Moscow to Luton

After breakfast we went out with little firm idea what to do. We went to a place where we could photograph at the back of the Intourist and so get in a sign [Коммунизм победит] which meant “Communism Will Win”. It was just outside the park adjacent to the Kremlin in which was the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We walked up the road to near the Bolshoi, where there was a metro station.

We decided not to get on and see where we came up, but to go to “children’s world” – largest children’s shop. Massive place selling things from New Year decorations and toys, to clothes. A good deal of the shop was in fact devoted to adults’ clothes. Very dear, very packed with shoppers. The racks of clothes etc are separated from the main flow of people by counters, etc and only a few people are let in to this area at a time. Thus long queues form outside the area.

Saw a DIY radio section. Although they had integrated circuits and transistors they also stocked valves. Their meters seem expensive compared with Russian meters in England. We walked back to Gorky Street and mum had a coffee in a coffee shop near the hotel. Sold only coffee and a few cakes. No seats, tables at chest level. Saw one Russian eating his packed lunch in there. I was very thirsty so I went to the Cafe Espresso on the ground floor of the Hotel for a lemon juice (30p). Then we had lunch.

After this we went up to rooms and picked up hand baggage (we had done packing in the morning, and our cases had been taken to the airport). Gave chambermaid one rouble and key lady a packet of Rolos! Then went downstairs and I posted my silly Lenin postcard to Paul. Stood around in foyer for a bit and then went out to coaches.

Fell asleep on way to airport. Once there, dad changed our unspent roubles (for dollars – it was all they had). Then we went through a desk to check our tickets and we looked through all the baggage to make sure ours was there. Then we went upstairs to passport control where our visas were taken off us.

Then we went into waiting area – much better than Luton! Had a bottle of lemonade and a cheese sandwich and then sat around talking to Beryl and Bob and the other couple. Had a look round the beriozka (same as all the others). Aeroflot had a stand full of free booklets on Lenin, Allende, communism etc. All in French or Russian.

Suddenly everyone started moving so we went to join a queue to pass through metal detector. By now it was after 4:15pm the scheduled take-off of our flight. Passing through detector (without camera – it wipes off film – and without change, pen etc but not without watch – and specs were OK too).

We then walked through a tunnel to a circular building built above the ground. Crowd of Intourist Japanese there. Another wait and then boarded a bus. Mum and I were trying to avoid silly woman with a loud voice (who was at opera). She had already been glowered at for guffawing down someone’s ear.

When we got on the plane (dusk) we were near the last and our seats were behind the wing three together and dad behind us. 5:15pm take-off. A few lights below. ETA about 5:58pm GMT (3 hours 40 minutes flight – put watches back three hours). Found we were sitting in same row as the woman, but on other side of aisle. Went to loo – new experience. Noticed ride very bumpy when standing.

Dad and I and Mandy bought mum a lighter for 65p each. Mum and dad bought Granny Walton a watch, mum gave Bob her watch to mend and post to us.

4:30pm and GMT started descent. (Had cold meal of quiche Lorraine and lettuce and shortbread finger, tea) because I had a cold I could not equalise the pressure in my ears – very painful. Went almost deaf.
At Luton, had to stand around for baggage. Then collected it, said farewell to Beryl and Bob and pushed our luggage into customs “something to declare” to ask about my £11.33 camera (personal limit £10). It was OK as it is taken as a whole family.
Went through into familiar foyer and dad went to get car. We stood outside with all cases. Dad came – on foot. Car non-started called RAC. Packed roof-rack. I went back to terminal and had a sandwich and tea. Finally he got it going and we set off (8pm) dad and I took turns driving – we made no stops at cafes.

1:30am arrived home. Mileage=602. 184 miles each way £7.56 left.

Boring Bolshoi

12:00am Just returned from photography expedition to floodlit Red Square. Must have wasted some as [film] speed was far too high. This morning we went for a walk to the Bolshoi Theatre and I snapped it. Had another look round the good department store (not GUM and not opposite Hotel) packed with people.

Then went to beriozka of Hotel Russia yet again. We wanted slides of Moscow but they said they had none. I bought three wooden doll figures as presents and mum and dad looked for one for Granny Walton. Two of the figures were 1.50 roubles and one was 0.75 roubles. Total £2.26.

This afternoon we went with Bob and Beryl to the Museum Of Revolution. Would have been better if it had had English blurbs as well. After tea (and a questionnaire about holiday, and memento brochure) we went to opera Queen of Spades at Bolshoi Theatre. Inside it has stalls and then boxes all around the wall, for about five storeys. No circle because wasteful of space. Chandeliers and gold decor, and velvet.

Teeth gnashingly boring. Not helped by stupid pseud cow sitting behind me. Had a cheese sandwich and coffee cake in first interval. At end discovered that glasses the cloakroom lady had given us were not part of a ticket and had to be paid for. One person had no kopecks, so she left without paying after argument.

