with an ATM, but it didn't seem to connect. Kim loaned me 6000 rubles, since I was having difficulty, and we set off for Izmaylovo market. Izmaylovo is on the far side of Moscow, so we circled the city on the Mkad ring road, the outer beltway. (Inside that is the Garden ring, and then a pair of ring roads even closer to the Kremlin.) It is on the Mkad that the world's worst traffic jams take place. The worst was when they closed an overpass to allow one of the motorcades to pass, and when traffic resumed, there was a collision that blocked the road.

In Russia, when you have any accident, then a special branch of the police needs to come to the scene and record what happened. Regular traffic cops are not allowed to do this. So, people had to wait for the traffic detectives, then they had to wait for the detectives to finish their work. In the case of the worst traffic jam, it took three hours for the detectives to arrive, and another few hours for them to complete their investigation. With the closure for the motorcade, it meant that people were stuck overnight, and in many cases, they just returned to work when traffic flowed again.

It was quite the drive around the Mkad, then we ventured in to the area around the market. I stopped for some Azerbaijani sausages; they were tasty, but served cold. I think they'd taste better warmed up, but they were OK.

Another look for an ATM was fruitless. So, with the borrowed money, we went shopping. You could buy nearly anything, including, at one point, an AK-47. Since items I purchased will end up as gifts for people who read this list, the only items I'll mention were some books on Moscow that I bought for myself, and some DVDs.

Much to my dismay, I discovered that I lost a gift I bought for my mother! I paid for it, but I either failed to put it in my bag, or lost it from my bag. A real bummer!

The next stop was VKDnh, the national exhibition center, where in Soviet times each republic had a pavilion dedicated to their culture and wares. At the front was the pavilion for the RSFSR (Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic) and nearby was the pavilion for Kyrgyzstan and Armenia. We did not find the others, except for Ukraine. Around the pavilions are fountains, pools, and walkways. The exhibition center stretches for two kilometers, and in the back were some strange large animal shapes made from thatch.


Victory Over Wheat!

Soviet Symbol

Lenin

Lenin

USSR in Russian

A Gold Fountain

The Armenian Exhibition

A Pagoda

A Fountain

Geese Spitters

Water

Water

Water

Ducks on the Water

A Duck

The Ukrainian Exhibition

Ukrainian Workers

Ukrainian Workers

The fountain

KGB Building

Lubyanka Prison Gate

Lubyanka Square

FSB Guard

FSB

The Spy's Door
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I wanted to see the Cosmonautics Museum, but the location where the museum was located is now a construction site. The Museum was closed and torn down. Pretty soon, Russia and China will be the only countries with manned space flight capacity, but the museum to those accomplishments was town down.

Dinner was at an Indian Restaurant that was highly touted! Apparently, the former chef at the Indian embassy has opened a real Indian restaurant. I had my favorite, vindaloo, with keema nan, and onion bhaji. It was all good, and tasted as good as any Brick Lane vindaloo.

One of the more interesting aspects of Moscow dining was the prevalence of Japanese cuisine, and the frequency one would see signs for sushi. This may have been more than in Tokyo, certainly it was more common than in San Francisco. I did not want to try Russian sushi.

After the drive back to Zhukovko, I tried again at a Rossbank ATM, but failed again. So, I called my bank. I was told that there was a security hold on my ATM card, despite the fact that I had told my bank of the details of my travels. I had to wait on hold 50 minutes with the United States before someone answered who could address the situation. There's nothing like 50 minutes on hold. I am extremely angry about that, and will address that with my bank when I return to the states. But, in the end, they indicated that they are now aware, and took off the security hold.

June 25


Rodina

In the morning, I woke early, since Volodya was going to drive me to Sheremetyevo airport for my flight to Volgograd. I was flying Aeroflot Nord at 9AM, and needed to be at the airport before 7AM to check in. I was surprised that the security lines were not as long as those I'd seen earlier, and I checked in quickly, and ended up waiting in the airport.

The gates were out in a satellite, but the only method was to walk down a staircase to a bus, that took you to the aircraft. This was a Tupelev 134, which is a commercial aircraft roughly the size of a large regional jet. It had four seats across with an aisle, and twenty rows of seats, so it could fit 80 passengers. It was sold out.

The seats were narrower than the standard seats in the US, and the seat belts looked like they dated from the 1960's. The paint on the aircraft looked layered. Overall, my impression was that it was run-down. Not the best condition for an aircraft!

