On 6/20/2021 at 10:26 AM, KennethT said:
That story is fantastic... really moving. It does remind me of stories I've heard from my parents who traveled to the USSR many years ago - probably around the 70s? I'm not quite sure, but it was uncommon for Americans to travel there for tourism and while they were there, they had a mandatory guide that would meet them every morning and not leave them until back in their hotel at night. They were only allowed to go to approved places and approved restaurants. From what I remember, in general, the food was not very good, with the exception of water glasses filled with caviar at practically every meal that they would just eat with a spoon like you would ice cream.
Thanks. It was in the 1980s that I was there a lot. Natasha wasn't mandated but necessary for me to do my work. I was free to go most places. I lived very near a large tourist hotel where many foreigners stayed - usually in tour groups. Every day, there were gangs of young, male (usually) Russians outside the hotel selling far from the best caviar at vastly inflated prices. Inside was mostly full of young, female Russians trading in a very different commodity.
I used to hang out in a hidden bar in the basement. Unlike in the main bar, which was usually full of drunken Finns (alcohol in Finland was extremely expensive (still is), so a lot of visitors from that country thought the bar was cheap (it wasn't) and rather overdid things). The basement bar took roubles only whereas the main bar only accepted USD. Really it was a bar for the staff and locals. And me. The main offering was local beer (not good) and what the barman called "Cocktail". This was a mix of Georgian Brandy, Russian champagne and decent vodka in equal proportions. Deadly and so cheap it was almost free. In fact, as the evening passed the barman got bored and just left the three bottles on the bartop and left us to help ourselves! Luckily, I lived only a short, two minute stagger away.
No caviar was on offer in the basement. I don't remember there being any food. Everything was available upstairs. And I mean everything from caviar to nuclear warheads!