We explore Moscow by trolleybus

2:45pm just had lunch. This morning I, dad, mum and two people we eat with (Bob and Beryl) went for a trolley bus ride. Mandy slept. We caught a number 2 after walking to shopping area (where book world is) in search of a bus stop. The one-rate fare of 4 kopecks is paid into a machine (other denominations can be put in to add up to 4 kopecks, but no larger coins can be used) a ticket is issued. We had to get change from a passenger. The driver was a woman, and she announced each stop by loudspeaker. Some people had blue tickets which they punched in a machine on the wall.

We got out at the terminus which was in housing area – all the blocks of apartments have shops on the ground floor. We went into the block to see if there was anything interesting but it was just a lobby with postboxes and lift. The shops were food, and a hardware store which sold everything from bottled gas, glass, through washboards and woodworking tools (including expensively priced electric drills) to wallpaper.

In another shop we bought a pack of cigarettes and a box of matches out of curiosity (16 kopecks). Their cheapness was due to the fact that they only had about two centimetres tobacco, and the rest being filter and a cardboard cylinder ‘holder’. We went round the back of a block of flats to find that snow was and clear and quite thick. Great blocks of flats surrounded a square of grass in which was a fenced off children’s play area. Dad took a photograph of them. It was quite chilly and was snowing lightly.

We made our way back to shopping area where we caught trolleybus back to hotel. Bob had to find change and had less kopecks than a lady could give us in exchange. Instead of accepting 10 pence piece to make a difference she preferred to end up short.

We alighted the trolleybus at the entrance to the park adjacent to the Kremlin. The tomb of the Unknown Soldier was near the entrance so we had a look at that. While we were there two brides and bridegrooms arrived to lay flowers on it.

11:25pm just returned from New Circus. A permanent circus. The act was great mostly acrobatics, juggling, clowns, but also elephants, horses, dogs. One piece the clowns did (the legendary Popov was amongst them) was to compare the weight of a bomb with a dove. The dove was heavier. A spectator next to us thought it was “blatant” propaganda.

This afternoon we (except mum who had a sleep) went to the beriozka at the Hotel Russia again to look at cameras. There was the one I mentioned before for around £6, a Zorki with range finder (full frame) for £11.33, and a Zenit B SLR for about £18 to £19. In the end I bought the Zorki 4K. Dad bought a Russian black fur hat.

Lenin’s tomb

12:45pm just returned from a walk. Looked round a store opposite, and then a bookshop (two in fact) not far from us. Seems to be “book area”. Street traders selling them – eg biography of Karl Marx!

Earlier this morning we queued to see Lenin’s tomb. Special ‘foreigners day’ so we only had to wait about three-quarters of an hour. Soldiers every 10 yards of queue to check for large handbags, bulging pockets, cameras (we were told to leave it in hotel). Children had to be accompanied by an adult each and everyone had to button up coat and remove hands from pockets.

Nearer the tomb men had to remove hats and all had to be silent. We all filed past an ornate wooden casket with glass sides and a wooden top. Inside was the body of Lenin dressed in a black suit, as if asleep. He had little hair and his ears were small. Dad thought it was a fake. His hands, one open and one closed lay on his body.

After this we all filed past the Kremlin wall with the graves of leading figures in it. Buried in the ground between the wall and the tomb, were graves of other men including Stalin. After that we returned to hotel.

2:15pm just had lunch. Saw a camera that man opposite to us at meals had just bought for around £6. He was a photography enthusiast and it certainly looked solid for the price.

4:45pm just returned from walk. Tried to find “book world” book and poster shop. On the way saw a department store unlike GUM – more Western. For the first time we saw consumer goods – luxury electrical items such as TV’s, radios, food mixers, cameras, stereos, records etc.
On first floor a long queue had formed for jeans! This floor had military clothing, and dad tried on more fur hats, including soldiers blue fur ones, but he did not buy.

They had great officers peaked caps with large badges on. Their badge and stripe section was large, and I decided to buy a cap badge (gold leaves round a hammer-and-sickle emblem with a blue background, surrounded by a wheatsheaf and topped by a Red Star) and two gold badges with a hammer-and-sickle inside red star emblem on a white background and one plain hammer-and-sickle on Red Star badge. Total cost 61 kopecks.

In bookshop a man was selling draw tickets. There was a large counter for badges and upstairs there were beautiful old books for sale, prints in frames, and many postcards. Large selection of political posters – I bought one – Young Communist League “Communism is Red” and then went back and bought (with Mandy) another one, and a set of three posters. They were all 10 kopecks each (6p).

11:25pm just returned from Congress Hall inside territory of Kremlin to see the ballet Don Quixote. On way back were accosted by a teenager in the underpass who wanted to buy English chewing gum, and return [with us] to Intourist to buy [my] clothes!

Just remembered: in the department store today saw same camera as the man had bought from a beriozka (duty-free store) only this time it was priced at £14.

Open-air swimming on Christmas day!

9:05am just finished breakfast. Mum and dad gave me £5 plus two roubles. Other group due to depart to today were told airport closed (fog?). They must not leave hotel as visas have expired. Must not go back to room!

Exhibition and troika ride at 9:30am.
2:20pm just returned from Exhibition of Economic Achievements and troika. Swift look round space Expo and educational and fur trade Expo. Then had a sleigh ride and then a snack in a restaurant. Smoked salmon and ‘cream’ cakes. (I missed out on vodka). Bought two dolls and two wooden trinket boxes. Dad found hat but too big.

