13 thoughts on “Promises versus deliveries”

  1. Oh God Nunc, so funny!

    (From your DemSoc comment, I was expecting something more on the lines of what we experienced at the Astoria Hotel in (then) Leningrad.  We were handed a six page menu, but it turned out all you could actually order was Chicken  Kiev .)

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  2. Hey!  There is hope in this world.

    As it happens, I stayed in the Astoria Hotel in (now) St. Petersburg a couple of years ago. just round from the Cathedral.  Great place!  Clean, comfortable, good restaurant, excellent lively bar, very helpful staff.  I would recommend it highly, although the nearby W Hotel is also excellent with a delightful roof bar.  Various good restaurants in the neighborhood — everything from 19th Century Russian cooking served by attractive ladies in period-appropriate costumes to fine Indian dining.  But my favorite was the cafe across the street whose name (in Russian) was “Happiness”.

    When looking at the dismal state of things around us today, it is heartening to look at Russia and see how much better life is for most people there today compared with the situation before the collapse of the USSR.  As we look at the dismal Big Intrusive Government world around us, remember that This Too Shall Pass.

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  3. Gavin, I would so love to go back to St.Petersburg.  I hope against hope to see  him  again( yes the city is a “he”; the emigrés I know call it “Peter”) .  When were you there?  I’m so happy to read your description!  Очен приятно!
    I did visit Prague and Budapest pre 1989,  and then A few times recently.Do not  tell ME capitalism doesn’t float all boats.  Those cities, dark, dingy, cold and spare, are now Brilliantly illuminated, bristling with restaurants  and shoppes like you’d see on the Champs Elysée.  But I haven’t seen Peter since 1986.

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  4. Hypatia:
    Oh God Nunc, so funny!

    (From your DemSoc comment, I was expecting something more on the lines of what we experienced at the Astoria Hotel in (then) Leningrad.  We were handed a six page menu, but it turned out all you could actually order was Chicken  Kiev .)

    Other than that, how was the chicken Kiev?

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  5. Hypatia:
    I did visit Prague and Budapest pre 1989,  and then A few times recently.Do not  tell ME capitalism doesn’t float all boats. Those cities, dark, dingy, cold and spare, are now Brilliantly illuminated, bristling with restaurants  and shoppes like you’d see on the Champs Elysée.

    I visited Prague and Budapest in 1975: two very different experiences. Prague was as you described it but Budapest was not bad. Restaurants in Pest were lively and full; everyone seemed to be having a good time. Of course, both were much improved on last year’s visit. Maybe it was the contrast with Prague that made Hungary seem normal. It had only been seven years since the invasion of Czechoslovakia.

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  6. drlorentz:

    Hypatia:
    I did visit Prague and Budapest pre 1989,  and then A few times recently.Do not  tell ME capitalism doesn’t float all boats. Those cities, dark, dingy, cold and spare, are now Brilliantly illuminated, bristling with restaurants  and shoppes like you’d see on the Champs Elysée.

    I visited Prague and Budapest in 1975: two very different experiences. Prague was as you described it but Budapest was not bad. Restaurants in Pest were lively and full; everyone seemed to be having a good time. Of course, both were much improved on last year’s visit. Maybe it was the contrast with Prague that made Hungary seem normal. It had only been seven years since the invasion of Czechoslovakia.

    (The Chicken Kiev at Astoria was GREAT! )

    And IMHO Hungarian food is the best in the world; I thought it had Vienna  beat all hollow.
    In normal times,  I would be traveling this week.  First week of May and first week of November,  we always felt, were ideal times  to go,  At this time of year it’s the feast of St Hubert and St Eustache, patron saints of hunters.   This is when they slaughter the animals and fowl they’ve been fattening up all summer, to salt away  for the long winter..  I hope you got some goose when you were in Budapest! Ah! The world was indeed, “so beautiful, so various, so new” before the coming of this plague.

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  7. Hypatia:
    In normal times,  I would be traveling this week.

    Me too but this is the new normal.

    Hypatia:
    The world was indeed, “so beautiful, so various, so new” before the coming of this plague.

