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Author Topic: Our Russian honeymoon  (Read 29071 times)

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Offline Olga

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Re: Our Russian honeymoon
« Reply #30 on: November 13, 2007, 06:29:15 PM »

Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Our Russian honeymoon
« Reply #31 on: November 13, 2007, 10:50:05 PM »
Olga, first allow me to thank you for posting this here.  It fits so perfectly!  St P is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.  Having the city as our honeymoon destination was an honour, in spite of some of the trials in getting there.


By the way, you can find more of Olga's very fine artistic video work in a recent posting in the Russian Music thread, Culture section.

Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Our Russian honeymoon
« Reply #32 on: November 13, 2007, 11:25:10 PM »
As the end of our honeymoon approached, both of us felt sad about leaving St Petersburg.  She had been there many times. It was my 2nd trip, the first on business. This was my first time to "stop and smell the roses" of this wonderful city. I love to go back every time the opportunity is presented.

On January 1 we toured the Summer palace.  Only it wasn't summer.  And again we had a reminder that things can be quite different in another country and culture. The Summer Palace opened at Noon.  It was the first day of the new year and we were tired from the party the night before but excited to be there.  Our bus pulled up and we parked with lots of other buses.  It would be a crowded day.  We toured the gardens and monuments, took lots of photos. and then got into a line at our assigned time.

Russian official (English) website:
http://eng.tzar.ru/catherine

Our small group was assigned to stand in a section outside the courtyard entrance.  The next section was represented by several busloads of German tourists on holiday.  The Germans had been drinking quite heavily.  My wife speaks very passable German, and so did several other members of our little group, so soon we were engaged in active conversation.

Normally a German tourist at the Summer Palace would be polite and apologetic since it was the German Army which had used the Palace as target practice, as a barracks, looted everything in sight including the gold from the columns and domes, and set it on fire before leaving.  The restoration took years and millions of dollars.

But these German folk were drinking and in no mood to be shy.  At first it was fun while we waited but we waited and waited.  Sober tourists might sigh and wish for things to move more quickly, but drunk tourists do not.  When a representative came to the great archway and announced which groups could move forward and in what order, the Germans acted like idiots.  They began to push, shove and trample people and it became necessary for a small group of guards to restore order.  Sometimes American's are not the only "ugly" tourists.

However once inside it was heavenly!  There is just no way a 4 hour tour can do justice.  The Summer Palace while not as large as the Hermitage, is still very massive.  And very beautiful.  I tried to imagine how little children growing up in the castle might feel.  I had just completed reading "The Romanovs...the Final Chapter" by historian Robert K. Massie who had previously authored "Nicholas and Alexandra" and was struck at how history seemed to come alive in each room as the guided tours took us thru the palace.

Nightfall came quickly in the afternoon and we emerged in darkness, the icy fog masking the beautiful view which normally can be see from the Palace grounds.  Our small tour group had been invited to attend a special memorial service at the Peter and Paul Fortress that evening and so we loaded onto a bus once again.


Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Our Russian honeymoon
« Reply #33 on: November 13, 2007, 11:58:43 PM »
St Peter and Paul Fortress

The first structure.  The tallest structure.  A fort.  An armory.  A barracks.  The burial place to the Tsars and their families.  A cathedral.  A prison.  All these things describe the Peter and Paul Fortress, a group of buildings of historical importance to understanding Russia.

The German army assaulted it for months.  The Red Army defended it for just as long.  It had no strategic value for either army.  The German army thought is was an armory (provisions had been long moved out by the time they arrived).  The Red Army thought it was a symbol of Russian culture and worth dying for. 

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So goes the history of the Peter and Paul Fortress.  The first structure for the city of Petrograd, it was a fort to defend Peter's new city built on wet swampland conquered from the Swedish. 

It's next to last "life" was as a Soviet political prison.  Mr Gorbachev released the last prisoners before the breakup of the Soviet Union.  It's last and continuing life is as a state museum and continuing burial place for royality.  Nicholas and his family are now buried inside the Cathedral along with the other Romanovs.

Just for a moment let's consider the role of a working church and non-working (museum) church. 

