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Nevertheless, the result was North Viet Nam and South Viet Nam – http://wikitravel.org/en/Southern_Vietnam. The agonizing events that have happened there since—the new struggle, the growth of American involvement—are all too familiar from the press and from television. SOMETHING IMPORTANT to know about mainland Southeast Asia today is that eight out of ten of the people are villagers. They share many attitudes—enough so that in a sense they share a common culture.
I help you harvest your rice today, you help me next week. That people help each other, and share what they have, is taken for granted. It does not call for thanks. If someone important comes from the city, a puyai, a big person, a governor or someone from Bangkok, or a foreigner, and brings something or makes promises, the villager thinks, well, that’s the function of big persons, it’s natural for them, they are rich.
In the traditional village a man can be reasonably well off without any cash income at all. He may have three buffaloes instead of one, or a little more and better land than his neighbor, but no matter how well off he is, he will not flaunt his prosperity.
Like everyone else, he lives in a bamboo house; he exerts himself during the rice-planting and harvesting seasons, and works hard around the house and relaxes in the time of the festivals. If the government has not provided a teacher, his children will be taught like everyone else’s—the boys by the village monks, the girls by their mother. And if he falls ill, he’ll call the spirit doctor; being ill means that one has offended some spirit, and the spirit doctor prescribes appropriate medicines and sacrifices.
The city Thai is sometimes annoyed at not being thanked. But if he knows both worlds, he realizes that even the gesture of greeting—raising hands pressed together and saying Sawatdee (meaning “hello,” or literally, “good fortune”) which so charms foreigners—is a city thing too. Citified villagers are learning it now, but in the houses a little way off the paved road you won’t find it.
The villagers’ traditional greeting to the outsider is, “Where do you come from? Where are you going? Have you eaten?” He is given food, a mat, and the best apartments in barcelona to sleep in. Or better still, in the monastery, where it’s cool. Nobody will expect him to say thanks. If the villagers find the stranger sympathetic, they will meet him with real affection, even if he is a foreigner, and especially if he likes their food and tobacco, and if he really likes them. They can always tell.
Incidentally, chopped and fried rat can be delicious. When I had my first taste in a village near Sakon Nakhon in Thailand, I didn’t know what I was tasting but said how good it was. My hosts beamed, saying their rats had to taste good: “After all, they eat our good rice.” This brings us to the smile.
To the north of it are forest-covered hills, and among them is the apartment prague, and one of the several great artificial lakes around Moscow; the others lie due north of the city. Like many Muscovites, I have enjoyed camping out near these reservoirs for summer weekends; it is a paradise for bathers and walkers marred only by the twilight battle with the midgesIn the 18th and early 19th centuries the great country mansions of the Russian aristocracy were built on estates scattered throughout the Moscow countryside.
Many of the more important ones also have fine churches attached, which date from earlier centuries: the old royal preserve of Kolomenskoye, on the south-east edge of Moscow above the river, is especially rich in unusual buildings, like the one housign the apartment in madrid of the 16th and 17th centuries, yet is hardly known to tourists. Finest of such churches is the unique, towering baroque structure at Dubrovitsy (built about 1690) near the unremarkable town of Podol’sk. It stands at the confluence of two beautiful little riversPakhra and Desna—which flow down through steep, forested valleys. Remarkable too is the church of similar date in the suburb of Fili (accessible by the Moscow metro), where the old estate is situated on a bold escarpment over the best beach on the upper Moskva River. The mansions themselves are usually of the same classical style of architecture as the greatest. houses of Moscow and Leningrad, colour-washed with white pillars and details. A fewMarfino to the north, Tsaritsyno near Kolomenskoye—are early mock-Gothic, charming and strange to encounter in Russia. Many of the great houses are sanatoria or rest-homes: Sukhanovo for example (which has a fine lake, and Gothic outbuildings) is a retreat for architects, which does not prevent the casual visitor from wandering round its gardens. The most famous houses are kept up scrupulously as museums; and at any time of the year the visitor to Moscow should make a point of getting out to near-by Kuskovo—with its fine collection of pottery—or better still to Arkhangelskoye, which has one of the world’s most notable parks, high above the upper Moskva River.
