Part 1
Part 2
Part 3




A trip to Russia

Part 2: Blue and white colors against the blue cloudy sky

Another stop was the Smolny Cathedral built for Elizabeth, the daughter of
Peter-the-Great. After she was barred from taking the throne she became a nun, which lasted until an upheaval of power that later granted her the throne.

The cathedral is pleasing to the eye of blue and white colors against the blue cloudy sky. As we walked toward the entrance we were greeted by hunched backed babushkas leaning against the wall with their gnarled-cupped hands extended begging for money. It was heart wrenching seeing their pleading eyes and hardened leather-like faces with deep crevices from what seemed like many years in the sun.

Once inside the cathedral, there was a pleasant surprise of a choir singing in Russian sending chills up my spine. The acoustics created an angelic atmosphere tempered with stringed instruments. The ceilings were open to the roof providing the chill of a slight echo of the voices.

Driving throughout the city a military presence became obvious. We passed by several platoons of skinny young military boys marching in the streets with glazed over, but focused eyes. They hardly looked sixteen years old.

Our interpreter explained how the army personnel had not been paid their full wages in over a year because the government had no money. The men stayed faithful to their commitment while relying upon their families to support them.

We passed by statues of Stalin, the Alexander Column, the Bronze Horseman, the Aurora Battleship and other military buildings.

I had to pinch myself; I was in Russia... a bitter enemy of the US during the Cold War when I growing up. I'll never forget how we had drills at school in my younger years to protect ourselves from "The Russians". Seeing the military presence began to give me flashbacks from childhood. The US government placed a fear of Russia in our child-like understanding.

Adults explained how Russians are Communists and NOT Christians, "They are going to hell," I heard over and over. Drill after drill, during my years at elementary school and middle school, were a part of a routine schedule. A certain alarm would sound and we would drop to the floor underneath our desks.

Or, a certain alarm would sound and we would file to the hallway lined with lockers, then sitting in front of them in tailor fashion with our hands over the back of our heads while bending forward. Signs for fall-out shelters made an obvious appearance at school and other buildings with basements.

Russia was scary to me because the atomic bomb was going to kill us and fry us. If we survived there would be no food and water. Public service announcements were on television and at movie theaters.

It was prophesied by God-fearing self-appointed religious people; "Get saved from the pit of hell and eternal damnation by believing in God, the end of the world is near!" It is some of the same fears we have today projected upon us by both the government and religious people about Afghanistan and Iraq. I don't take the bite as easily today because my innocence is gone. Sometimes, I feel duped.

Part 3: Alexander, are you still around?

this travelogue is part of the subside travelzine
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