    Now the world has “neither joy, nor love, nor light, nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain.” That’s one of my faves, btw.

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  8. @drlorentz, oh yes!  And the next few lines of Dover Beach  are words I think of every  time I see those news films of the midnight cities lit by explosions, vandal’s fires:

    ”And we are here as on a darkling plain/ Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight/Where ignorant armies clash by night.”

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  9. Hypatia:
    @drlorentz, oh yes!  And the next few lines of Dover Beach  are words I think of every  time I see those news films of the midnight cities lit by explosions, vandal’s fires:

    ”And we are here as on a darkling plain/ Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight/Where ignorant armies clash by night.”

    But you left out the hopeful note that gives some comfort:

    Ah, love, let us be true
    To one another!

    We still have family and friends. We’ve got to stick together.

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  10. Hypatia:  “Gavin, I would so love to go back to St.Petersburg.  I hope against hope to see  him  again( yes the city is a “he”; the emigrés I know call it “Peter”) .  When were you there?

    Last time was about 2 years ago.  I made a number of visits over a period of time in connection with a project with a Russian partner.  Fly into Pulkovo, smile at the stern-faced pretty border agent scrutinizing my passport oh so carefully, wander past the huge posters in Chinese advising all the Chinese tourists about the great deals they could get in the area, and then on to the city.

    I was deeply impressed with the care with which the Russians have treated St. Petersburg.  Our partner’s office looked like a typical 19th Century building facing one of the canals — but step inside and it was like stepping onto the Starship Enterprise. Of course, bullet holes from the 900 day siege on building exteriors are proudly preserved, while the interiors are modernized.  The subway system is almost as interesting as what is above ground — an amazing achievement.  Clean streets, general absence of graffiti, and (in the right season) attractive young mothers in summer dresses pushing their baby’s strollers through verdant parks.

    If Big Sister Harris decides to exile me to London, Paris, or St Petersburg — well, I would still prefer to follow Trotsky to Almaty, Kazakhstan.  But St. Petersburg is definitely No. 2 on the list!

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  11. We were going to go a few years ago.  We just wanted to show St.Petersburg to our daughter.  It turned out to be more of a hassle than in Soviet days.  There is a 40 page visa application which you have to fill out online, you can’t printing out.  They want every school,you ever attended, every job you ever hadCAND a contact, The exact dates of any trips outside the US.  They also insisted on a personal interview, separate appointment somewhere in Ny state for each of us.  You could only make the appointment online and only in Russian and Cyrillic .  You needed a sponsor, but we figured our hotel could do that.  THEN we found out that was ONLY for the city; we’d need another whole application if we wanted to visit Novgorod, or sump’n.
    We caved, changed our plane tickets to France and visited the prehistoric cave paintings instead. ( Great trip!)  Now, with things as they are, I doubt I’ll ever see my dear Peter again…..

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  12. Hypatia:  “It turned out to be more of a hassle than in Soviet days.

    You are bringing back the kind of memories my brain has strict instructions to blot out.  I had the benefit of a commercially significant Russian sponsor with Russian legal firms on tap, and it was still the painful process you describe.  It sounds like you did not even get to the stage of visiting the consulate — which was even more fun!  All of that was just to get the initial single-entry visa.  Then after the first visit to Russia, provided one has behaved oneself, one can apply for a multi-entry visa — and go through the whole process all over again.

    It has been observed that most of the countries of the Former Soviet Union still have the border control bureaucracies which were required back in those days.  As we all know to our cost, rooting out bureaucracies is even more difficult than getting rid of weeds, so the awkward processes remain even though they are no longer appropriate.  It is unfortunate, because Russia is a fascinating country, and once inside, it is relatively easy for Westerners — ATMs and credit cards work.  With a few relaxations in the paperwork, Russia could be as big a tourist destination for Westerners as it is for the legions of Chinese tourists.

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  13. OMG it sure could be!  We took the “Golden Ring” route back in Soviet days: Zagorsk, Kolomenskoe, Suzdal…it is spectacular.  I wanted to do Viking’s  Waterways of the Tsars  Trip, you can go Moscow to a Petersburg via river and canal.  Too late now.  Как жал….

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