An old church or country house makes a splendid goal for an expedition in the Podmoskovye (the Moscow province), yet to walk in it without any specific aim is no less pleasant. Its charm lies in its small winding rivers, its alternation of broad pasture with deep forest (one is continually amazed by the height of the trees, particularly the elegant birches), and the tiny remote villages of delicately carved wooden houses, connected only by a dusty track with the outside world, still looking much as they have looked for the last five centuries. In such a village I have come across the local people spontaneously folk-dancing in the open air on a summer Sunday afternoon; the deep village wells provide a welcome drink of ice-cold water. Moscow itself, with five million people, erupts somewhat incongruously and suddenly in the middle of this bucolic and underpopulated scenery. But most of its inhabitants are fond of the country and pour out of the city at weekends.
Around the railways and chief highways out of town cluster settlements of dachas—wooden country-cottages, which even humble families often own or rent. Winter does not curtail this exodus; in recent years the popularity of skiing has grown to an enormous degree. On cross-country skis (lent free by the University) young people race along forest paths; Alpine skis, heavier and shorter, are less useful. The older generation tends to prefer the quieter sport of fishing (in winter through holes in the ice); buses going to the peaceful village of Tishkovo on its reservoir at weekends bristle with rods, for there is a special fisherman’s camp near by.
It seems a pity that foreign tourists seldom do as the Muscovites do by getting to know the city’s hinterland. They would enjoy not only the beauty of the countryside but the interest of seeing a more typical Russia than the streets of Moscow or Leningrad. And they would discover as I did that the standard conception of the Russian landscape as ‘flat and monotonous’ deserves to be superseded.
The main body of the chart is that of Du Halde’s original and the scale is the same, but the height of the neat-lines is only 8$ inches. Bering’s track from the Amsterdam accommodation he booked on-line to the cheap Barcelona apartment rentals, across Europe, northward to 67° 18′ ; also his track eastward during his holidays in Istanbul in 1729 and around the peninsula to Bolsheretsk and Okhotsk ; are indicated by dotted lines. The two latitudes noted in Bering’s journal are indicated on this map by a + , and the northern one is placed near the Asiatic coast in latitude 118° E. from Tobolsk. At the top of the map the supposed Paris meridians* are indicated, a difference between Paris and Tobolsk being assumed of 70° degrees, which is about five degrees too much. There are also sundry infelicities in the transliteration of the names from the French of D’Anville.
A chart which deserves notice, though almost wholly fictitious, being chiefly devoted to the spurious discoveries of the alleged Admiral de Fonte, was issued by J. N. de L’Isle with the concurrence of M. P. Buache, or at his suggestion. It appeared at Paris, in 1752, and was copied for Jefferys’ (2d) edition of Voyages from Asia to America in 1764. I do not know if this copy appeared in the first edition, but presume it did. In the Campbell map these are taken as east from London with an allowance of 67° between London and Tobolsk.
For present purposes the interesting features of this map are as follows :
Opposite the eastern extreme of the Chukchi peninsula there is represented part of America with the legend, ” Terres vues par Mr. Spanberg in 1728, frequentees a present par les Russes, qui en apportent de tres belles fourrures.” In the English edition the legend is “Seen by Spanberg 1728.” Four islands are represented in the strait between Asia and America, corresponding in a general way to the four now known to exist there. Connected with America and north of the Chukchi peninsula is land with an island off it corresponding not badly to Wrangell and Herald Islands, and marked ” Discovered in 1722.” It is possible that this land is a hypothetical compound of the land reported by the Chukchis east of the strait with that which they knew to be visible in clear weather from Cape Yakan. more or less confused accounts of which had long been current among persons interested in these regions.