During the Soviet period thousands of churches were closed.  Many were outright destroyed.  The rest became factories or museums.  Such a museum church or cathedral might still have icons and all the furnishings of a church, but with no permit to hold worship services.  No priest would be assigned as a pastor.  This kind of a museum church is considered to be a non-working church.

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The Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul is a non-working church.  It is now a museum which holds the caskets of the rulers of Russia.  Yet it still has all the finery and furnishings and icons of a real and working church.  One can see Russians cross themselves and pray at the icons, however no priests are there to conduct services and receive confessions.

Follow this link for more history and photos:
http://it.stlawu.edu/~rkreuzer/phayden/ppfort.htm

Sometimes on special occasions the state allows the Russian Orthodox Church to conduct special limited memorial services within this majestic Cathedral.

After the memorial, we walked around the prison compound.  Little had changed since it's construction.  Political prisoners in the 1980s had lived in the same conditions as had prisoners lived back in the 1700's.  I reflected on this as we made our way thru the buildings which had comprised the prison.  Putting my hand on a wall where prisoners had made their own markings, I wondered how it must have felt--at any point to be a prisoner during those centuries.

On the way out we stopped at a souvenir stand.  What a contrast all in one place....Cathedral....fort.....burial place......prison.....souvenir stand.  I purchased one of those thick wool Russian hats, a shapka (шáпкa) . 

[ Guests cannot view attachments ] A souvenir.  It only seemed fitting.

We were ready for a final dinner.  Tomorrow we would tour all day and then return to Moscow that night.

Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Our Russian honeymoon
« Reply #34 on: November 15, 2007, 01:56:11 AM »
Our final day was spent at some of the most beautiful churches in the St Petersburg area, then touring some of the sites which meant a lot to Russia's beloved son Pushkin.

Алекса́ндр Серге́евич Пу́шкин (Aleksandr Sergeevich Pushkin) is one of Russia's favourite sons.  I won't try to write a treatise on him because there are scores of Internet sites which do an excellent job already.  He was a strange breed for Russians to love....literally.  He was of mixed race with African blood from a grandmother and he was related to the British royal court via another grandparent.  Normally such a mix from Africa would not find such popularity in Russia but Pushkin understood, and indeed represented, the Russian soul.

He was aligned with the Romanov family.  He was a revolutionary.  He lived on the palace grounds and enjoyed the fruits of royal wealth.  He was exiled for his beliefs and writings.  He was brought out of exile because his service to the Tsar was needed.  Sound familiar?  It's just the same old story of so many famous and important Russian figures.

His writings still capture the hearts of the Russian people.  I enjoyed this last day of our honeymoon because in a sense you can't understand Petrograd without learning about Pushkin.  And that last night as our bus pulled up to a restaurant for our final meal, a sense of history was flooding over me.

We were allowed an unexpected honour that evening at dinner.  Normally we would be assigned at a table with other tour members somewhere in the restaurant.  The prearranged meal would be served and then we would return to the hotel.  Well on this final night we had prepared to sit when the tour coordinator came and asked us to join the large table where the tour guide/history professor was sitting.

It was a delight!  This night was relaxed and the tour coordinator announced that a bottle of vodka would be set on each table as compliments of the tour company.  A special menu was also announced and it was much better and included more courses than the previous nights.  Whether this was a usual habit or whether he was trying to gain favour before faced with a flood of refund requests back in Moscow, I have no idea.  I'll explain the menu first and then tell what transpired at our table.

Russians love fish.  They also like spaghetti.  Tonight we would feast on both!  A cheer went up (although a bigger cheer had gone up when the free bottles of vodka were announced!)

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First traditional salads were served.  Three or four per table.  After several dinners of one-plate prearranged meals, this was indeed a special night.  Then came baked fish with potatoes.

Perhaps a word of warning might be in order:  Russians have yet to discover that it is possible to de-bone fish before selling or preparing it.  Or maybe choking on a fish bone is part of some ancient rite of Slavic passage.  Whatever, be ready to eat carefully when served fish. She told me the name of the fish but I'd never heard of it before.  It was a white fish and very nicely done if you like oven baked fish.


