Travel Memories

Overview

The travels recounted here are my experiences and outlook, at the end of the 20th Century. On these particular trips, I took notes and wrote them up when I got home. I have relived these years through the notes and writing of this memoir. It makes me realize how fortunate I have been to visit these countries. On these trips, I felt a continual excitement at what we were seeing and doing, and this was true in spite of physical fatigue.
In Greece, I enjoyed our trek up the ...
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Travel Memories

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Overview

The travels recounted here are my experiences and outlook, at the end of the 20th Century. On these particular trips, I took notes and wrote them up when I got home. I have relived these years through the notes and writing of this memoir. It makes me realize how fortunate I have been to visit these countries. On these trips, I felt a continual excitement at what we were seeing and doing, and this was true in spite of physical fatigue.
In Greece, I enjoyed our trek up the Acropolis and the view of Athens on that clear and sunny day was beautiful. The Parthenon was graceful even as the workmen were repairing cracks and weathered places in preparation for the upcoming summer Olympics. It was stimulating to be on a cruise with Karen Armstrong in Greece. She gave lectures about the monotheistic religions as we visited a number of sacred sites. Cape Town, South Africa, is a resort city for Europeans where history had been made when apartheid no longer governed a primarily black nation. The changes in law and the culture had been made only a few years before the Parliament of the World's Religions held its convocation there. Former President Nelson Mandela addressed us. Perhaps the greatest treat for me was the visit to the Soviet Union in 1989 just two months before the Berlin wall came down and the world rejoiced in the televised performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony conducted by Leonard Bernstein. I enjoyed our visit to Spain and Morocco where we learned from Harvey Cox about the history of "convivencia" that describes the three monotheist religions as they found ways to live together in Spain. My last trip was with Janet Moore and her tour, Distant Horizons, to Jordan where we learned how educated and capable women live and work in that Muslim country.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781491827666
  • Publisher: AuthorHouse
  • Publication date: 10/26/2013
  • Pages: 126
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.44 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Travel Memories


By Elizabeth Warren

AuthorHouse

Copyright © 2013 Elizabeth Warren
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4918-2767-3



CHAPTER 1

Journey to the Soviet Union

October 8-22, 1989


Introduction

The opportunity to travel to the Soviet Union came in a mailing I received in May, 1989. Here was a chance to go to the mysterious land of Marxist-Leninist communism, now being redefined through perestroika and glasnost. Russian communism was being shaken by the directions of a new leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, now in office four years, by strikes, ethnic unrest in several of the republics, and by disappointed expectations among its people. Yet even last spring I could not have guessed the extent of change that was to occur by mid-October. All in all, this tour could not have picked a better time to go to the Soviet Union, and I have a deep sense of appreciation for the opportunity made available to me as a result of my service as President of the Village of Glencoe. The tour was open to state and local government officials who would meet their counterparts in the Soviet Union, would visit historic places, and learn about this country. Of course I paid my own way; it was important to me that this not be seen as a tax-supported junket.

My husband, whose father was a Foreign Service Officer, did not want to take the trip with me, not only because he had traveled so much growing up that he lost his taste for it, but he did not want to take time off his job for two weeks. I have always been grateful that he understood my love for traveling to interesting places and supported me in taking the trip.

During our fifteen-day tour, I kept a journal of the events that occurred each day. Other tour members might have added experiences of their own to this account; nevertheless I tried to recount comprehensively the most important aspects of the tour, particularly focusing on our meetings with Communist Party officials who are responsible for running their several levels of government. These highlights are told as parts of our daily round of activities; my own personal experiences and observations form the framework of the story.

In anticipation of our trip, I read more than half of a textbook sent to us on Law in the Soviet Union. It clearly reflected the conditions earlier in the decade of the 1980s. In this respect it formed a benchmark with which to compare conditions in the Soviet Union today. The only problem, for me, was that the textbook did not deal with state and local government, the subject of our tour, but with legal theory and practice in the USSR. While that is not exactly my area of training, it was interesting, and I took extensive notes. Otherwise, my preparation for the trip was newspaper reading; much was going on in international affairs through the summer and early fall to keep my interest at a high level. So, I left Glencoe with a great sense of anticipation rather than with any preconceived notions about what we would find in the Soviet Union. Certainly, that anticipation was rewarded.