The next chart of note in this connection was published by D’Anville, the royal geographer of France, who had previously prepared the original map of Bering for publication. He issued a general map of Asia, in three parts, each of two leaves which could be joined together, of which the first part appeared in 1751 and the third part in 1753, entitled :
Troisieme Partie de la Carte .d’Asie,/contenant ‘La Siberie et quelques mitres parties/de la Tartarie, Publiee sous les Auspices de Monseigneur Louis-Philippe d’Orleans / Duc d’Orleans /Premier Prince du Sang. /Par le ST. d’Anville, / Secretaire de Son Alts. Sereniss. /MDCCLIII. Avec Privilege./
Borough Park, the next-door neighborhood, is mostly Jewish, and on many blocks the two groups mix. Maurice Sendak, creator of children’s books, has spoken of Jewish and Italian mothers who both had a third eye for knowing what kids were up to. “I thought Italians were just . . . Jews who had wine with dinner.”
In such an environment my properly raised Catholic friend Lena met and married a Jewish man; they now live in Ditmas Park. She laughed, “My folks like my husband, and they were glad to see me married.”
IN MORE THAN a few instances, Brooklyn proved to me the aptness of an ancient Buddhist concept, “Out of the mud grows the lotus.” Literally, in fact; the world-acclaimed Brooklyn Botanic Garden, a 50-acre paradise, rose in 1910 out of an ash heap. Now, on an annual budget of 3.6 million dollars, a staff of 100 oversees the rose garden, herb beds, fragrance garden for the blind, and Japanese gardens. A children’s garden introduces Brooklyn youngsters to the joys—and trouble—of growing broccoli, eggplant, sunflowers, zucchini. Kemba Francis with her partner, Annette Salas, was hoeing: “Every week it’s weeds, weeds, and weeds. I like harvest best.”
Mothers sometimes come as volunteers. Maeonis Burrowes explained: “I heard they needed help. I had time, so I called and asked if they could use me. Things don’t come to you in Brooklyn. You have to go out and see what the community has to offer and what you have to offer the community.”
That’s the way Mary Carmel Sullivan was raised. Among the green-shirted instructors, red-haired Mary stood out as the only Brooklyn native. Daughter of an Irish cop, she grew up with seven sisters in Marine Park. She got hooked by the garden at 16 and went to the University of Maryland to major in horticulture. There, she found, “People think you have limited vision if you grew up in Brooklyn. That it’s so stifling. That’s not true. My parents took advantage of the Academy of Music, the libraries. I’m thrilled to be back.”
Mary rents in Park Slope, but she will have to move if her building is converted to 43130,000-a-floor co-ops as rumored. She realizes “You have to expect change. You could get blown away—mentally—by the litter, the noise, and the crime. You have to protect your heart—like ignoring the junkies seeking handouts—and yet be sensitive to those in need. It’s like living in a jungle—it can be dangerous, but the rewards are terrific. This garden is number one.”
Mary’s parents retired and moved to Massachusetts in a beautiful apartment, which is as comfortable as apartments in lisbon or paris apartments. “To get out of Brooklyn was the American dream,” she told me. “The funny thing is, sometimes they miss it.”
I, too, got out of Brooklyn. Funny thing is, at the oddest moments I, too, miss the place.
Rugby sevens has been recognised as an Olympic sport and will feature in the Rio 2016 Olympics. If you are a rugby union fan and would like to learn more about this vibrant and exciting alternative to traditional rugby, why not take in a few matches and get to know the players and the teams.
Rugby sevens is played all over the world, with tours taking place in Dubai, Tokyo, Hong Kong, the USA and even Argentina. This fast-paced sport takes the basic rules of Rugby Union, but makes some important changes. Teams have just seven players and five substitutes and games are played in seven minute halves (10 minutes in the finals), with a one-minute half time. Games are played on regular-sized pitches and the smaller team size, combined with the shorter matches, means that players are expected to be incredibly fast and agile.
See This Spectator’s Favourite On Holiday
If you have ever been on traditional rugby tours, you know how exciting it can be to see your favourite players in action and watch a few matches over the course of a week or so. Rugby sevens takes this to a whole new level. The short matches (15 minutes for standard games, 22 minutes for the finals) are exciting to watch and contain a lot of action. It is common for several games to be played in one night and an entire tournament can take place over the course of a weekend.