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When it comes to spaghetti a little understanding might be helpful.  Let's start with ketchup.  Yep, ketchup.  Russian style ketchup is thinner and more runny and has less sugar than American versions such a Heinz, for example.  It can be purchased at a kiosk in a little foil type package with a spout on top.  Just like mayonnaise is sold in Russia.  Or it can be found in those waxed cardboard containers just like juice is sold in Russia.  And it is multipurpose.  It is ketchup, it is spaghetti sauce, it is pizza sauce, it is tomato paste, etc. 

Next comes the spaghetti.  Russians call it by the generic name of macaroni much like we use the generic term pasta for most macaroni products.  A Russian favourite is the very thick spaghetti that when cooked, and I'm not kidding, expands to the size of a small rope or electric cord.  It is very, very thick.

Russians and Ukrainians also love eggplant and this evening the restaurant would serve on of my favourite versions of Russian macaroni/spaghetti.  Eggplant was cooked with onions, peppers and squash and then mixed with the ketchup/tomato paste.  Delicious!

Typically presented on a large platter in the centre of the table, the very round spaghetti is strung in a continuous circle around the outside of the plate and then the eggplant/vegetables/tomato ketchup is poured inside the tall ring of macaroni/spaghetti for a very nice presentation.  If your city has a Russian supermarket you might ask for it.  Prepared with the vegetables mentioned above it is incredible.

Dessert tea was also presented and we were served traditional style.  Little dishes with a couple spoons of jam were set before us and then fresh tea was poured.  The custom of taking a tiny bit of jam on the tongue and then washing it down with tea is not only fun, but very satisfying.  BTW, you can do the same with little bits of chocolate.

Try it, you'll like it!

I was getting a cold and later we would stop at a pharmacy before leaving the city, but for now the conversation at the table during and after dinner was very stimulating.


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Online bgreed

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Re: Our Russian honeymoon
« Reply #35 on: November 15, 2007, 11:20:26 AM »
Jim, you mena to tell me that your wife took you to an apteka for a cure instead of giving you the traditional Russian cure for a cold? ;) ;D


Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Our Russian honeymoon
« Reply #36 on: November 15, 2007, 12:49:50 PM »
Thanks Gregg!  I had several shots of vodka and lemon at the restaurant so I think she knew I'd reached my limit (2-4 at best).

Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Our Russian honeymoon
« Reply #37 on: November 15, 2007, 02:27:18 PM »
Singing for my dinner!

We joined the guide's table and were introduced and graciously included in the conversation.  Quickly it was obvious that the one bottle of free vodka per table (4 persons) had encouraged individual tour members to order additional bottles at their own expense. I glanced around to check on the driver who was seated at another table nearby.  It appeared that he wasn't drinking.  That was a relief!

Our table had approximately 10 people and soon the vodka was flowing freely.  At one point during the evening it was our turn to order a bottle since everyone was sharing.  

The conversation was spirited and there was lots of laughter and jokes.  Soon the topic turned to history and the tour guide continued to dazzle us with stories of the Romanovs, of Pushkin, of Catherine, etc.  It was a fascinating evening.  During the meal I learned that one of the tour families included a man who was a member of the government of Ukraine in some mid-ranking capacity.  They had relatives in Moscow and would spend another day or so in Russia before returning to Kyiv.

Our professor was very interested in my view of Russian history from the perspective of one American and I learned a lot about Russian views from the give and take that evening.  Russian people are very gracious and entertaining most of the time when around foreigners and it felt like new friends had been made that evening.

The tour coordinator announced that we'd be leaving ending the dinner and there was time for some songs or poems.  This is quite common in such a setting and Russians are not afraid to burst into a song or recite a popular poem.  It was also a signal for the waiters to bring out fresh tea as anything worth celebrating in Russia is worth enjoying over a cup of hot tea.

If you have yet to experience this, then you must do it!  It is an experience worth repeating over and over.  There were a few final vodka toasts as the tea was being prepared, including a toast to our tour guide and a toast for our honeymoon.

I had not anticipated being asked to sing a song or recite a poem but it didn't take long for the tour coordinator to suggest it.  A refusal would have been considered impolite, or worse it may have been construed as an indicator that I lacked the education or cultural awareness required for such a task.

The spotlight was on and I had to step up and perform.