To New York and Helsinki

I left Chicago early Sunday afternoon, the eighth of October for New York's Kennedy Airport. At Kennedy, I collected my heavy suitcase with the realization that I had almost more than I could manage of bag and baggage. I hauled the suitcase, aided only somewhat by its two wheels, to a shuttle bus stop where I boarded, with help, and rode around the airport to get to the terminal where Finnair was located. My first introductions to my fellow tour members occurred when two women got on the bus with their PSC bags (Professional Seminar Consultants). We introduced ourselves, but they seemed preoccupied, while I was quite excited about the trip and this difference was not conducive to conversation.

When we arrived at the proper terminal, we went inside and met out tour manager, Sue Larson, an attractive woman who seemed very friendly and in control of the details of the trip. She handed me my visa and a piece of yellow yarn which she asked me to tie to the handle of my suitcase for identification, and I was a member of the "yellow group." Audrey, the other tour manager, led the "blue group." I checked in, delivered my suitcase to the baggage system of Finnair with relief, and walked away from the counter area when who should appear from nowhere, as astounded as I, than Ed Meyerson. He said that he and Marion had just flown in from Paris on their way home to Chicago from a trip to Greece. He asked where I was going and I said the Soviet Union, and we walked over to where Marion was sitting and surprised her. So we sat and chatted for a little while, and I heard about their delightful tour of the Greek islands by boat. When I got up to leave, Ed said he would call Geoff when they got back to Chicago. We said good-bye.

I went upstairs to the departure lounge where the group was gathering. I was hoping to meet the person I was to room with, Cynthia McKinney, but she did not come to the area. Sue said that she and other tour members were in the cocktail lounge. The plane was only a half-hour late in boarding, not at all unusual at JFK. Finnair looked so clean and new that we all looked forward to the trip. It was a DC10. We boarded, I found my comfortable seat, and settled in. The flight was not full. It was pleasant, with good food, nice Tio Pepe, and wine with dinner. I dropped off to sleep soon after dinner. The two seats next to me were vacant so I was able to raise the arms of those seats and stretch out a bit. I may have slept two or three hours.

When we landed at Helsinki Monday morning, I was tired but full of anticipation. We were taken to a VIP lounge where we could freshen up, and I did. Here I finally met Cynthia McKinney. She is a bright young black woman working on her Ph.D. in international relations. She and two black young men formed the small group of black participants in the tour. Cynthia is very friendly and a good conversationalist. She is a Georgia state legislator.

We were taken to a lovely airport restaurant and seated before a nice Finnish spread of smoked salmon, shrimp and other goodies, including reindeer meat. We were treated to briefings by three Finnish government officials, all from the foreign ministry. They gave us an interesting review of Finnish government and its relations with the Soviet Union, the Finnish perspective on that country and the changes in it that had been observed. At the end of the briefing, as the gentlemen got ready to leave, our tour leader, Bill Owens, state senator from Colorado, gave some Colorado flag-pins to the senior official, Mr. Taami. I quickly dug out three Glencoe medallions commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Village in 1969, and gave them to Mr. Taami for himself and the other two speakers who had left. I introduced myself to him as Avra Warren's daughter-in-law. He was delighted and said that Avra Warren was a famous man in Finland, and was written about in books on the history of the post World War II period in Finland. Geoff's father, of course, had been the U.S. Minister to Finland when we were married in 1949. The following are the remarks of the three Finns who spoke to us at that luncheon.

Finland is at the same latitude as Labrador. The country has a severe climate some of the time, or it can have a milder climate, influenced by the sea. The country extends 600 miles from south to north and 200 miles east to west. From here to Estonia, one of the Baltic republics within the Soviet Union, the distance is only 30 to 40 miles.

Finland began as part of the Swedish Kingdom; it was not a state, but consisted of tribes in the 12th Century. The language was Swedish, the religion was Roman Catholic, then Lutheran. But the native language of the "tribe" of Finns was Finnish, which is classified with the same group of languages as Hungarian. Today, the international language of English is taught in every school. The third language after Finnish and English is German. The Russian language lags far behind others in familiarity among Finns. Finnish society resembles that of other Scandinavian countries.