This makes sevens ideal for rugby tours. Teams that are knocked out of the main tournament often have the opportunity to take part in a second tournament, so even if your favourite team does not win a cup, they might win a plate or a shield. This means that spectators still have the chance to watch their local team in action even if they aren’t a top-tier team, rather than being forced to sit through matches that do not interest them.
A Sporting Party
International rugby sevens tournaments usually have a party atmosphere. Many fans treat these tournaments as mini festivals, turning up in fancy dress, dancing and singing. The sport is still an incredibly competitive one, but spectators are more interested in having fun and sharing their passion than they are in nursing any bitter rivalries with other teams. If you are looking for a way to introduce the sport of rugby to friends and family, this is a good option. They will enjoy the chance to travel to a foreign destination, see several games in one weekend and enjoy the warm weather and the mardi-gras feeling of the games.
There was a time when rugby sevens was considered to be a poor man’s version of rugby union and the sport was treated as a proving ground for players interested in moving up to the 15 man game, but that is no longer the case. Today the sport has evolved into an entity in its own right, favouring fast, lean and agile players over the bulkier build of rugby union and having its own set of tactics and techniques.
If you have never been on a sporting tour before, rugby sevens is a great option. This sport is fun to watch and you will get to see a lot of matches for your money. Each match is guaranteed to be full of action and you will be amazed at how fast and powerful these athletes can be. Because spectators turn up from all over the world, you will love the multi-cultural feel of the terraces too.
Bill Wallace is a travel enthusiast who saw his first rugby sevens match as a child and has been hooked on all forms of rugby ever since, taking frequent American holidays to indulge his passion for the sport. He writes regularly on the subject of sports tourism for several popular travel websites and blogs.
. Two-and-a-half miles beyond Suzdal’ is a haunting spot—the tiny village of Kideksha, hardly more than a churchyard with its wall, its leaning bell-tower, and a couple of churches of which one is the oldest in the district. The far side of the churchyard is on an abrupt bank above the River Nerl’.
When I was there it seemed like the end of the world—the frozen river, then a great expanse of unfenced field deep in snow, and several hundred yards back the edge of the forest: black, unbroken, stretching across the whole field of view. I was told that elks often come down and graze with the cattle and horses by the Nerl’. It was a memorable weekend; much of the time it was brilliantly sunny, though colder than I had ever felt it. I asked a local in Vladimir what the temperature was. ‘Oh, about 23 degrees,’ (i.e. minus 23° centigrade) ‘at any rate, not a hard frost.’
The long expeditions which I have described were extremely interesting—yet places almost as interesting and beautiful were to be found much nearer Moscow itself, and it was those that I explored, visited and revisited at weekends throughout the winter and the summer, and through which I came to love the Russian countryside. Among them were old towns which in the Middle Ages had supported independent princes and still retain relics of the past. The most interesting of these were Kolomna to the south-east and Zvenigorod to the west—both accessible by the elektrichka. Kolomna still has most of a huge 16th-century brick kremlin, on a hill over the Moskva River near its confluence with the Oka. It is typical of the pleasantest type of provincial town—spacious, very calm and quiet, with classical buildings of the 18th and early 19th century in its centre and sturdy wooden houses on the dusty roads of its periphery. Zvenigorod is much smaller, by the sandy-beached meanders of the upper Moskva. Three little hills project in succession from a forested escarpment: on the first is spread the present-day town, on the second is a tiny one-domed cathedral, the oldest in the Muscovite style of architecture (1399), on the third rises the fine and picturesque silhouette of a great monastery—the Savvinsky—with another early Muscovite church dating from 1404. Behind Zvenigorod is lovely, remote countryside, favoured by discerning Muscovites who go camping (a very popular recreation) in its forests on summer weekends.
