Saint Petersburg: Nevsky Prospekt

Russian Federation

September 8, 2011


Dear Family and Friends,

The sun made a brief appearance this afternoon.  Mostly though, the sky is gray and the drizzle incessant.  The air is humid and chilly.

Nonetheless, I make my patented strolls around this surprising city, up and down Nevsky Prospekt, a busy eight lane boulevard lined with smart shops, bistros and restaurants and pastel stone buildings.  It really is lovely here.   

Moscow: the Metro and the River



September 27, 2011 

My Dear Jan, 

I am so disappointed in you! 

Two weeks ago, I read in your initial letter from Moscow that you were reluctant to travel alone on the Moscow Metro.  Reluctant?! 

Yes, I know that there are no signs whatsoever in English.   But you were afraid?  And are you so lazy that you can't learn to read at least a few Cyrillic letters so that you can identify the Russian word for "entrance" and "exit”?   Reluctant?  Shameful! 

Then you said that you were terrified?  Terrified?  Shocking! 

Kazan: Tartarstan and the Teenagers


Republic of Tartarstan

Russian Federation

September 24, 2011

Dear Friends,

Kazan is the capital of the region called the Republic of Tartarstan, the area once controlled by the Tartar tribes.

Naturally, I thought of steak tartare, and the French sauce for this dish of raw, minced beef – sauce tartare.

Legend has it that the French named this dish for the Tartar hordes that never stopped to eat; they ate raw meat as they rode on horseback to their next conquest.   A corollary of this legend is that the Tartars put the meat under their saddles to soften it up!  The original Tartar Confederation goes back to the Fifth Century.

Nizhny Novgorod: Mother Volga



September 21, 2011

Dear Friends and Family,


When I was a very young boy, one of the first piano pieces I learned was a simplified version of the Russian folk song, “The Volga Boatmen.”  “Yo, heave ho!   Yo, heave ho!”   Perhaps you also remember it?*

And now, after a short train ride from Vladimir, here I am, strolling down a promenade in Nizhny-Novgorod.  Ornate classical buildings across the street on my left, and far below, on my right, the longest river in Europe, the Russian national river, the “main drag,” the broad and mighty Mother Volga!  You will excuse me, won’t you, if I admit that I am pleased with myself?  Here I am…at the Volga!


The Golden Ring: Vladimir, Yerev-Polsky, Suzdal



September 18, 2011

Dear Family and Friends

Vladimir Vladimirovich was my driver In Vladimir.  He spoke not one word of English.   Somehow we managed to communicate.

Vladimir Vladimirovich and I scanned my map of “Russia’s Heritage Cities.”  We decided on a circular clockwise route:  Vladimir, Yerev-Polskoy, Suzdal, Bogolyubovo, and back to Vladimir.

The Heritage Cities are best known as “The Golden Ring.”  North and east around Moscow are more than a dozen ancient cities with unique Russian architecture dating back to the 12th to 17th Centuries.  

Vladimir Vladimirovich picked me up at 09:00 at the Monomakh Hotel (named for Grand Prince Vladimir Monomakh (1053-1125).  Vladimir sped through the green-to-slightly-golden countryside.  The towns were lovely.  Monasteries, cathedrals, churches, markets, private homes and small shops called супермаркеты were the stops for the day.


Moscow: Galina, Oleg, Dasha, Nadia, Natasha, Natalia


Russian Federation

September 16, 2011

Dear Family and Friends,

Eight years ago, on a bus ride from the Thai beach resort of Hua Hin to Bangkok, I met Galina and her teenage daughter Christina.  Galina spoke no English, but Christina spoke a little.   I learned they lived in Moscow and were headed for the Russian embassy in Bangkok.  Galina’s husband was an officer in the Russian Navy.