January 01, 2012

For the Price of a Hat

Thirty years ago this month, I took my first trip to Russia.

I was a college student discovering a new world, haplessly idealistic, overcome by wonder. We traded jeans for rubles, were bounced about like Pachinko balls in the under-stocked arcades, rendered numb by the litanies of Intourist guides, and chased from a elite disco by threats that the KGB was coming to break up the fun, having learned that foreigners were in attendance.

A few days before our departure from Leningrad, a handful of us fell under the influence of a black marketer. He snuck us into his dingy apartment block, and pulled a box full of ancient icons out from under his bed. I spurned the icons, instead bartering my warm down coat for two fur hats.

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Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.

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