Despite my worries, the aircraft flew safely for two hours, and we landed in Volgograd, Gumrak airport. Gumrak was the last aerodrome available to the Nazis for them to evacuate in 1943, when the Red Army took Gumrak, the last escape was cut off.

I've always been interested in reading histories, but this history has always had a special interest. In grade school, I had an assignment on Russia in WWII, so I learned about Stalingrad at a young age. To think, over a million soldiers died for this one city! In the United States, we lost a total of about 400,000 in the entirety of World War II. That was just a drop compared to the bleeding the Soviet Union suffered.

My ride met me, and we drove into the center of the city, where I was met by two guides, Irena and Anna. Anna spoke English very well. I think Irena was a trainee guide, she was dressed more for a club than for guiding, but she wore it well. Volgograd was quite windy, so I suspect she was cold for much of the time.

We first visited the center of the city, where we saw the memorial and the eternal flame in the central park. This park is next to a department store, where in the basement Field Marshal von Paulus was captured on January 31, 1943. All of the center of the city was in Nazi hands at one point or another. We next went down to the river, where there are still ferries. They are building a bridge across the Volga, but for now, there are no bridges, and there were no bridges in 1942. Soviet reinforcements went by ferry. On the top of the banks were Germans, as they got within 100 yards of the river at different points.


Memorial to Stalingrad

Another Memorial

The Eternal Flame

Memorial to the Fallen

The City Steps

Part of the City Gate

The Volga

The Volga

The Volga

Monument to the Navy

The Volga

The Volga

The Volga

A Rebuilt Church
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The Volga itself is a seasonal river, with spring thaws increasing the depth by as much as ten meters. It had started to subside by June, so I did not see it at its greatest width. In the middle of the river is an island where Tsaritsyn was originally built. The island was flooded, so the city moved to the west bank of the Volga, and the modern city started there. It was renamed Stalingrad in 1930 in honor of the Soviet leader. In 1961, the name was changed to Volgograd, "City on the Volga."

The next stop was the sole surviving building from WWII, a mill that had been kept in its war-time conditions. Over the course of six months, the Germans and Russians fought for this building, room by room and floor by floor. Easily a thousand soldiers died just to secure this one shell of a building, and there were many other buildings like this. Across the street is Pavlov's House. It was rebuilt on the location of the ruins of a house that was held by Sergeant Pavlov and his men for the campaign. For a period of two months, they never left the building, and they were under constant Nazi attack.


They fought room to room

and floor to floor

Many died

Sgt. Petrov held this house for 90 days

Inside

Inside

The furnaces

The Nazis closest view of the Volga

The Bakery

Roof Damage
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We then headed north to the Dzerzhinsky tractor factory. This was converted to making T-34 tanks, and they were repairing tanks through the battle. The workers in the factory took up arms to defend themselves and fight off the Germans. One can't enter the factory itself, it is back to producing tractors.


The Tractor Factory

Iron Felix

The Product

Mural of the Workers

Heroes
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The term "hero" seems to be widely used in the Soviet Union; there were 11,000 hero medals awarded. Here, several were awarded to the many people who fought. The workers in the factory were all considered heroes. The city itself was awarded "hero city" status.

Next stop was the Soldier's Field, a site where a monument was placed with a letter from a soldier to his daughter, and remnants of bombs and mines.


Debris of War

A Survivor

Her Letter

Soldier's Field
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The last stop was Mamayev Kurgan. It was known as Hill 102 during the fighting, as it was a 102 meter tall hill with a commanding view of the city. It changed hands several times during the fighting, and maybe 100,000 died fighting on both sides for this one hill. It has been converted to a memorial.

On the top of the hill is a giant statue of Rodina summoning the people to the defense of the Motherland. It stands 52 meters tall, and is visible for miles.

On Lenin Avenue is the entrance to the complex. A monument to the memory of generations is the first site, and then one starts to climb 200 steps towards Rodina. You climb through an alley of poplars, to a level area with a statue titled "Stand to the death." This is a man holding a rifle, and when you get closer, it covers Rodina.


Mamayev Memorial

Mamyev Steps

Rodina

Stand to the Death

Looking at Asia
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Around the statue are more stairs past the broken walls, where different reliefs reflect the different forces of the battle.