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Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Our Russian honeymoon
« Reply #38 on: November 15, 2007, 03:12:08 PM »
The truth is that most Americans, myself included, are indeed culturally lacking in this area.  Sitting around a table drinking tea and talking after dinner is not common to American culture.  Neither is the singing of songs or recitation of poems in an informal group setting.  But I was on the hook.

My mind went back to a Psalm from the Old Testament which my late Dad and I had shared as a favourite.  It is Psalm 1 so there is where I started.  Normally everyone would stand...Russians always stand when the Scriptures are said...but it took a moment for the English speakers to recognize it...and many had never heard it before.    I had memorized it in English and didn't have the ability to quickly transition it into Russian, plus I knew they expected me to present something in English for the cultural effect.  

I was glad that a Psalm would be acceptable to both Christians or Jews. So that is where I started:

"Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.

His delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.  Whatever he does prospers.

Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish."


That was short so I followed with part of a poem.  Notice I said part of a poem....because I don't remember all of it.   :innocent:  I do remember verse 4 of Rudyard Kipling's masterpiece "IF" and it is very beautiful:

"If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds' worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it.

And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!"



Even being recited in English they seemed to like it.

Tak.



Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Our Russian honeymoon
« Reply #39 on: November 15, 2007, 03:39:56 PM »
While true that I sing in the choir of our Orthodox church, that in no way means that I can sing.  It just indicates that our choir is desperate!

There is one folk song in Russia culture that seems to evoke the spirit of the Russian soul.  The title is "Kalinka."  Its not really that old (somewhere around 100 years if memory serves me correctly) but it has captured the hearts of ordinary Russians.

Warning, if you sing Kalinka, Russians will start clapping and stomping feet in unison and singing along with you.  And as you repeat it, the tempo will go faster and faster.  It's a fun song!

I sang it with a twist.  With impromptu inspiration the idea hit me to insert a pet/intimate name for my bride at certain points instead of Kalinka.   :party0011:

They loved it!


Here is a video of how the song should be sung (I'm sure some of their joyful laughter was not only at my change in lyrics, but also at my lack of singing ability!)

The real Kalinka as sung by the Russian Red Army Choir:


Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Our Russian honeymoon
« Reply #40 on: November 16, 2007, 09:50:26 AM »
In spite of all that had happened on the ride to the city from Moscow, Mother's honeymoon gift had become a real treasure.


Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Our Russian honeymoon
« Reply #41 on: November 16, 2007, 11:13:08 AM »
There were other songs and poems recited along with some jokes.  Sometimes Russian humour can be difficult to understand to the outsider but it was a continuing learning experience.

After a while the tour coordinator presented a bouquet of flowers to our tour guide/history professor and she make the rounds to each table to receive our thanks and the traditional 3 kisses on alternating cheeks.

How to kiss a Russian:  Men kiss men, women kiss women, and both sexes kiss each other.  Russian Jews say it was a Jewish custom first and Christians say it was Christian first.  Muslims do it too.  Doesn't matter who was first. Just think of Left-Right-Left and go for it.  It's a kiss on alternating cheeks and done 3 times in rapid fashion.  A single kiss on the cheek can be offensive as if you are only willing to accept or greet a person less than fully.  So, L-R-L.  Try it on a co-worker there in your office and report back to us on their reaction.   ;D

Additional word on kissing:  In most western countries it is customary to kiss a child, or even a wife affectionally on the nose.  In many parts of Russia and Ukraine it's okay for a child, but not for a grown ladies.  At least not until she understands that it's acceptable in your culture.  For some reason a kiss on the nose for an adult is like you are "looking down" on her and treating her as if she were a child, patronizing her.  It's a classic case of you meaning well and she thinking it's an insult.  For her adult relatives stay with the 3 kisses on the cheek.

After a bathroom break and getting our coats unchecked we boarded the bus and were almost ready to leave St Petersburg and make the return trip to Moscow. 

A word about coats in Russian winters:  They're typically very long to shield the legs from freezing winds, button all the way to the top to protect the throat, usually wool or similiar material to "breathe" so that sweat/moisture doesn't cause pneumonia, and they're big and bulky.  Because of the size you most often "check" your coat when you go into a public building like a large restaurant or museum, etc.  You'll sometimes be given a number verbally (don't forget it!), or piece of paper with the number or a little wooden or plastic tab to turn it for your coat.  The same applies for umbrellas. 