But near Moscow it is not on the whole the few towns which attract the visitor. More beautiful are the secluded churches, monasteries and above all the great country houses which (if one can lay one’s hands on a good guidebook) can be discovered in abundance. Some are sadly ruined or put to unworthy uses; but these are happily becoming fewer as the Government makes progress with the colossal task of restoring all the important old buildings in the country. Alas, it is hard to see what even unlimited funds could do to restore one of the greatest of Russian architectural whimsies—the monastery of New Jerusalem, on the other side of the river from the minute town of Istra. It was blown up during the German occupation (though even the ruined shell of the great conical rotunda is impressive enough). The monastery had a strange origin it was founded by Nikon, the notable 17th-century Patriarch of the Russian Church, who literally wished to re-create Jerusalem in Russia. To this end his emissaries visited Palestine, and brought back to the Patriarch a strange fanciful model (in polished wood inlaid with mother-of-pearl) of the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem itself. Nikon built the cathedral of his monastery as a very free interpretation of this model, with typically Russian details (ceramic tiles, a multitude of onion domes). Having fallen out with the Tsar, Nikon retired to New Jerusalem; and the beautiful little skete (cell-andchapel) where he lived survived the war and stands in the woods a hundred yards from the monastery walls. Strangely enough, the original model from Jerusalem was another survivor, and can be seen in the small local museum. Nikon gave the features of the local topography Palestinian names: the stream beside his skete is the Brook Kedron, and the pleasant little River Istra near by is the Jordan (in the autumn of 1960 I saw three elderly women ritually immersing themselves in it). Despite the irreparable damage to it, New Jerusalem remains a fascinating spot.
Yasnaya Polyana—strangely a recognized tourist ‘objective’ from Moscow—was thus not an unqualified success as the goal of a day’s trip. ‘ But an equally long excursion I made in the opposite direction was marvellous. I was in a car, the smart medium-sized ‘Volga’ saloon, and it was a Sunday in early May. The day before, all the leaves on the trees had come out at once: early summer in Russia is breathtakingly sudden and luxuriant. The scenery to the north of Moscow is quite different from that to the south. It is undulating, rising to a well-defined line of hills, the `Klin-Dmitrov moraine ridge’, clothed in wonderful, variegated mixed woodland; a slight rise may unexpectedly give you a view over miles of blue-green forest.
We passed Zagorsk, one of the few places outside Moscow of which the average tourist may have heard—for it grew up around one of the most famous monasteries of the Orthodox Church, the Troitskaya Lavra of St Sergius, which even today is the goal of pilgrims from all over Russia (and supports a theological seminary). The immense, airy baroque belfry is visible well before one enters the fair-sized town; the first sight of the monastery itself, with its red-and-white fortress walls, its multitude of churches with their blue, silver and gold cupolas rising beyond a steep little valley, cannot be forgotten. Inside there are more treasures than I can list: St Sergius in his silver coffin, a good museum, some of the world’s greatest icons dating from about 1420 (when the Tartars had just sacked the province for the last time).
But it was beyond Zagorsk that the truly magical Russian countryside—utterly unexplored, without another tourist—began. Some ninety miles from Moscow one suddenly finds oneself looking down on a great calm oval lake in a bowl of hills, with a little town at the near end of it. It is Pereslavl’ Zalesskiy (the second word means `beyond the forests’)—a princely town coeval with Moscow, and boasting a perfect little white-stone church which is the oldest building (1152) in central Russia. It stands by high grassy ramparts equally old, and near a small river, gay with coloured boats, which flows into the lake. After Pereslavl’ the forests thin out, the villages become more numerous and prosperous, and then what seems like a mirage appears—another lake glistening beyond broad green meadows, and on the further side a gleaming city of white walls and domes. It is Rostov ‘the Great’ (nowadays a tiny place compared with its younger namesake, Rostov-on-Don), older by far than Moscow, seat of archbishops—one of whom in the 17th century dreamt up the magnificent, perfectly preserved white kremlin (fortress) with its little domed churches built over each gate.