Finland has a Parliament of 200 seats and there are several political parties. The current Prime Minister is of the Conservative Party but the Foreign Minister is of the Socialist Party. There is a coalition government with a good internal balance politically. Trade unions are leftist but they think that a coalition government is the best political arrangement for the present time. Colorado and Finland have a strong relationship. The largest populations of Finnish-Americans are found in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. A spokesman from the Finnish Foreign Office: Economy and Trade Policy of Finland made the following comments.

For the last ten years, Finland's gross national product has grown 3.8% per year. It has surpassed West Germany in this. One-third of GNP comes from foreign trade. Finland's trade policy is to secure the same conditions from all trading partners. The idea of the European economic integration is to secure economic health by liberalizing markets. The rules of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade have to be taken into consideration. But Finland does not seek membership in the European Economic Community, its approach to integration is to secure neutrality in foreign policy, and seek to cooperate. General East-West relations influence the economic policy of Finland.

There is bilateral trade with the USSR. Crude oil comes from that country to Finland where it is refined. As for the question what to import from the Soviet Union, one answer is energy; the oil comes from tankers and there is also a gas pipeline. Food prices are high in Finland; this is because production is expensive. The country seeks self-sufficiency, but nature is tough here. The nation has to support its own producers, so Finnish neutrality is very important. Since 1948 there has been a treaty of cooperation and trade with the Russians. Neutrality is mentioned in that treaty.

Finland's educational system requires twelve years of compulsory education. The level of education here is very high by European standards.

There is compulsory military service for all for 8 to 11 months. A few women undertake this service as a profession, but it consists mostly of men. The mission of the military is to secure Finland's borders and to be prepared for all kinds of possibilities.

There is a system of national health insurance. Taxpayers pay for public health treatment. There are also private health centers but they are very costly.

There is an outer ring of countries (EFTA), the European Free Trade Association, outside the European Economic Community, consisting of the Scandinavian countries, Switzerland and Austria. This group of countries formed its own economic union. One member, Austria, has applied for membership in the EEC. It will take five years to admit the country. The EFTA group is very united.

Tourism needs to be expanded in Finland. Finns travel abroad but not many tourists come here. This problem of the imbalance of tourism needs to be corrected.

Finns pay 36% of their income in taxes.

Finnish Foreign Policy.

The country's proximity to the USSR dictates much of its foreign policy. Historically, the year 1863 was an important one for Finland. There was a revolt in the grand duchy of Poland with the realm of Russia, then ruled by the tsars. The Poles approached the Finns for help. This posed a dilemma for the Finns. G.W. Snellman supported the Finnish nationalistic movement, and did not want involvement in Polish affairs. He introduced Finnish currency. He is honored by Finland; his statue stands outside a bank in Helsinki.

As a result of World War II, Finland was in a position to have been taken militarily by the Russians. The Finns threw the Soviets back, but had to cede some territory, the Karelian peninsula, to the Soviet Union. Finland was never occupied by foreign troops; it was independent, a strong bastion of independence. It is proud of this history. Its policy of neutrality is one of the means to its independence. Since the 1960s, part of its neutrality position includes participation in international organizations. But Finland stays out of conflicts. It will host the conference of nations known as CSCE in 1992. Gorbachev will pay an official visit to Finland in two weeks.

Europe has undergone rapid change. Divisions are fading away. A Europe of cooperation and interdependence is growing. But it is not one unified country as is the U.S. It constitutes a rich international community; nations accepting each other as we are. Finland seeks innovations in its approach to East-West relations. It allocates 1.5% of its national budget for defense. It can put 750,000 men in arms in two weeks. Continuously, there are 35,000 men in arms.

Finland's relations with the Baltic States are the closest, especially with Estonia which receives Finnish TV. Power, not big words, is what gets things done.

Finland allows for foreign immigration. There are only 18,000 foreigners in Finland.

Nuclear power provides the country's electricity and the country ranks tenth as a user of atomic energy. There have been no major problems with nuclear energy. But air pollution has become a major problem, and action needs to be taken to clean up the air.