Russians generally go to great lengths to take good care of their wardrobe.  My wife gets upset if I use my coat pockets to store my gloves, scarf, and hat.  She thinks their bulk push out the pockets and stretch the stitching.  She's probably right but it's a hard habit to break. 

Practical hint:  It you carry a folded-up cloth bag in a coat pocket it can be easily unfolded for your gloves and hat to be checked with your coat for easy retrieval of all your items.  (This hint especially for American guys where the practice of checking coats was for most states dropped in the 1960's.)

As Gregg mentioned in a recent reply post, the Russian word for pharmacy is aптека, pronounced "Aph-tech-ah." 

We needed to find an open Aптека because several of us were developing colds.





Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Our Russian honeymoon
« Reply #42 on: November 18, 2007, 10:06:04 PM »
As the bus rode toward the pharmacy I began to reflect on the trip.  It was quite a honeymoon and I had learned so much and was thankful that mother had given us this trip.  She will always have my gratitude for it.

At the same time there was a sense of "unfinished business" over the final days of the family of Tsar Nicholas II.  You can still feel that today in elderly Russians even though many were very young when the Revolution took place.  

I had been doing some research for a story and the trip with our very learned lecturer had filled in a lot of blanks as well as spawned new questions.

Boris Yeltsin, writing in his book "Against the Grain" had lamented this:  "I can well imagine that sooner or later we will be ashamed of this piece of barbarism."

Yeltsin was not only writing about the shameful way in which the murders and burials had taken place, but about his role later in the erasure of Russian history.  Yeltsin was a young general secretary of the Sverdlovsk Regional Soviet when KGB chairman Yuri Andropov convinced the elderly president Leonid Brezhnev that the Ipatiev House where the Royal family had been held was becoming a "shrine" to monarchists and should be destroyed.  At that time a museum, Yeltsin was ordered to bulldoze it to the ground and truck off all the crushed remains (of books, documents, photos, clothing) to the Ekaterinburg city dump for burning.

As you may know the equally aging and senile Andropov was soon the president of the Soviet Union.  Even while running the KGB he saw a "White Army" agent behind every tree and was constantly worried that the UK and USA were plotting to bring a relative of the Tsar back to challenge the Communists for the "throne" of Russia.  Perhaps his short reign and quick death was a blessing to the Soviet people.  

The story of how the Tsar's family was finally found is fascinating.  After their murder execution style in 1918 they had been hastily buried in a mine shaft outside Ekaterinburg because the White and Czech armies were on the outskirts of the city.  The local communist officials approved the execution so that the family could not be rescued.  However the White army took the town (3 days too late) and numerous searches turned up cold.  Once the Red Army re-took the area the bodies were taken out of the mine shaft and moved to a forest about 30 miles outside the city and re-buried after being burned with acid.

It is interesting to note that the Communist government lied to the world about the Romanov family.  For eight years the official line from Moscow was that the Romanov's were being moved around various safe havens in Eastern Russia for their own protection against angry peasants.  Eight years!

In 1978-79 two Russian men who had been researching the family's execution for a movie found the actual grave.  At first they found 3 skulls and then later a 4th.  Buttons, clothing fabric and dental remains were also found.  Afraid to announce their find they secretly marked the site and kept the skulls under their bed for several years!

In 1989 they decided to test to see if it was safe to reveal the site.  The Russian goverment had no complete documents on the exact burial location but now a new wave of "openness" was coming from Moscow.  Not altogether convinced that Moscow would be open and share with the Russian people the full story, they decided to test Moscow.

Thru a 3rd party, a European journalist, the story was leaked to the Moscow News the largest liberal (pro-reform) newspaper at the time.  The story announced that the site had been found and some of the items were detailed.  But the story did not reveal the correct site nor the men who had made the discovery.

Within 30 hours of the story's release a massive machinery convoy complete with KGB agents from Leningrad were on the false scene.  An entire meadow was unearthed, loaded into a convoy of trucks and carted off to Leningrad.  Then the area was sealed off and immediately Moscow announced (even before an examination of the soil) that nothing had been found.  Meanwhile KGB agents flooded the area looking for the persons who had made the discovery.

