Thursday, January 26, 2012

Traveling like a Russian

Alla really wanted to take me to Vilnius in the winter. She said it would be beautiful. She went on to explain that in Soviet times, only foreigners could get to desirable vacation spots like that in the warm season and she wanted to relive her happy Soviet youth. I pointed out that she now has an American passport, which sounds reasonably foreign to me, so she could try out a different lifestyle. Unfortunately I was too late with this observation and we are leaving tomorrow morning.

I got a weather forecast and it’s going to be unseasonably cold. Since it’s usually cold around here anyway, that’s really bad news. Tomorrow’s high should be -12. That already impresses me, but the wind chill brings it down to -23. Thoroughly impressed, I’m bringing the heavy equipment: shearling coat, fur hat, ski pants and a pair of tights to wear underneath when Alla takes me out for the inevitable walking tour. (Note to my American readers: The temperatures aren’t as impressive as you may think because we’re talking Centigrade, but I want you to imagine that I’m very heroic.)

We’ll take the train, of course. The other way to travel like a Russian would involve Aeroflot, but that makes no sense because Vilnius is right next door and the train trip takes just over three hours. Train tickets are about ten dollars apiece each way, which sounds like a heck of a deal to me. Before we settled for the cheap tickets, Alla asked if there would be a TV in our train car. Last time I rode in the armchair section of a Belarusian train we had some sort of a “deluxe” car with a TV set playing American movies at ear-splitting volume. I would have upgraded to a compartment if this trip included entertainment, but apparently we get to entertain ourselves. I’ll bring earplugs just in case.

The final detail of traveling like a Russian would involve some sort of a picnic lunch on the train, but I’m side-stepping that one. I’m pretty confident that if I eat breakfast at home I can survive three hours without sausage, bread and cucumbers. I want to be hungry when I get to Vilnius because it’s apparently the eating capital of Eastern Europe. We have received advice from a couple of trustworthy sources, for example, that we should eat pigs’ ears. While Alla swore that she’d never try pigs’ ears again after opening a jar of gooey glop that we bought at an import store in Boston, I think we’re both up for another experiment in international cuisine now that we’ll be close to the kitchen. But we can probably split a single order, at least the first time. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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