Thursday, October 28, 2004

From Russia With Love

In 1983, as a 19 year-old college student, i traveled to the Soviet Union. I was a Russian language student, and i was also intensely curious about this part of the world, so different from my own. I went with a group of students and professors from the University of Arizona, where i was a chemistry major. In retrospect i'm surprised that i went. It was my first trip overseas, and i'd been conditioned to think of the Soviet Union as an unfriendly and dangerous place. I suppose it was part of a contrarian attitude that i never quite outgrew.

We flew from New York to Helsinki, Finland. We spent a night in Helsinki and i walked around the city. I remember it better than i probably should after 20 years. Helsinki might not be Paris, but to me it was amazing. I changed money, i shopped, i had a beer in a cafe, i listened to a man play violin in a chapel. I experienced jet lag, and the late onset of evening that happens in far-north cities.

From Helsinki we flew to Moscow via Aeroflot. We spent a week in Moscow, and then took a train across the country to Irkutsk, in Siberia. After a few days there we flew to Tashkent in Uzbekistan, and then we traveled to Samarkand. From Samarkand we flew to Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). From there we flew back through Finland and to New York.

Some day i hope to document the trip in more detail, but recently i rediscovered some of the pictures that i took on the trip, and i wanted to post some of them here.

This is a picture from St. Petersburg (then Leningrad). In the background is one of the infamous Soviet food lines, but i like this picture because of the woman in the foreground. There's something powerful about that face. The white streak in the middle is a reflection from the bus window from which i took the picture.

This is a picture of Samarkand. I think i took it from the balcony of the hotel. If i remember correctly, the buildings in the center with the blue domes are mosques and other buildings that were erected during the time of Tamerlane.

This is Lake Baikal in Irkutsk. Baikal is supposed to be the deepest lake on the planet. Oddly enough, i liked Siberia. Although it was May, it snowed; so i doubt that i would have like Siberia much during the really cold months.

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