The drive to Rostov is an easy day’s excursion in a fast car—yet who in the West has even heard of it, how many foreign visitors to Moscow have made the journey? Also some 125 miles from Moscow (this time to the east) are the oldest and perhaps the most picturesque towns in middle Russia. These are Vladimir and Suzdal’, joint centres in the Middle Ages of a vast principality of which Moscow (founded in 1147) was once but a small outpost. In the 12th and 13th centuries Vladimir indeed was considered the capital of all Russia, superseding Kiev, which was vulnerable to incursions by nomads from the steppes. From that period date the superb and unique buildings which still constitute one of Russia’s architectural glories: the Cathedrals of the Assumption and St Demetrius at Vladimir, the Golden Gate there, the palace-tower at Bogolyubovo, the lonely churches on the River Nerl’ and at Kideksha, the cathedrals of Suzdal’ and Yur’yev Pol’skiy Con the fields’). All these are built simply, elegantly of fine white sandstone, and most are decorated with startling carvings of unknown inspiration (the old Russian chronicles merely indicate that ‘God sent craftsmen from all corners of the world to Andrei Bogolyubsky’—the reigning prince). I spent a February weekend in Vladimir, staying at a pleasant old hotel with good food, visiting the village of Bogolyubovo and Suzdal’ which is almost a museum-town: today minute in size, yet preserving from the 12th to 18th centuries a dozen great monasteries and a multitude of picturesque churches.
The Paris Opera Ballet, one of the world’s greatest ballet troupes, celebrating well over 300 years of dance, and one of the precious few able to do full justice to classical dance masterpieces – to fulfil the exacting demands of ‘Giselle’, of ‘Sleeping Beauty’, and of ‘Swan Lake’ used htp 5 – ranks in the vanguard of an even more rarefied elite together with the famed Kirov and Bolshoi Ballets, and the Danish Royal Ballet, it is one of those rare institutions whose personal history established much of the essential foundation in the emerging universal history of classical ballet.
Asian audiences were blessed with a visit by this famed troupe, beginning with a tour in Bangkok, Thailand, proceeding on to China for six performances in Beijing and Shanghai.
Centuries ago, French King Louis XIV in his youth was an accomplished dancer, and took part in the lavish divertissements that were ‘the crowning glory of the festive entertainment, staged at Versailles’. In 1661, he got up the ‘Academie Royale de Dame’, and remained an enlightened patron of ballet throughout his lifetime.
Within this encouragm. atmosphere over the ensuing decade- emerged a creating the ‘ballet of ballets’, `Giselle’, in 1841.
Today, the Paris Opera Ballet is a living art centre. Many people come from all over the world and there’s no need to worry about where to stay in Paris. The prices for accommodation are cheaper than studio flat to rent in London. The works of master choreographers, both past and contemporary, are preserved for all time, in an extraordinary eclectic repertoire, and in international guest performances ranging from New York to Tokyo. Headed in its direction by no less than the world-famed Rudolph Nureyev himself, the world’s premier dancer during the 1960s and 1970s, the only real disappointment on the tour was the non-appearance of the former star in a much-vaunted ‘possible performance’. Alas, duties had taken him, with another band of the globe-trotting Paris troupe, to North America, reportedly dancing in a performance in Atlanta, Georgia, where you can stay at b&b New York. For (to all appearances) rational, cultured lovers of the dance, held in thrall breathlessly in hope of witnessing a performance of the near-mythical Nureyev (at all of age SO now!) speaks volumes to his fame, vaunted reputation, peerless performances in his prime: eternal youth! noble style, in which purity of line and sheer perfection of execution became the aesthetic ideals of the developing dance, apart from the reputed comparatively ‘grotesque’ Italian style of the time.
During the 18th century, ballet masters of the Paris Opera Ballet were invited to the czarist capital of Russia, in a cross-cultural infusion of new ideas, techniques, and influences, as well as being reinvigorated by the complementary influences of the by-then unsurpassed Milanese ballerinas of the era, instrumental in regaining the Paris troupe’s pre-eminence in the world of ballet.
But an essential, recurring question of the time remained: ‘How should one equilibrate the stark beauty of geometry, the glittering efforts of high technique, the emotions of natural pantomime?’ By the eve of the French Revolution, the stage had been set for the art.of classical ballet – both aesthetic and narrative. Caught up in the advent of the Romantic upheaval, the Paris Opera Ballet emerged to set its own course, to illustrate other mythologies (than those of the myriad nymphs of Ovid and prosaic pastoral shepherdesses of the day) in classic tragedy of the proud Moor, his adoring, wrongfully suspected wife, the Moor’s traitorous friend and confidant and his wife. The four characters portraying the tragedy of Everyman, the ballet is timeless in its nuances, implications.