Reliefs

Reliefs

Reliefs

Reliefs

Reliefs

Reliefs
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Next, we went up more steps to the plaza of heroes. There are six statues, each with a different meaning. The first shows a soldier supporting a wounded friend, illustrating the camaraderie between men. Next, a nurse carries a severely wounded soldier from battle. The third shows the contributions of the Soviet marines. In the fourth, a soldier holds up a wounded officer so he can stay in command. The fifth shows a soldier picking up the standards of the unit when the original standard bearer is killed. The sixth is the soldiers taking the Nazi emblems, and a snake to represent the treachery, and throwing them into the Volga.


Fallen Comerades

Struggling Nurses

Soviet Marines

Leadership

Soviet Standards

Victory!
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If Rodina is the head of the memorial, then the Hall of Glory is the heart. Here, a giant hand holds up an eternal flame, and on the walls are a listing of some of the soldiers who died defending Stalingrad. An honor guard stands at attention at both ends of the hall, and is changed every hour. It is a very moving place. Beyond is the Square of Sorrows, for those who fell. Here are the burial spots for those who won "Hero of the Soviet Union." At the front is Marshal Chuikov, the only Marshal of the Soviet Union buried outside Moscow. Other heroes are buried here, the most recent being Vasili Zaitsev, who was commemorated in "Enemy at the Gates." He died in the Ukraine in the 1990's.


Victorious Soviet Army

Defeated Fascist Army

The Eternal Flame

Names of the Dead

The Hall of Glory

Rodina

Changing the Guards

Sorrow
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34,000 bodies were buried on this one hill.


A Cathedral

Grave of Vasilli Zaitsev
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Once at the top, you can see the amazing views, and see why both sides wanted the position.


East

North

South

West
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A lot of what I learned was illuminated here during my visit. It was quite moving to see the whole of the city and the sites. They've done a good job of rebuilding; in much of the city you can't even tell a battle was fought. My only regret is that the children-playing fountain no longer exists; its image in the middle of the battle is iconic.

I also had dinner in Volgograd, some tartar food. This consisted of a strong broth, some local pelmeni (made with two meats and a bit of spices) and a meat roll. The meat roll was a skirt steak wrapped around a vegetable and cheese filling, and then roasted. It was huge, it was filling, and I could only eat half.


Wagtail

Wagtail

Wagtail

Wagtail

Wagtail

Rodina

Another bird

Another bird
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Back at the airport, I checked in and waited. Once again, the flight was nearly full. But it took off on time, and landed on time, and since I had no baggage, I was out of the airport quickly. It is interesting to note that the passengers are a bit more disciplined than those in the United States; they remained seated after the seat-belt sign was turned off, and after the engines were stopped. Part of that was that the bus wasn't ready to take everyone to the terminal, but we'd have gathered our baggage and stood in the aisle.

June 26


Victory Park Metro Station Mural

Today is my last full day in Russia, and it was sort-of an ad hoc day. I'll admit that I drove my guide a little crazy with my refusal to make firm plans, I told her I like to play it by ear, and while she said she liked that, she also clearly had ideas of how long things should take. In some places, I spent too much time, and in others, I didn't spend enough. Despite that, she was a very knowledgeable guide, and a very good guide.

The first stop of the day was the Polytechnic Museum. Having a scientific background, I thought seeing their museum to technology would be interesting. The first thing one sees when one climbs the stairs (they don't have escalators in Russia except at the airports, apparently, and by the end of each day, my feet were killing me!) is a mock-up of Russia's atomic bomb. It looks suspiciously like ours; then again, it really is the same basic idea.


Russian A-Bomb

Russian Computer

Russian Telecom

KGB Victims Memorial
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Up one goes to see the meteorological section, the energy section, and the section on chronographs. The chronographs were the most interesting part. Their computing section was a bit sparse, and they had nothing on the physics - not even a mock-up of an old tokomak device. They did move some of the exhibits from the cosmonautics museum to here, but what they had was disappointing. Only scale mockups, no original craft, no original gear.

Overall, the museum was very disappointing. There could have been a lot more, but the collection is sparse, and really doesn't even celebrate Russian science.

It was interesting to look at the more common apartment buildings throughout Moscow and Volgograd. These were examples of Soviet architecture, block structures like the council flats in London, or the public housing in New York. Each apartment had its own balcony, and I found it an interesting example of how overcrowded the places were: Many of the balconies looked like they were converted to ad hoc rooms. Where the balcony railing was were sheets of wood or metal with glass, sealing off the extra balcony space. It was spooky.


