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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Back to what used to be USSR Part III. SAMARA

We said goodbye to our Saratov friends and took yet another overnight train to Samara. That's where our son joined us on this trip. Each of us in the family had a personal agenda for this city. Mine was to see my friends and places that meant something for me.
In the morning, our train arrived at the train station. I was expecting that my friend Vera and her husband Igor will be meeting us there. To my surprise there was another friend Luda with them. All three of us were in tears. We did not see each other for so many years.

Luda is on the left and Vera is on the right

We had to see a contact person who gave us the key from someone's apartment, so from the station we headed there. That place was near the building where I lived with my family. Later my husband and our son lived there as well for a short while.

This and many buildings around it were new when my family moved there. The way the buildings look now is hard to describe. It is very upsetting to see them and realize that people do live there. It is a typical "Khruschevka" cement block building. In the late 60s by the order of Nikita Khruschev these buildings were built in huge quantities and fast to accommodate the move of many people who lived in poor housing conditions. Since these were built, nobody took care of them. Now most of the cement is crumbled out of the blocks and you can see iron rods through.
This was very depressing for us. We also could not stay more than one night in the arranged apartment since there was no hot water, the toilet was leaking with no way to flash it, and there were many other inconvenient issues. In a way I am glad that my kids saw it. Many people live in such apartments. Tourists do not see such things.

The next two nights the kids went to a nice hotel and my husband and I were graciously hosted by Vera and her husband in their beautiful and large apartment. I caught myself thinking that I felt in their place as if I were in a nice American home. We had some wonderful meals and talked through half the night.

It is very safe to say that Samara as most of big Russian cities is a city of stark contrasts. It has very beautiful new buildings, long stretch of embankment along gorgeous Volga, fashionable people, restaurants, theaters, philharmonic, universities, shopping areas. At the same time there are many very rundown small wooden houses. Despite of some bad traffic conditions like holes in the middle of the road, I am definitely saying it is a beautiful city.

You have to be a very skilful driver on the streets of Samara. Just look at this.

I am so grateful to Vera for organizing our stay there so efficiently that we could see so much and visit with all the friends. One of the requests I had for her is that I wanted to take a transportation boat along the river, so we could see the beauty of the city from Volga and also enjoy the nature on the outskirts of the city. Well, she organized a private boat that took us on a 2 hour trip. We enjoyed the privacy in the company of our friends only and had a very good meal prepared by Vera and my other two friends. It was the best. We all could be together and be in small groups talking away.

Simon and his childhood friends

Luda is my friend from the 7th grade and Lena is my friend from my job (she still works there)
Lena was not only my good friend, but my knitting and sewing buddy. We have some stories to tell.
Here is some nature sights we passed on the way.

Volga is very wide at Samara and is much cleaner now than I remember it.

Here are all the girls

The hardest thing for me on this trip was to say goodbye to them. I am hoping that they will be able to come and visit me in America. These ladies all have great careers and are very talented. I love them all.

Last city on the trip was St. Petersburg.

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