It’s 34 years to the day that I flew to what was then the USSR as part of a study tour for my Politics degree. I’ve recently unearthed the photos I took during that time and will post them in a separate blog (which I intend to call ‘Back in the USSR, surprisingly!).
The first one was taken in Novgorod, looking across the frozen river to the old town. But look at the foreground – just above the shed – and you’ll see a man wearing nothing more than a pair of bathers climbing into a hole in the ice for a bit of a dip in the water! It was around -7 degrees at the time!
On the far left (for want of a better expression!) is the Kremlin and immediately in front of that Lenin’s tomb. Then there’s St Basil’s cathedral in the centre and along the right-hand side is GUM (pronounced ‘Goom’) department store. (It really was the case that, if you wanted to buy something in GUM, you had to get a slip of paper from the person behind the relevant counter, take it to another desk where you paid and were issued with another slip. You then took that slip to a third counter to exchange it for another one, which you then took back to the original counter to collect your goods!)
I’ve not been back since ’78 but I’m guessing that there’ll be far more cars in the square now and that the buildings will all be plastered with adverts. (There’s probably a funeral director advertising over Lenin’s tomb!).