Only later when the CCCP was totally "out of business" did the men reveal the location and reveal the correct site.  In 1991 Russian President Boris Yeltsin authorized an open and scientific search and the men came forward with the correct location.  Today the Romanov family is buried along with other former rulers in St Petersburg in the Peter and Paul Fortress.

Perhaps you can sense that I like history! It had been a good honeymoon.

Tak.

Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Our Russian honeymoon
« Reply #43 on: November 18, 2007, 10:40:58 PM »
It was time to leave Petrograd/Leningrad/St Petersburg and return home to Moscow.

But first the bus stopped at a pharmacy because several of us had asked for cold medications. My new wife's strong Russian female instincts kicked in as she took care of me. My eyes were swollen by nightfall and my throat was on fire. 

Althought the trip had been enjoyable, I just wanted to go home.

I don't remember much of the ride back to Moscow. Compared to the start of the journey, that was a blessing! The slowing of the bus woke me about halfway thru the night when we stopped in a little village for a toilet break and to stretch our legs. 

Once back on the road I stayed awake just long enough to make certain the bus driver shut the door after that stop, then went back to sleep until we reached in the Tver area. The medication had made me groggy and the only interruptions of my sleep were the times when my bride wanted to check how I was feeling.   What a nice feeling for a man to be pampered by a beautiful wife! She felt my head, my chest, my back, etc, but when her hand came away wet with sweat from my chest and back, she began to fret and worry. 

She was very concerned at that point and so I couldn't sleep with her like that and we talked for about a half hour while watching little patches of houses, villages and cars.  However the medication was stronger than my willpower and sometime (probably while she was in mid-sentence) I fell asleep and stayed that way until the bus was entering the greater Moscow area.  Poor thing, she didn't sleep a wink because of her concern for me.

We unloaded and headed for the Metro.  It was about 7am but still dark in the Russian winter. Upon arrival at her apartment I was tucked into bed and stayed there until Christmas Eve, 6 January, just a day before our delayed wedding dinner party.

During that time in bed I couldn't recall the differences between morning, day or night. I was just sick and my eyes were swollen shut with a case of pink eye. A very loving "nurse" woke me every few hours with a shot of vodka with tons of lemon, some awful tasting medicine, and tea bag compacts for my eyes.

How to treat pink eye in Russia:  Most Russians make tea (the national drink of Russia) from loose tea leaves. Tea bags do not deliver the same quality and fine taste. But for convenience sake and for travel, you can easily buy a package of tea bags at most markets. 

Every other hour she would wake me and I was grumpy sometimes (sorry my darling) as she placed steaming hot black tea bags over my eyes. There was no doubt that she loved me--I felt badly to be starting our marriage while sick in bed. I'd never heard of such a remedy before but had to admit that it felt soothing. Those tea bags did the job, each time removing the puss from the swelling and soothing the pink eye at the same time.

(About 2 years later while waiting for a flight at Heathrow in London a British doctor and I were chatting. We got on the subject of folk medicines and he was not at all surprised at the tea bag treatment. According to him it is excellent as a first aid treatment for almost any eye injury.)

Speaking of doctors, Russian doctors do make house calls. As the day of our wedding dinner got near she was a bit nervous about my recovery. The gal wanted to party!   :)  So a doctor came by and my initial reaction was that I hadn't showered in several days and was too embarrassed for a doctor to see me in such a condition. But whatever he gave must have worked because I was up and about, busy helping with final preparations the day before the party.

Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Our Russian honeymoon
« Reply #44 on: November 18, 2007, 10:55:38 PM »
The time in St Petersburg, the history lectures and sightseeing, the New Year's Eve party and even our "3 star" hotel had been special. 

Because the trip was a gift from her mother, I thought we had agreed not to tell mother about the first night's trip and the condition of the hotel.  In my mind she should be thanked and honoured for her gift.  So it was my plan to keep quiet about certain details.

Well, one should never underestimate the close relationship between Russian daughters and their mothers.  When I was finally out of bed and moving about after being sick it was obvious that they had talked because her mother was in constant "apology mode" and that was not at all what I had wanted. 

Today mother knows that I value her gift and thoughfulness and will always cherish that "tour" with the bus, my new bride and the friends we made on that journey.


 

 

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