An unexpected common language By Dee...

A MEMORABLE PLACE

February 17, 2002|By Special to the Sun

A MEMORABLE PLACE

An unexpected common language

By Dee Lyon

SPECIAL TO THE SUN

I'm shy. I'm not comfortable meeting new people. When travel writers talk of becoming immersed in the culture of a new country or getting to know the people, I politely ignore the advice.

So an amazing thing happened to my husband and me in Russia.

On our free day of an eight-day tour, we sampled the remarkable Moscow metro system. Not only is it stunningly beautiful with sculptures, lavish marble, mosaic works and architectural design, but it's also efficient and dirt-cheap.

For the equivalent of less than 25 cents, we traveled to the outskirts of town to the Novodevichy Cemetery. The cemetery is adjacent to the Novodevichy Convent, a 500-year-old fortress-like cluster of magnificent, salmon-pink historic buildings. The cemetery holds the graves of such literary and musical greats as Chekhov, Gogol, Stanislavsky, Prokofiev and Shostakovich and political figures like Nikita Khrushchev.

Even though the snow was almost waist-high in places, the paths had been cleared (and the monuments were tall!), so we were able to commune with some great names in history.

As we turned to leave, we noticed a cluster of five women near a wall mausoleum. We saw fresh flowers near photographs that included names and dates. While we can't read much Russian, by the dates we figured out that the deceased woman had been quite old and had died exactly a year earlier. We assumed that the five women were holding a memorial ceremony of some sort, perhaps for their mother.

What was remarkable was that the women were passing around cheese and crackers and drinking wine from crystal glasses. As we started to walk by them, they insisted, through gestures, that we join them.

They passed filled glasses and we raised a silent toast. They spoke no English and we spoke no Russian, but together we honored the life of a woman who had lived through two world wars and two of the most significant political systems in the 20th century.

Although it was about 10 degrees outside, I dug out my Russian dictionary and stumbled through the phrase, "I am pleased to meet you," whereupon one woman hugged and kissed me. It was one of the most moving gestures I have ever experienced.

We posed for pictures and said goodbye, (actually do svidaniya). Later, for the first time in my traveling experience, I longed to have gotten their names and addresses and to have been able to continue a conversation by mail about being daughters and about being family.

Dee Lyon lives in Arnold.

MY BEST SHOT

Italian glow

Jeffrey Cohen, Aberdeen

My wife and I traveled to Sorrento, Italy, on our journey along the Amalfi Coast. I took this photo at sunset from the balcony of our hotel, the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria, overlooking the Bay of Naples. From Sorrento, you can travel by water to the Isle of Capri, as well as to Amalfi, Positano and other small coastal towns.

READERS RECOMMEND

Museum of London

Katherine Kennedy, Baltimore

"My favorite museum is the Museum of London in England. There you can see a cell from Newgate Prison (London's chief prison and place of public execution in the first half of the 1800s), reconstructions of Victorian shops and an audiovisual presentation of the Great Fire of 1666. It's a wonderful tour of 2,000 years of history."

Sydney, Australia

Judi Bullock, Westminster

"Visiting our daughter and son-in-law in Sydney, Australia, for the Christmas holidays was magnificent. Circular Quay was busy with ferries carrying travelers and visitors along the harbor. Blue skies and warm weather prevailed over the beautiful opera house, which we later toured. Sydney offers much to explore in a friendly, accessible setting."

LET US HEAR FROM YOU

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