7:10pm just had evening meal. Dad and I looked round more, girls slept. We found open-air swimming pool. Clouds of steam, flood lighting. Puzzling as to cost etc. Returned to hotel via underground. Looked round shop on opposite side to hotel. A posher department store than GUM. Souvenirs electrical goods etc.

10:55pm just washed hair. After evening meal we went back to swimming pool – with trunks! Had a job explaining ourselves and understanding Russians. Had to wait till 8:30 start of Session. Mum had no swimsuit but rest of us went in. 50 kopecks each. Biggest shock was seeing great fat lady attendants in changing room. After changing and placing clothes in locker we proceeded where everyone else was going. We stopped because we had no bathing caps. Had to go back and hire them and bar of soap each! Discovered everyone else showering before going into Pool!

Then went to pool entrance. Down steam filled corridor to steps leading into water. This was the actual pool but was walled off on two sides. Third side was a flap through which you swam to bring you into pool. Water warm, air a little chilly. Clouds of steam made visibility poor. Loudspeakers played popular tunes (on organ). Met Mandy. Chatted to mum behind railings of pool grounds.

They got out after five to 10 minutes I stayed in 15 to 20 minutes. When changing, noticed everyone produced a sheet of newspaper from locker. This they stood on to keep floor dry. Returned on metro (as on the outward journey to pool) went straight up to rooms.
Bought two bottles of Vichy water from key lady. ‘Father Frost’ on TV.

Christmas Eve

Monday 8am just woken up. V tired still very hot. At 9:30am just bought two postcards (Lenin) and stamps 14 kopecks postage each; cards one kopek.

1pm just returned from Kremlin trip. Seen museum and four cathedrals. About to have lunch.

2pm after lunch now. About to set off for duty-free shop in Russian Hotel and maybe swim in open-air job.

5:15pm just returned from duty-free. Bought some presents and I bought a bottle of vodka for £1.78. Looked round GUM again. Tried to buy a cheese sandwich but as you have to pay at the cash desk and then swap receipt for food we were unable to a) find out the cost and b) express this amount. Mum has been unable to buy matches – until Dad found a tobacconist’s kiosk (near GUM). As boxes were only 1 kopek (0.6 p) we bought 11!

Dinner is at 8pm tonight as it is Christmas Eve so I am fighting hunger with old ham sandwiches and crisps. Still very warm in all buildings and mild outside. No slush left on roads and some snow still on grass.

Two things I forgot to mention. 1) yesterday got stuck in lift (about 10 minutes) between floors. Some nervous! A man who could speak Russian phoned for assistance 2) key ladies on each floor work a shift of 24 hours on, three days off! Have TV and phones (continually talking) and sleep in chair.

Dinner accompanied by a balalaika band. Very lively dancing. Staff did not like natives to dance and kept screening them off from us by a partition. Hopeless task as they kept retracting it!

Later band changed to brass/electric organ job. More dancing. Merry Russian had a “conversation” with us. Red/white wine with meal, also lousy lager. A tourist from another group entertained us with songs. Later accompanied by Thomson rep Diana.

Very thirsty so we went to basement bar – cool job. Lemonade 30p each!

We see the Kremlin

8:15am Russian time (5:15am GMT). Massive posh hotel 10th floor, stone’s throw from Red Square. Very warm inside double-glazing, radio, phone etc. Vodka with meal last night.

6:45pm. Looked round GUM (like a market rather than department store). Today about to have breakfast and learn about trips. (Yesterday dad changed £5 for roubles from a returning holidaymaker – later told virtually unspendable.) Intourist Hotel.

Breakfast over 9:30am. Trips booked. (7 million people in Moscow). 10:30am on tour. Seen Kremlin from across river. V misty. River frozen. We are not cold – feet are a little due to snow. Visited Red Square again. Changing of guard. Slight rain.

11am further tour Moscow stadium at 12:20pm.
1:50pm Finished lunch. Try to find book and poster shop now on metro. We’re going not by a trip, but independently. Saw ski-jump and slalom at Stadium also skating (on tennis courts).

3:15pm On metro got off at various stops. Marble stations (no chandeliers). Kept getting offered red stars for chewing gum and cigarettes.

6:05pm Chicken and rice dinner over. About to leave for Congress Hall. 10:45pm just arrived back. Evening of Russian songs and dances. Vast hall. Sold snacks and pop in interval. Loudspeaker for every seat. Rubbish except for dance. Snow has now melted to slush except on grass etc. Weather hardly cold. Hotel stifling.

We land in Moscow

5:20am. Few hours’ sleep on conveyor belt box at airport. 7am. Airport packed with people. 9:30am boarded aircraft (37,000 ft at cruising) Boeing 720B 164 passengers. Fell asleep until lunch (over by 12:10pm). Roast lamb, jam tart and ice-cream, tea. Started descent 12:55pm. Temperature in Moscow -7° Celsius. Through customs (books examined) and on coach at 2:20pm British time (must convert watch – actually about 5:00pm dusk).