This concluded the discussion by the three Finish government officials.

I was elated as we got ready to leave the airport to fly to Moscow. Just before we left, I took a look at Stockman's, the airport store where beautiful woolens are sold, thinking that on my return trip I might buy something. Upon my return, however, the selection seemed limited, and not really what I wanted to take home as gifts.


To Moscow, Monday, October 9, 1989

We flew to Moscow. I was full of anticipation and watched my map, and alternately looked at the ground, as we flew over the Gulf of Finland. Many islands are there; I thought it must be rather shallow. During the flight we were given box lunches, chicken cooked some way and it was awful. As we crossed over to land, I guessed we were over Estonia. Then it was down to the Russian Republic where I could see lakes and rivers and a densely wooded country. There are no other topographic features of note. Finally, over this flat land, we heard "Moscow" announced by the pilot.

Then suddenly, as we were in our final approach, I saw an unforgettable scene: what appeared to be tornados, or what in Texas they call "dust devils," outlined against a wide band of red sky in the late afternoon. Slowly, I realized that they weren't dust devils but soot pouring out of smoke stacks in Moscow's industrial district. Meanwhile, I could barely make out the buildings of the city through the polluted air. The stacks contribute much to the grossly polluted air of the city. This was my first impression of Moscow, a city of dirty air, that proved to be accurate throughout our stay. Even the rain does not seem to settle the dirt in the air.

We disembarked and went into the airport where we had to wait interminably for customs to check us and our baggage through. Then we had to wait for our bus. We were introduced to Irena, the Intourist guide who would be in charge of all of us, and later of the "blue" group. We also met Irina, a younger woman who would be in charge of our "yellow" group. I was quite impressed with these two women, particularly Irena who is an experienced guide and has vast information about art.

Finally, we boarded our Intourist bus to go to the hotel. Irena gave us a running description of the city as we drove along. It took an hour to get there, but by that time we could imagine the rest and food ahead, and all seemed bearable. We arrived at the Hotel Cosmos, built for the Olympic Games of 1980. It is quite nice by Russian standards: a steel and glass crescent-shaped building, but the Hilton it isn't. In the park in front of the hotel is a statue of Yuri Gagarin in an imaginative setting showing that he was the first man in space.

We ate dinner in the hotel restaurant at long tables seating twelve. There were other tour groups as well as ours; this and our other hotels do a lot of business with tours. The food at the Cosmos was different, but not bad on the whole. After dinner we went to bed, or rather I did. Cynthia went out on the tiles with Andy, one of the black men on the tour. The schedule for Tuesday called for visits to the headquarters of a Communist Party organization in a Moscow district, and then to the American Embassy.


Moscow, Tuesday, October 10, 1989

After breakfast, we loaded into our bus and were driven to Communist Party headquarters in the Proletarski District, a geographical section of Moscow. There we were met most generously by eight or ten Party officials. They took us upstairs to a second floor spacious hallway where group pictures were taken of ourselves and Party officials. Each of us received a copy of the group picture before we left.

We then went into a conference room where we again sat at long tables with our hosts. The tables had gifts for each of us, and were decorated with plates of apples and other nice food. At the head of the local organization was Igor Luken (probably spelled differently) who was spokesman for the group. After introductions all around and some welcoming remarks, Igor told us about the way the districts are organized and what some of the problems are in his district. It is an industrial area. Igor and his group are strongly supportive of Gorbachev and in fact Igor spoke proudly about how Gorbachev had visited this local organization for two days last year. He sat "in this very room" while he and the organization discussed at great length what the demands of perestroika are. Gorbachev took dinner with one of the local families and stayed overnight with another.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Travel Memories by Elizabeth Warren. Copyright © 2013 Elizabeth Warren. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Contents

Introduction, vii,
Journey to the Soviet Union, 1,
The World's Religions in Dialogue, 47,
Sacred Sites in Greece and Turkey, 71,
Coexistence of Cultures and Faiths: Christianity, Islam and Judaism in the Maghreb and Al-Andalus. Harvey Cox, Laura Frost, Lecturers, 80,
Among Women; An International Dialogue, 100,
Reflections, 115,

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