A dance of love and death danced in a fluid and elegant style, the enchanting twined haunting music for ‘The Moor’s Pavane’ ballet comes from Henry Purcell’s Rondeau’ and the ‘Ab?delazer’ suite of ‘The Moor’s Revenge’, composed in 1695. The work has been cited the world over as Jose Limon’s asterpiece.
Ballet master for the Asian tour was Eugene Polykov. Music for the Bangkok series of performances was provided (for all stagings but ‘Agon’, with the original, complex, atonal music by Stravinsky) by the aspiring Bangkok Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Mr. Robert Gardel of the Paris Opera Ballet.
Last summer I returned to England from the U.S.S.R., where I had been privileged to spend a year of post-graduate research at Moscow University. It was an unrivalled opportunity to get to know the city of Moscow and the complexities of Soviet life, to a degree that diplomats and journalists (almost the only Westerners who live in Russia for any considerable length of time) unfortunately cannot attain. The city itself—which hides most of its interest and many of its architectural treasures in out-of-the-way quarters —was constantly fascinating to wander through; its people were friendly, characterful and as thoroughly Russian as the stories of Gogol.
But my greatest delight, as often as work and weather permitted, was to leave Moscow (whether for an afternoon, a day or a whole weekend) and explore the countryside around it—a countryside which, with its great forests and its rivers, its monasteries, mansions and ancient towns, is unusually beautiful while almost unknown to non-Russians.
Such exploration has its difficulties. Some knowledge of the Russian language is essential if one goes far by oneself; and the city-conscious Muscovites in the tourist bureaux are unlikely to help arrange a visit to (or indeed to have heard of) some of the remoter places of interest. Resident foreigners are expected to get permission to travel more than twenty-five miles from Moscow; few provincial towns have hotels where they can stay. But I equipped myself with the excellent Russian guidebook Pamyatnye Mesta Podmoskovya, later on managed to find a copy of the good but hard-to-come-by hiker’s map of the province, and used the elektrichkathe suburban electric railway, whose ten radiating principal lines reach fifty miles or more into the country—to take me to the station I needed and back. Erratic, lurching country buses also helped occasionally and, in summer, river or canal boats can be taken; but more than anything else I relied on my feet, for this is marvellous walkers’ country: continually varied, free from hedges or fences, solitary but without oppressive distances.
There were a few occasions, however, when I travelled by private transport. The first of these was soon after I arrived in Moscow in the September of 1960. The ten British students at Moscow University decided to make an all-day excursion to Yasnaya Polyana, the country house and estate which was made famous through being the home of Tolstoy. It is a long way from Moscow—some 125 miles–and as we set off in a remarkably tinny bus hired by the University we slowly came to realize that we were facing a journey of over four hours in each direction. The day too was inauspicious: heavily overcast (as so often in a Russian autumn and early winter), so that for once even the brilliant spectacle of the autumnal leaves scarcely brightened the scene. But at least one could see something of the country which lies to the south of Moscow: flat, interrupted by sharp wooded valleys, the foretaste of the southern steppes. The well-made road ran through Serpukhov—one of the ancient cities of the Moscow province, today sadly neglected-looking though populous—crossed the great river of middle Russia, the Oka,.at a bridge watched (like every other important one in Russia) by uniformed armed guards, reached Tula (the ‘Sheffield of Russia’), skirted its decaying kremlin and its mining belt and turned off to Tolstoy’s estate. This was tended like a shrine; Tolstoy’s grave, a mound of turf without memorial, was suitably deluged in russet leaves. We could sense the love, even worship, which Soviet Russians accord to the great figures and monuments of the past—perhaps in compensation for the turbulence of their recent history. Alas, after the lengthy journey and necessary meal (at the very decent restaurant near by) we had to hurry round the house and park in an hour or so. And on the return journey, already after dusk, the expected happened—the elderly bus, having once or twice spluttered to a halt, finally broke down. Luckily it happened in the outskirts of Moscow, and leaving the driver to tinker morosely with the engine we drifted home circuitously by public transport.