Stalist Architecture

Christ the Redeemer Cathedral
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Our next stop was the Christ the Redeemer Cathedral, the main cathedral in the Russian Orthodox religion. It was destroyed by Stalin and eventually replaced with a swimming pool, but starting in 1995 it was rebuilt to the original specifications. It's now complete, and the head patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates here. The cathedral can hold 10,000 (although I suspect they're packed in like sardines that way.)

Next stop was the subway tour. The Moscow Metro is the most beautiful (and most efficient) subway system I've ever seen. Several stations are true works of art.


Moscow Metro

Tribute to Lenin

Kievskaya Station

Kievskaya Art

Belorusskaya Station

Belorusskaya Art

Belorusskaya Art

Novoslobodskaya Station

Novoslobodskaya Stained Glass

Novoslobodskaya Stained Glass

Komsomolskaya Station

Bust of Lenin

Bust of Lenin

Komsomolskaya Art

Long Escalator

Revolutsion Station Statue

Revolutsion Station Statue

Revolutsion Station Statue

Revolutsion Station Statue

Borodino Mural

Mayakovskaya Station
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At the first station, Kropotkinskaya, the station is made of marble (allegedly from the destruction of the old cathedral.) We went from there to Kievskaya station, which is dedicated to the workers of Ukraine, and the murals are in that motif. Next was Belorusskaya, a similar tribute to the workers of Belorussia. Around from there we went to Novoslobodskaya, where the exhibits there are stained glass. Then we went to Komsomolskaya, with the dedication to the workers. We went out to Victory Park, the newest metro station, and saw that the mural motif continued with the new station's murals for WWII and Borodino. The next stop was Revolutsion Ploschad, with bronze statues for the revolution. Finally, we left at Mayakovskaya.

The last stop of the day was the New Tretyakov Gallery, which has Russian Art from the 20th Century. There was a special exhibit titled "Europe-Russia-Europe" that had some interesting paintings (including a Turner landscape) but I did not understand the theme. The Russian art included the initial revolutionary art, followed by Soviet Realism, then on to modern art. I don't fully understand modern art, but some of it was very good, some humorous (a piece of hanging metal with the label "Iron Curtain" comes to mind) and some inexplicable.


A Statue of Lenin

Gorki Park Gate

The Proletariat
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I left my guide at a Chocoladitsy, a little coffee bar, where I relaxed with a soda. I met Kim at her office, and we went to Ukrainskoi Kukhy, a Ukrainian restaurant. We were met by Eugene. Eugene would not be going to Venice, as it sold out before he could sign up.

Ukrainian cuisine is a blend of Russian and Polish, with some of its own tricks. They use a lot of potatoes, I started with a potato pancake, a sausage sampler, vareniki (dumplings with potatoes), dumpling soup, and I finished with chicken Kiev. All of it was good, although the chicken Kiev could have been better. Good food and good company were exactly what I wanted for my last night in Moscow.

We headed back to the dacha, where I had to prepare to fly out the next morning.

June 27

I don't know who set up the schedules, but a lot of flights from Moscow leave early in the morning. And by early, I mean at 5:50 AM. I had to be at the airport by 4AM, which meant I had to leave the dacha by 3AM, and I had to wake up before 2:30 AM. This, after returning from dinner at close to 11PM, meant that I didn't get much sleep.

I managed to wake up, and get the taxi to the airport. The taxi at that time was 1400 rubles, about $56. For Moscow, that was reasonably inexpensive. I was surprised that there was not much of a like for check in, so I checked in quickly. There was no line at security, either. They did have one of the new air-puffer machines for detecting explosives, which was interesting. However, with all the stops I needed to make, I was still at the gate by 4:20AM, so I waited. And I waited. Eventually, the bus arrived to take us to the plane, and we all boarded.

Russian airports are kind of weird. It was as if the Mojave air storage facility was at San Francisco airport; there were may older Aeroflot jets in storage. The engines had caps on them, and it looked like the planes could not be used. There were easily 20 old Tupelev and Ilyushin jets just sitting in mothballs at Domodedovo, with other planes in mothballs at Gumrak and Sheremetyevo. I guess they were waiting for the return to the days of the glorious Soviet aviation.

I did not have anyone next to me, so I could relax, and I slept for part of the flight to Vienna. The entertainment was bizarre, something about playing practical jokes on people.

I had a very short change in Vienna, first a bus took us from the plane to the terminal, then I waited in a room, then another bus took us back out to the plane. It seems that using jet ways is frowned upon. The flight from Vienna to Prague was on a Dash-8 turboprop. I changed seats so I had a row to myself, and the flight to Prague was uneventful. We landed just after 9AM local time.




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