After nine days experiencing the new-found freedom of the Baltic States, we moved on to Mother Russia and a visit with our Russian friends. Well, they used to be our friends during the Obama years before the Democrats went berserk about them after Hillary lost the election and blamed Putin for everything including her bad pantsuits. Republicans are forced to spend their time defending anything related to Russia and have even banned drinking Moscow Mules.
We landed in Moscow experiencing extremely efficient luggage service after facing a grim looking lady examining our passports. Our hotel sent a car because we did not fully trust Russian cabbies having been fleeced by some in Manhattan.
The first thing we noticed along the extended drive to the downtown Moscow area in the heart of the city was the numerous dated housing towers with old-style air conditioners hanging off the walls outside the multi-floored Bronx-style government housing. Had these people not updated anything since Stalin? Some good implosions would be helpful here.
We encountered a significant level of private security spanning the entire city. This was the case not only at famous places like the Bolshoi or Red Square, but in hotels, shopping centers, and even open-air restaurants. Wherever you go you see a Russian guy, the size of a brown bear, guarding the entry to your chosen venue.
Walking the streets of Moscow, it was like being back in Munich. The people were so dour. As we walked by people we would smile, say hello and sometimes give them a little wave. The grimace did not fade from their faces. I switched to saying 'privet,' which is Russian for "Hi" or "Greetings." To no avail. These people do not radiate sunshine.
They do take tremendous care of their famous buildings. The beautiful wife took me to see the Bolshoi at their famous theater. This place was magnificent and in pristine condition. The sets were massive and as good as anything Broadway has to offer and the theater had more comfortable seating. The dancers (ballet) and music were pretty good too.
The famous churches and spires were immaculate. It did not seem they were gussied up for the big inauguration of Putin after that squeaker of an election.
We were greeted on our first full night in Moscow with the major boulevard (think Michigan Avenue in Chicago) being shut down as the troops rolled their military hardware through the museum district toward Red Square. This was a warm up for the big inauguration day. As we watched two thoughts came to mind:
1.These people can build tanks and troop carriers, but not autos or washing machines.
2.Mr. Trump has proposed a military parade. If you were not against America having one of these parades you would be after seeing these tanks, troop carriers and missile launchers rumble down Main Street. I give no quarter to anyone in support of our military, but a parade like this is not us. What President Trump does not understand is we support our military, but we are not militaristic.
We asked when these monstrosities were going bye-bye. Everyone told us no one knew. We were all on a need-to-know basis. The military equipment ended up leaving in the middle of the night and, let me tell you, tanks do not depart quietly.
Let me not provide you a misimpression. Moscow is a beautiful city and seemingly very safe. At night it is a city of lights and it has the beautiful Moskva running through it giving it a feel much like Paris. We dined in a restaurant called the Sixty named for the floor it was on â€“ the highest restaurant in Europe (and I am not talking weed). Seeing the city lights at night was quite captivating.
There are street-front cafes and excellent shopping. There is Moscow City â€“ their new business district with modern office towers, some with quite unique architecture. Russia appears to be trying to emerge into modern times.
Our big day came, and we made our trek over to the Kremlin to meet with Putin. When we got to the gate, security was very tight because of the coming ceremony for Putinâ€™s new term (is that fourth, fifth or sixth? I lost track).
Our request to meet with President Putin was met with quizzical looks. We asked if Carter Page or George Papadopoulos might have contacted them on our behalf since they seem to know all the top people in Russia. That received a one-word grunt â€“ "Nyet."
We then invoked our favorite English words, "May we speak to your supervisor." When the boss showed up with all his shiny medals, I told him I was an important Republican â€“ an appointee by President George W. Bush -- who had seen into President Putinâ€™s soul. Donâ€™t all Republicans get to meet with Putin? The boss looked at us with his Russian grimace and said again, "Nyet."
I went to my last card. I told them I had the same birthday as Putin â€“ October 7th. He is exactly one year older. He must want to meet with a Republican with the same birthday. Just think of the connection. Again "Nyet."
We left discouraged.
If we had a choice of return visits to either Moscow or Beijing, we would choose Moscow anytime. It is much more civilized. There is more to see and do. And unlike in Beijing, we can use our Gmail and Facebook.
Maybe next trip President Putin will meet with us. He will probably still be in office then.