Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Perhaps there's something metaphorical about my Sunday.

We intended to spend the day in the eastern vineyards of Georgia to see the grape harvest, but my friend and I started too late and instead went to Stalin's hometown. And thus good intentions did indeed pave the road. Or more literally, good intentions would have been a step up, asphalt-wise.

Perhaps it says something about Georgia that both idyllic vineyards and Stalin are a day trip from the capital. Gori, his town is called, and I guess it's nice enough as birthplaces of genocidal despots go. I had been warned that the Stalin museum was quite the snow job (how many millions did what? anyway, back to our collection of Stalin samovars...), but I wasn't prepared to see, in the middle of this hayseed town, the cottage of his birth enshrined in a mauseloum of columns and marble. Subtlety and taste, thy name is Stalin.

Stalin's Birth Cottage Enshrined

Also learned great new evasion technique courtesy of my travel companion, an American girl with much better Russian than me. Some Gori gent was trying to chat us up on the bus, (his impressive technique: stand for the entire 90 minute bus ride, in the aisle, hovering heavily over my shoulder), and when he asked where we were from, my friend quickly responded, "Latvia."

I nodded politely in agreement, but then turned to her.

"My Russian isn't good enough to pass for Latvian."

"Young Latvians wouldn't have good Russian either. Being American just attracts too much interest. He won't have any questions for Latvians."

Sounded good to me. But I thought I detected a flaw in her plan.

"If we are both Latvian, why are we sitting here speaking English to one another, when he can hear us?"

"Because I doubt he can tell the difference between Latvian and English."

And if this wasn't the case, he was too polite to point out otherwise. So, I think that this was the case.


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